Birches Group keeps an eye on labor market trends that are making headlines across the globe, ensuring you are up to date on the latest developments.
On 14 June 2023, the Nigerian naira lost a staggering 25% of its value compared to the previous day, macroeconomic intelligence provider Focus Economics reported.
The sharp devaluation was caused by the Central Bank of Nigeria’s decision to allow the naira to fluctuate freely, letting market forces determine the exchange rate. The Central Bank also implemented several reforms, including scrapping the segmentation of its foreign exchange market. For six years, the local exchange rate was held artificially low and changed little.
A welcome, bold start
Following his inauguration on 29 May 2023, President Bola Tinubu hit the ground running with a string of sweeping changes. He noted Nigeria’s monetary policy needed “thorough house cleaning” to help the economy become more competitive. Within his first three weeks in office, Tinubu embarked on some of the most radical reforms in decades:
Petrol subsidy removal. By ending its longstanding petrol subsidy, the Nigerian government is projected to achieve fiscal savings of nearly 4 trillion naira (US$5.10 billion) in 2023. These savings are expected to reach over 11 trillion naira by the end of 2025.
Suspension of Central Bank governor. On 9 June 2023, Tinubu suspended Central Bank Governor Godwin Emefiele following divisive policies. During Emefiele’s term, a black market for foreign exchange thrived.
Reforms in the foreign exchange market. Foreign investors have flagged Nigeria’s foreign exchange restrictions as an obstacle to investing. The move towards a more unified and market-responsive exchange rate will foster a stable economic environment and prevent the dollarization of the economy.
According to Reuters, Tinubu inherited anemic economic growth, record debt, and shrinking oil output. However, he has promised to put the economy back on track and asked Nigerians to support painful decisions. The speed of his decisions took many by surprise.
Short-term pain vs. long-term stability
Every day Nigerians are feeling the brunt of the government’s economic shakeup. The Guardian reports that, while Tinubu’s policies please foreign investors, the devalued naira means ‘national sacrifice mode.’ People are feeling the strain as their new president pushes through the widely unpopular policies. Living costs have further increased.
The currency devaluation is already pushing prices amid a significantly higher foreign exchange rate, cites Africanews. This change will cause considerable short-term pain but will correct the economy, say economic analysts. Nevertheless, Nigeria continues to face rising inflation and increased poverty rates, pressuring the government to address concerns.
On a positive note, the recent changes are considered a welcome development. The floating exchange rate is expected to strengthen investor sentiment and bring in much-needed capital. Observers have described the transition as a “window of opportunity” that could have a transformative impact on millions of Nigerians.
The steps have fired up markets, sending stocks in Africa’s largest economy to their highest level in 15 years. For its August 2023 Nigeria economic outlook, professional services firm PwC reported that the positive investor sentiment drove up the market capitalization of the stock exchange by 9.3%. “Just the fact that you have seen quite a bit of movement in a relatively short space of time has gotten a lot of people in the market excited,” Goldman Sachs economist Andrew Matheny told Reuters.
In a statement, the World Bank said, “The recent removal of the petrol subsidy and the foreign exchange management reforms are critical steps to address long-standing macroeconomic imbalances and have the potential to establish a solid foundation for sustainable and inclusive growth.” “Deepening and sustaining these changes is imperative to enable Nigeria to break out of the cycle of macroeconomic instability, low investment, sluggish economic growth, escalating poverty, and fragility.”
The World Bank expects growth in Nigeria to increase: “While inflation will be higher in 2023, it will be lower in 2024 to 2025 if the right policy mix is sustained.” The creditworthiness and investment profile of the country is also expected to improve.
Bismark Rewane, Chief Executive Officer at Financial Derivatives Company, a Lagos economic think tank, told Reuters, “What we are seeing is the removal of distortions created by inefficient pricing of foreign exchange and in the next few weeks we should start seeing the naira finding its level.” Business Insider Africa says that market participants and stakeholders are closely watching the effects of these significant changes.
What our Market Monitor indicates
In early July 2023, Nigeria entered our list of potentially volatile labor markets at Level Four (of six levels). Level Four shows signs of a sudden, unexpected economic event, as well as a devaluation of the local currency by at least 50% in six months or less. According to the 15 August 2023 edition of our Market Monitor report, the naira dropped as much as 67% in the past six months.
Although this significant devaluation could classify Nigeria at a higher volatility level, our latest salary survey reports that most organizations still denominate salaries in the naira, keeping Nigeria at Level Four for the time being.
Organizations in Nigeria should remain vigilant and closely watch the ever-evolving economic landscape. Staying attuned to shifts in labor market trends, exchange rates, and government policies is imperative to make informed decisions. By being keenly aware of these factors, you can adapt strategies and ensure the sustainability of your business in Africa’s most populous nation.
How Birches Group can help
Get insights into what to consider when your organization develops special policies in response to volatility. Published in English, Spanish, and French every two weeks, our Market Monitor report examines the labor market conditions of over 150 countries for signs of potential volatility.
Subscribe to our biweekly Market Monitor today. Download the 1 and 15 July 2023 editions of our report, where we focus on how you can manage the situation in Nigeria.
- July 1 and 15 2023 Market Monitor