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News flash: “Economy of Nigeria to Grow by 40 Percent. On December 10th!”
The news is not technically wrong. Nigerian officials are revising their calculation of gross domestic product, or GDP, to reflect changes in the economy over the past two-and-a-half decades. They will deemphasize sectors that have diminished in importance, and increase the weight of new sectors that have emerged. That is expected to boost GDP by approximately 40 percent.
The U.S. did the same thing earlier this year, yielding an increase of 3.6 percent to GDP. Nigeria’s larger increase is due partly to the fact that it hasn’t revised the formula for calculating GDP since 1990, and that large parts of the economy remain underground, untaxed, and unregulated. Ghana’s GDP increased by 60 percent when it revised its calculations in 2010.
One of the sectors that will boost Nigeria’s new GDP figure substantially is Nollywood, the Nigerian Hollywood, which produces movies, TV shows and music that are exported across Africa. The fast-growing telecommunications sector will also help Nigeria catch up to South Africa, its biggest economic rival and currently the Sub-Saharan African country with the largest GDP ($385 billion, compared to Nigeria’s expected $382 billion, when the new figure is released on December 10).
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s farming and textile sectors will be downgraded in the new GDP weighting. Reasons for this include urbanization, and intense competition from textile-producing nations in Asia, such as China and India.
Hossein Askari, a business and international affairs professor at George Washington University, says GDP ranking doesn’t make much difference to foreign investors or global brands looking to expand into developing markets. They’re more focused on infrastructure, corporate governance, and rule of law.
“Nigeria is one of the most corrupt countries in the world,” says Askari, “there are internal conflicts, and there is a very large degree of poverty.” Askari says he’s studied the economic impact of energy development in many countries, including Nigeria. “And if I had to mention one country where the people have not benefited from the oil wealth -- the least of any oil exporter -- this would be Nigeria.”
South Africa, meanwhile, has a bigger middle class, better legal institutions, and a more transparent financial system than Nigeria, says Amadou Sy, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s African Growth Initiative.
Sy points out that even if Nigeria is about to catch up with South Africa in total GDP, the distribution of that wealth and growth is much more equal in South Africa. He estimates GDP per-capita in Nigeria will be $2,700 after its upcoming revisions. In South Africa, he estimates the figure at $8,700.
“South Africa remains very important, especially for the Southern Cone of Africa,” says Sy. “But it’s also good to have another champion in the Western region of the continent.”
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The director of the National Security Agency is pushing back hard on a Washington Post story -- based on documents provided by Edward Snowden -- that the agency has broken into the communication links that connect Google and Yahoo data centers around the world, copying the data of hundreds of millions of users, including Americans. The program, which is operated jointly with Britain's Government Communications Headquarters, is known as MUSCULAR.
Army General Keith Alexander, the director of the NSA, told a cyber security conference in Washington on Wednesday that the government does not illegally break into databases, saying, "We go through a court order."
But if you don't buy Alexander's assertion, you're not the only one.
"The government is in the business of surreptitiously and professionally getting into all sorts of places it shouldn't be," says data security expert Roger Kay, founder and president of Endpoint Technologies Associates. "And one of its tactics is to always deny that it does so."
Google and Yahoo have both released statements claiming that they were unaware of the government's activities. Both companies have good reason to be outraged, Kay says. Knowing that the NSA can access your information has a serious impact on consumers.
"If you know that Google is losing your information to the government, you might not be willing to use their products -- it's just bad for them, reputationally [sic]," Kay says.
Kay says if you are concerned about the government staying out of your data, you might want to look to our neighbors to the north. "One of the interesting artifacts of this whole Snowden business is that the Canadians are capitalizing on the problems in the U.S. and providing services to Americans that they purport to be secure."
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Here's a gravely serious Halloween story for you. Maybe you're not the superstitious type, but perhaps you've wondered before if anyone died in your house -- or maybe one of your neighbor's houses.
Now there's an easy way to find out who met their maker in your bedroom, in a way that doesn't involve exhaustively searching county records. DiedInHouse.com, an internet company based in South Carolina, will run a background check to see if there's a record of anyone dying in a given house for $11.99.
CEO Roy Condrey said he got the idea for the business when he decided to check to make sure a rental property he owned wouldn't turn into "The Amityville Horror" for his tenants.
"In the middle of the night, I had a tenant text me saying, 'Did you know your house was haunted?'" Condrey says. "So the next day I got online -- because that's where we go to find out information -- and there what I did find was page after page of advice telling you how to find this information, and what they say is to check government records, speak to your neighbors, and check online -- so it's tons of research to find this."
The difficulty in finding out if anyone died in the house, combined with the fact that there are often no laws requiring people selling homes to disclose that kind of information, inspired Condrey to start DiedInHouse.
Condrey says there's a legitimate need for the service beyond just satisfying your morbid curiosity. If a real life horror movie took place where you live, it can have a big impact on the value of your property.
"A death in the home -- especially a violent death -- can depreciate the value up to 25 percent, and it will take 50 percent longer to sell," Condrey says.
What else besides a death can impact home value? Take our quiz and test your knowledge: