Abuja - Nigeria’s economy surpassed South Africa’s as the largest on the continent after its gross domestic product (GDP) data were overhauled for the first time in two decades.

The size of the economy was estimated at 80.3 trillion naira (R5.1 trillion) for 2013, Yemi Kale, the head of Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), said yesterday. That compares with the World Bank’s 2012 GDP figures of $384.3 billion (about R4 trillion) for South Africa and $262.6bn for Nigeria.

The bureau recalculated the value of GDP based on production patterns in 2010, increasing the number of industries it measures to 46 from 33 and giving greater weighting to sectors such as telecommunications and financial services.

The new figures announced yesterday included previously uncounted industries like telecommunications, information technology, music, airlines, online retail and Nollywood film production that were insignificant when the last GDP count was made in 1990. Then, there were 300 000 landlines. Today, Nigeria has 100 million cellphone users.

The new figures took into account growth in agriculture and tourism that have flourished since democracy was restored in 1999, ending decades of military dictatorship.

Ghana’s economy grew by 60 percent when it recalculated its goods and services production in 2012. Kenya and Zambia are considering the same.

“Rebasing does not change what was already there, it’s about measuring better and more accurately,” Kale said.

The figure exceeds forecasts from Renaissance Capital, which predicted in December that the revision would boost the size of the economy by as much as 60 percent to between $384bn and $424bn. Nigeria, with about 170 million people, is an Opec member and Africa’s biggest oil producer. The government is targeting 7.16 trillion naira in income from oil and gas this year.

“Nigeria’s success is a reminder that Africa is moving ahead despite its challenges,” said investment manager Kevin Daly of Aberdeen Asset Management. He said a Nigerian, billionaire Aliko Dangote, was building Africa’s largest privately owned oil refinery.

Investors’ attention will be drawn by the fact that while oil remains the biggest source of government revenue, about 80 percent, production is declining while agriculture, communications and services are enjoying healthy growth.

While Nigeria’s economy has grown by at least 6 percent a year since 2006, according to the World Bank, the most recent poverty survey by the NBS shows that 61 percent of Nigerians were living on less than a dollar a day in 2010, up from 52 percent in 2004.

Finance Minister Ngozi Ikonjo-Iweala has said that the economy needed to grow at more than 7 percent to address poverty and youth unemployment. Government statistics say unemployment increased from 12.7 percent in 2007 to 23.9 percent in 2011; the World Bank says youth unemployment stands at 38 percent. - Bloomberg and Sapa-AP