Country Listing

Nigeria Table of Contents


Development of National Economic Interests to World War II

British rule exacerbated differences of class, region, and community in Nigeria. The emergent nationalist movement in the 19300s was spearheaded by a new elite of business people and professionals and promoted mainly by persons who expected to gain economically and politically from independence (see Emergence of Nigerian Nationalism , ch. 1). The movement first became multiethnic--although limited to the south--between 1930 and 1944, when the real incomes of many participants in Nigeria's money economy fell as a result of a deterioration in the net barter terms of trade (the ratio between average export and import prices). During the same period, the Great Depression and, later, World War II, reduced Britain's investment, imports, and government spending in Nigeria.

Once the wartime colonial government assumed complete control of the local economy, it would issue trade licenses only to established firms, a practice that formalized the competitive advantage of foreign companies. Also, wartime marketing boards pegged the prices of agricultural commodities below the world market rate, workers faced wage ceilings, traders encountered price controls, and Nigerian consumers experienced shortages of import goods.

Labor activity grew during the war in reaction to the heavyhanded policies of the colonial government (see Labor Unions , this ch.). Among the expressions of labor unrest was a strike by 43,000 workers in mid-1945 that lasted more than forty days. Aspiring Nigerian entrepreneurs, deprived of new economic opportunities, and union leaders, politicized by the strike's eventual success, channeled their sense of grievance into nationalist agitation. Educated persons, whose economic opportunities were limited largely to private business and professional activity, began to demand more participation in the colonial government.

Data as of June 1991