This week, we are highlighting the West African country of Nigeria. Nigeria is often called the “Giant of Africa” due to its large population and economy. Home to over 200 million people, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the 7th most populous country in the world. With $1 trillion in purchasing power parity, Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy and the world’s 20th largest economy.
People have lived on the land that is present-day Nigeria for thousands of years. The oldest fossil records from Nigeria have been dated to about 9000 B.C.E. In the years following, Nigeria housed many powerful kingdoms and states, such as the Hausa states and Igboland. During the 17th and 18th centuries, coastal communities became the main outlet of the Atlantic Slave Trade. The deleterious humanitarian and economic effects were felt throughout West Africa. Britain colonized Nigeria in the early 20th century and Nigeria gained independence on October 1, 1960.
The national planning committee, part of the work toward independence, held a competition to select a national flag in 1958. Out of almost 3,000 submissions, the committee chose Michael Taiwo Akinkunmi’s design. The green stripes stand for agriculture and the white stripes for unity and peace.
Nigeria is extremely ethnically and linguistically diverse. An estimated 250 ethnic groups live in Nigeria. The three major groups are the Hausa-Fulani, the Yoruba, and the Igbo. The languages of Nigeria are often divided into three broad linguistic groups: Niger-Congo, Nilo-Saharan, and Afro-Asiatic. Experts estimate that the majority of Nigerian languages have been spoken in the same locations for 4,000 years. While English is the official language, Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, and Fula are all widely spoken.
Nigeria is also religiously diverse. Currently, about half of the population is Muslim, slightly less than half is Christian, and a small proportion follows traditional religions. Many Nigerians who identify and Muslim or Christian also practice rites or rituals of traditional religions as well.
Nigeria’s economy is primarily based on the petroleum industry. Since the late 1960s, oil price increases produced rapid economic growth, which increased urbanization, transportation services, construction, manufacturing, and government services. Since the late 1970s, the fluctuating prices of oil on the world market has put pressure on Nigeria’s economy.
The capital of Nigeria is Abuja and the largest city is Lagos. Lagos is home to about 21 million people.