NONSO OBIKILI
African. Economist. Plus other things
Current.
Education. PhD Economics. SUNY Binghamton

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Employment History

Policy Associate
Economic Research Southern Africa
July 2013 - Date

Research Associate
Stellenbosch University
April 2016 - Date

Contributor
The Guardian Nigeria
Aug 2016 - Date

Director of Applied Economics
African Heritage Institution
Aug 2016 - Nov 2016

Lecturer
State Univeristy of New York at Binghamton
Jan 2010 - May 2013

Teaching Assistant
State University of New York at Binghamton
Aug 2009 - Dec 2009

Research Assistant
Central Bank of Nigeria, Microfinance Division
Aug 2006 - Aug 2007

Consulting

LEAP-PERL

National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria

United Nations University - WIDER

National Treasury - South Africa

Mathers and Savant

WNT Capitas

Nextier Advisory

Research.Publications

"Markups and concentration in South African manufacturing sectors". with Johannes Fedderke and Nicola Viegi. South African Journal of Economics. 2017

"The trans-Atlantic slave trades and local political fragmentation in Africa". - . Economic History Review. 2016. 69(4):1157-1177

"A dream deffered: the microfoundations of direct political action in pre- and post-democratization South Africa". with Biniam Bedasso. Journal of Development Studies. 2016. 52(1):130 - 146

"An examination of subnational growth in Nigeria: 1999 - 2012". - . South African Journal of Economics. 2015. 83(3):335 - 357

"Social capital and human capital in the colonies: a study of cocoa farmers in Western Nigeria". - . Economic History of Developing Regions. 2015. 30(1):1 - 22

"The introduction of higher banknotes and the price level in Nigeria". with E. N. Egbuna. International Journal of Economics and Finance. 2013

Research.Working Papers

Research.Works in Progress

Climate, yams, and precolonial centralization

Emigration and education: the schooling of the left behind in Nigeria with Biniam Bedasso and Ermias Gebru

Decolonizing with data: Cliometrics in Africa with Johan Fourie and Leonard Wantchekon

Tax Appeals and Social Intermediaries in Lagos Nigeria with Adrienne LeBas and Ryan Moore

Colonialists, Taxation and Punishment: Prisons and Labor Coercion in British Colonial West Africa with Belinda Archibong

Nigeria's placa among West Africa's Empires

Fiscal Policy During Boom and Bust with Kingsley Moghalu

Op-Eds.(Selected)

"Bi-monthly column". Guardian Nigeria newspaper. https://guardian.ng/contributors/nonso-obikili/

"The trans-Atlantic slave trade and local political fragmentation in Africa". AEHN. September 2016

"Long-term effects of slave exporting in West Africa". Oxford University Press. March 2016

"Buy Naija to Grow the Naira: probably pointless but potentially dangerous". Premium Times. 24th Febraury 2016

"Naira devaluation and the Nigerian economy: focusing on the big picture". Premium Times. 20th February 2016

"Myths about devaluation". Premium Times. 15th Februaru 2016

"Removing the autonomy of the CBN: a really bad idea". Business Day. 8th June 2012

"Who really benefits from fuel subsidies". Business Day. 5th December 2011

Blog

What interest rate should you have demanded in 1973 to not lose money versus the dollar?

Sun, 27 May 2018 13:22:08 GMT

I was at a discussion forum during the week focusing on the excess crude account and the seeming inability of our government to follow the crude oil revenue fiscal rule. Basically saving during boom years and drawing down on savings during the bust years. Interesting discussion and more on that at a later date.

One of the things that popped up was on Nigeria’s general low savings culture.

Gross savings as a percent of GDP

As can be seen from the graph above we tend to be mostly below the world average and definitely way below a country like China which is known to have a serious savings culture. Savings is of course the cousin of investment, so without savings and without foreign investment then …. The big question is why we save so little?

The popular answer would be “interest rates are too poor” and “the naira”. To test that I thought to work out what interest rate would have had to be paid to ensure that someone who saved in 1973, when then naira was introduced, would not have lost money in global currency terms. Or to put it another way, how much interest on naira savings would have allowed the saver who saved $100 worth of naira in 1973 to still have $100 worth of naira today?

Turns out the answer is somewhere around 15.85% if its compounded annually. What were the actual deposit rates?

For the most part a lot lower than that. In essence, if you saved N65 in 1973, which would have bought you $100 then, your total interest would probably not be enough to actually buy you $100 today. You would have been better off just sticking the 1973 dollars under your mattress.

Of course the last three years have been turbulent but even if you do the same exercise before 2015 you would still end up with a required interest rate of about 14.5%, still significantly higher than the actual rates paid by banks on savings accounts.

Hindsight they say is 20/20. Perhaps our poor savings culture is really in response to the reality that saving in naira, at least typical savings, does not pay and is a losing game compared to just stashing dollars or gold or land.

For comparison, what does China look like? Savings did pay for the most part. Paid a lot in fact.

This of course does not mean that saving in naira has always at every point in time been a losing game. There have been intermittent periods when it may have been the better choice. In the long term however the story is clear. Perhaps Nigerians are just responding to what has so far been the fact in terms of long term savings in naira.

Moral of the story, we have had serious macroeconomic problems in the past, and we still have in the present. How to deal with this should be high on the list of policy objectives because low savings usually means low investment, and low investment usually means low growth.

NB. Will be interesting to look at 91 day treasury bill rates instead of deposit rates but the data doesn’t go that far back, although that would weaken the savings to investment channel anyway.


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