Nigeria’s economy rises in Q3 as mass COVID-19 vaccination looms

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A passenger's body temperature is being tested at the gate of entry upon arrival at the Murtala International Airport in Lagos, on March 2, 2020. - Nigeria is monitoring 58 people who had contact with an Italian man infected with the new coronavirus, the health minister said Monday, as officials scrambled to stop the disease spreading. Africa's most populous country on Friday confirmed the first case of the virus in sub-Saharan Africa after the patient was diagnosed in the economic hub Lagos. (Photo by BENSON IBEABUCHI / AFP) (Photo by BENSON IBEABUCHI/AFP via Getty Images)

ABUJA: Nigeria’s economy grew just over 4% in the third quarter, the statistics office said on Thursday, lifted by higher oil prices, as the country targets mass COVID-19 vaccination from this month.

Growth rose for the fourth consecutive quarter ending Sept. 30, after a COVID-19-induced recession. Inflation fell for the seventh straight month in October, less than a week before the central bank makes a decision on interest rates.

“The prospect of full recovery is glaring … provided we sustain the performance,” Simon Harry, head of National Bureau of Statistics said.

Nigeria had been grappling with low growth before the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a recession and created large financing gaps, including dollar shortages and inflation.

It has relied on ad-hoc measures to maintain external liquidity, Fitch said on Monday, with recent dollar loans helping to boost reserves. A renewed downturn in oil prices and a reserves depletion would be negative for ratings, it said.

Rising oil prices, Nigeria’s main export, have also helped. Production of oil, which accounts for around two-thirds of Nigerian government revenue and 90% of its foreign exchange reserves, dropped to 1.57 million barrels per day in the third quarter.

The World Bank has said Nigeria’s growth lags the rest of sub-Saharan Africa. Its economy is estimated to grow up to 3% this year, with increased vaccinations against coronavirus.

Africa’s most-populous country has a goal to vaccinate more than half of its 200 million population to reach herd immunity. To date, only 2.9% of those eligible to get vaccines have been inoculated.