Once the reality of the news had sunk in that Nigeria’s gross domestic product was worth $510bn to South Africa’s $370bn, other South Africans reacted with more equanimity, welcoming the development as part of an “Africa rising” narrative, and noting the role of South African telecommunications companies such as MTN in Nigeria’s success. Others tried to dismiss the news as unimportant, as Nigeria’s infrastructure is still decades behind South Africa’s.
South Africans should make no mistake about the significance of this watershed event. This news has undoubtedly damaged South Africa’s credibility to represent Africa on global institutions such as the Group of 20 and the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) grouping. Nigeria’s 170-million population — the world’s 10th-largest — is also more than three times larger than South Africa’s 50-million, thus providing a much bigger market for enterprising investors who are prepared to overcome the West African Gulliver’s infrastructure and administrative problems.