Naira actually among worst currencies in the world – Report

Officially, Nigeria’s naira is doing pretty well this year, down just 4% against a strong US dollar, ahead of the Canadian dollar and the Swiss franc. But that exchange rate is used only by the government — ordinary Nigerians are grappling with a 37% drop on the widely-used black market.

That makes it one of the world’s worst-performing currencies, after Ghana’s cedi, which is down nearly 55% this year, and the Sri Lankan Rupee. Its peers include Sierra Leone’s leone, which is down 36%, and the Egyptian pound, which has lost 35%.

Africa’s largest economy operates a tightly controlled official rate but it’s in the parallel market where the exchange rate of the local currency is largely determined by the level of demand for the dollar.

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Nigeria’s central bank rations dollars at the official rate, cutting off access to many businesses and individuals, which in turn drives demand to the unauthorized black market. This has led to a widening gap between the managed and parallel markets to more than 90%.

The local unit’s drop in the black market started a day after the central bank announced last week that it will issue redesigned 200-, 500- and 1,000-naira notes from mid-December in a bid to mop up excess cash in circulation.

The Abuja-based regulator gave Nigerians until Jan. 31 to exchange the existing bills for new ones, a tight deadline considering that the central bank estimates that as much as 2.7 trillion naira ($6.1 billion) sits outside bank vaults. Africa’s most populous country has an average of 4.5 bank branches per 100,000 people and 45% of adults don’t have a bank account.

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The naira’s slump is likely to continue in the near term given low oil revenue and rising outflows due to uncertainties associated with February’s presidential election, said Uche Uwaleke, a professor of finance and capital markets at the Nasarawa State University in central Nigeria. The dollar is seen as a safe haven, he said.

“It’s evident that a lot of currency substitution is going on as many people now see the greenback as a better store of value,” Uwaleke said.

Bloomberg report

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