In Profile: Nigeria’s finance minister Zainab Ahmed

Published: January 8, 2020

Having been handed the extra role of economic planning, Nigeria’s finance minister Zainab Ahmed believes measures in her 2020 budget will raise much-needed tax revenues and turn the country into a magnet for private investment.

Zainab Ahmed is probably the most important person in African finance, and certainly the most influential woman. In August 2019 Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari, fresh from an election victory, moved responsibility for budget and economic planning into the finance ministry, which Ahmed had taken over after Kemi Adeosun was forced out a year earlier.

Ahmed, 59, has hit the ground running with a raft of proposals aimed at bolstering government revenues and stimulating the small business sector in an economy that has been dominated by the oil industry. This includes a hike in the rate of value added tax to 7.5% from 5% to bolster non-oil revenues, which at around 5% of GDP are among the lowest levels in the world.

“When Buhari became president in 2015, what we had at the beginning was a very crude awakening of an economic meltdown,” she says in Washington, where she was representing Nigeria at the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

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