BusinessDay

Explainer: Why U.S. dollar is stronger than Naira

In recent times, the US dollar, the world’s reserve currency, has grown so strong and the effects of its rapid rise are reverberating across the globe.

The reason for the new high of US dollars against the global currencies is attributable to the rise in interest rates in the United States.

The Federal Reserve officials, on Wednesday, unanimously agreed to raise their benchmark federal-funds rate to between 2.25 percent and 2.5 percent.

The US dollar Index which measures the value of the US dollar against a basket of other major foreign currencies is up 11 percent year-to-date. Furthermore, the South African Rand has depreciated by -4 percent ytd against the US dollar, while major currencies such as the Euro, and the British Pound have seen sharper ytd declines of about -11 percent and -10 percent respectively, a note from the FBNQuest stated.

This however impacts negatively on Nigeria’s economy as its currency gets weaker.

What is the exchange rate? Given that the dominant foreign currency in Nigeria, as it is in many other countries, is the US Dollar, the exchange rate in Nigeria usually refers to the price of the US Dollar. Every other currency’s exchange rate, such as the exchange rate of the British Pounds Sterling, derives from

the price of the US Dollar, according to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

In the 1970s and 1980s Naira was “stronger” than the US Dollar, or at least, were at par, according to a statement from the CBN.

Today, Naira has depreciated to a peak of N430 per dollar at the official market, known as Investors and exporters (I&E) forex window, and N710/$ at the parallel market, popularly called black market.

Read also: Strong dollar worsens naira pressure, US enters recession

One of the major factors affecting the Naira/dollar exchange rate is rising demand for US dollars.

According to data from the UNESCO’s Institute of Statistics, the number of Nigerian students abroad increased from less than 15,000 in 1998 to over 71,000 in 2015. By 2018, this number had risen to 96,702 students, according to the World Bank.

In the 1980s and 1990s, you would search hard before you can find parents who sent their children to primary and secondary

schools abroad. Today, a sizable amount of the foreign exchange requests Nigerian banks receive for school fees are for primary and secondary school education, some of which are for neighbouring African countries.

Consequently, foreign education has cost the country a whopping sum of $28.65 billion between 2010 and 2020, according to the CBN’s publicly available Balance of Payments Statistics. If this amount were not sent abroad but was part of the CBN’s Foreign Exchange Reserves, the Naira would be much stronger today.

Over the last 10 years, therefore, foreign exchange demand specifically for education and healthcare has cost the country almost US$40 billion.

Nigeria imports more than it exports. Godwin Emefiele, governor of the CBN had urged Nigerians to play their role by adjusting their consumption patterns, looking inwards and finding innovative solutions to the country’s challenges.

According to the FBNQuest the surge in FX demand is largely related to seasonal factors such as people vacationing during the summer holiday season and payment of school fees by students studying abroad.

One of the major challenges with the naira’s valuation includes the lack of export diversification and the persistently high inflation levels in Nigeria, especially in the last few years. According to the latest balance of payment data from the CBN, proceeds from oil and gas sales accounted for about 89 percent of the value of merchandise exports in the first quarter of 2022.

Losses in national productivity caused by insecurity, inadequate electricity, and poor infrastructure are also related causes.

The CBN has established initiatives like the RT 200 programme that aims to enhance credit availability to certain sectors of the economy in order to boost foreign exchange inflow from non-oil exports. However, the fiscal authorities must take additional steps to resolve the structural issues.

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