Nigeria: How violence threatens revival

Updated 10:10 AM EDT, Wed May 7, 2014

Story highlights

Nigeria has a nice recipe for growth, CNN's John Defterios writes

But he says the country remains vulnerable to violence and corruption

The rule of law rank high on the foreign investor check list, he says

Editor’s Note: John Defterios is CNN’s Emerging Markets Editor and anchor of Global Exchange, CNN’s prime time business show focused on the emerging and BRIC markets. Follow John on Twitter for more insights.

(CNN) —  

This should be the day Nigeria steps into the spotlight and basks in the glow of hosting the World Economic Forum in Africa.

It is the first time the West African country has hosted the VIP event since the Geneva-based WEF came to the continent nearly a quarter century ago – but the spotlight has shifted.

Focus is now on the Nigeria’s list of problems in the North: kidnappings, terrorist attacks and killings.

John Defterios
John Defterios

The country has been a terrific economic growth story for the past few years, humming along at around 7%. It is at the heart of what many define as an African Renaissance.

After decades of loans from international lenders such as the World Bank, high debt and little development, Africa is coming alive.

That is why Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and his highly regarded economic team were eager to bring global CEOs to their turf.

But Nigeria does have a couple of obvious economic black-eyes, most notably an inability to close the wealth gap between the North and South, which in turn has given fuel to the Boko Haram movement and, by extension, radical Islam.

These groups take issue with what they see as the negative influences of globalization. The WEF is seen as standing at the forefront of a policy discussion and networking linked to more, not less, globalization.

The best indicator for the wealth gap is per capita income. Let’s start in the financial capital of Lagos and work our way North.

In Lagos, it is pegged at just over $2,900, according to a survey by Renaissance Capital. In the political capital of Abuja, where the economic forum is taking place, it rises to $4,000.

Economy: Nigeria vs. South Africa
Economy: Nigeria vs. South Africa

But if one heads North to Borno – the birthplace of Boko Haram – per capita income is just $1,631. There is an overemphasis on farming, very little in the way of an industrial base and the financial situation is even worse in surrounding states.

In Borno, alarmingly, 60% of the population lives in extreme poverty, according to the Nigeria Security Tracker.

Poverty and violence often go hand-in-hand, and that is the case here. Nearly a third of all violent deaths in the country over the past two years have taken place in this region.