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‘Nigeria needs $15bn for the economy’

New York - Nigeria needs $15 billion from asset sales and borrowing to revive a slumping economy and boost foreign reserves, according to Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man.

“Through sales of assets, through loans from Bank of China or wherever, we need something like $15 billion,” Dangote, a Nigerian national, said in a Bloomberg interview at the US-Africa Business Forum in New York on Wednesday. “We’re having a problem as the reserves are low. The banks, entrepreneurs, everybody is speculating on the currency.”

A trader counts a pile of naira notes in Abuja, Nigeria. File picture: Suzanne Plunkett. Credit: BLOOMBERG

The West African country’s economy, battered by low oil prices and a dearth of foreign investment, is set to shrink in 2016 for the first time in 25 years, according to the International Monetary Fund, which forecasts a 1.8 percent contraction. Nigeria’s foreign reserves have fallen by more than a third since the end of September 2014 to a more than 10-year low of $24.8 billion. The naira has fallen almost 40 percent against the dollar this year.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s government is trying to spend a record budget of 6.1 trillion naira ($19.4 billion) to stimulate growth. The country plans to raise about $4.5 billion of concessional loans and Eurobonds this year to help pay for its spending plans.

Buhari, who came to power in May 2015, is making good on his promise to tackle corruption, said Dangote, who is worth $10.9 billion, according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The businessman, whose money is mostly tied up in Dangote Cement, has lost $4.4 billion since the end of 2015, the fourth-most globally among billionaires, due in large part to the naira’s depreciation.

“President Buhari is doing a great job in terms of fighting corruption,” he said, without citing specific examples of the progress. “Corruption has gone down dramatically.”

Nigeria ranks among the world 40 most corrupt countries, according to Transparency International, the Berlin-based anti-graft body.

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