BuzzFeed News

Reporting To You

world

This Is Why There Are No Potatoes For French Fries In Nigeria

With oil plummeting, Africa's largest economy isn't looking so great. Can a catchy slogan turn things around?

Posted on March 2, 2016, at 4:35 a.m. ET

How can you tell when a country's economy is tanking? In the case of Nigeria, a clear sign is when you go to KFC and find you can get chicken but not fries.

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Nigerians across the country hoping to get their hit of the Colonel's fried goodies are being told by cashiers that chips are off the menu because there are no dollars to buy potatoes. Really.

Would-be customer Olufunke Phillips found herself in the weird position of having a KFC cashier explain to her that she couldn't get fries because of foreign exchange rates. She wrote a Facebook post on it that has since gone viral.

Facebook: phillipsemordi / Via Facebook.com

"It was ridiculous," Olufunke Phillips told BuzzFeed News of her experience trying to place a chicken 'n' chips order. "The manager said, we haven't had chips for three days now. I said, I don't understand, do you have to bring some out of the freezer? Do you need to fry a new batch? Like, did you forget to go to the market?"

So what do KFC side orders have to do with foreign exchange rates? It's all to do with oil prices.

Nigeria — Africa's biggest oil exporter — is like many major oil producers in that it mostly sells just one product to other countries around the world. Then it uses the petrodollars from those sales to import things from abroad.
Via getenergy-intel.com

Nigeria — Africa's biggest oil exporter — is like many major oil producers in that it mostly sells just one product to other countries around the world. Then it uses the petrodollars from those sales to import things from abroad.

But oil-producing countries are struggling — prices have crashed from over $100 a barrel two years ago to 13-year lows this year.

And because Nigeria also relies on petrodollars for a whopping 75% of government income, it's affected the entire economy, with consequences ranging from teachers not being paid to infrastructure projects being put on hold.

A little #TBT from @OilRevenueNG Nigeria's "moo-moo" situation.

Some countries, like Saudi Arabia and Norway, have buffers in place for when oil prices drop. Not so Nigeria, which squandered its oil savings during the good times, leaving it to starve in lean times.

This is a problem because Nigeria buys pretty much everything from abroad, from toothpicks to textiles, potatoes to plastic flowers. That imbalance is throwing the local currency, the naira, into chaos.

With oil prices hovering around $33 a barrel, Nigeria is actually losing money on some of the black stuff it exports, seeing as it costs roughly $32 just to produce each barrel.

Nigeria used to have a thriving manufacturing industry. But it fell to the wayside with the discovery of oil in the 1950s. In many cases, Nigerians are forced to import things they grow or produce but can't refine due to crippling electricity shortages.

Sad sight of a non-operational shoe factory in Kano. It's had to deal with a litany of problems in the past decade

Even after overcoming huge hurdles, crumbling infrastructure makes it hard to reach large-scale markets.

For example: Nigeria spends over $200 million a year on importing fruit juices, although it's the world's second-biggest grower of citrus fruits.

Meanwhile, the government has also banned many of the most popular items from coming in.
Georges Gobet / AFP / Getty Images

Meanwhile, the government has also banned many of the most popular items from coming in.

Officials have tried various ways to fix the cash flow problem. First they used monetary policy — basically a fancy phrase for central banks tinkering with interest rates and money supply and hoping the right combo will stop the economy from tipping over.

Joe Penney / Reuters

(SPOILER: It did not work.)

When you hear that the dollar-naira exchange rate will soon affect the price of noodles! @Gidi_Traffic

Prices of everyday items are going up as the currency weakens.

The scarcity of dollars has created the kind of atmosphere normally associated with Black Friday. Or Supermarket Sweep.

Not that people are going around knocking each other out in supermarket aisles. But black-market traders are acting like a guy with a giant trolley, vacuuming up all the scarce dollars at cheap rates and then reselling them at a much higher price.

This is because the Central Bank of Nigeria has frozen exchange rates at 197 naira to a dollar.

This looks great on paper — "hey, our currency is still worth something!" — but no matter what the government says on paper, the fact is there are still not enough dollars coming in to meet demand.Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria's president, has described the alternative of unpegging the naira as "killing the naira." So there goes one potential solution.
bloomberg.com

This looks great on paper — "hey, our currency is still worth something!" — but no matter what the government says on paper, the fact is there are still not enough dollars coming in to meet demand.

Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria's president, has described the alternative of unpegging the naira as "killing the naira." So there goes one potential solution.

Ordinary Nigerians are calling out this madness.

Facebook: Achyke

This month, a new solution — or, well, a new hashtag with an accompanying official song at least — was born.

View this video on YouTube

youtube.com

The slogan is called #BuyNaijaToGrowTheNaira, and the idea is that by using local currency to buy homegrown products, Nigerians can stop the currency from its ongoing freefall.

The campaign has taken off on Twitter, championed by Senator Ben Murray-Bruce, otherwise known as "Mr. Common Sense."

We need a common sense revolution. Though I know its not practical, I almost wish @MBuhari would appoint a minister for common sense!

The showbusiness magnate has also published a book called A Common Sense Revolution.

He's encouraging Nigerians to wean themselves off their addiction to foreign goods.

This cartoon speaks the truth on what our insatiable appetite for foreign goods does to us #BuyNaijaToGrowTheNaira

This cartoon is saying Nigeria's love of foreign goods is holding the country to ransom — just like militants in the country's Niger Delta frequently do when they kidnap people.

His tweets on the many foreign products Nigerians use that could be substituted for local variants have gripped Nigerian Twitter.

He's given a long list of suggestions to replace foreign goods, from Quaker Oats...

Quaker Oats is good, but ogi (pap) is even better. Best of all, it empowers your local economy. Drink it instead #BuyNaijaToGrowTheNaira

...to champagne, which he suggests replacing with popular, cheap, locally brewed palm wine. (That one has had mixed reactions.)

Sales of the locally sourced products he buys and tweets about have apparently shot up.

His timeline has been flooded with made-in-Nigeria goods.

And he's led by example, buying made-in-Nigeria cars.

.@benmurraybruce takes delivery of @IVMNigeria cars for his official use. #NewsroomNG #BuyNaijaToGrowTheNaira

It's hard to even assemble a car in Nigeria, given the lack of electricity, let alone make them from scratch.

And more cars.

I told @Kia_Nigeria that their cars are a good value but they should make it more affordable #BuyNaijaToGrowTheNaira

And staff cars.

13-Buy Innoson cars. I buy them as official cars for my staff. It supports jobs in Nigeria #BuyNaijaToGrowTheNaira

Via Twitter.com

And don't forget bulletproof cars too.

Dr. Chukwuma showed designs for Bullet proof version which he'll deliver to me in 90 days. #BuyNaijaToGrowTheNaira

He even tweeted about this white dude who flew with a Nigerian airline.

I had breakfast with Michael Moszynski, the Oyibo man who chose to fly Arik in response to #BuyNaijaToGrowTheNaira!

Some people feel very strongly about the campaign.

Only demonic possessed people would not support the #BuyNaijaToGrowTheNaira campaign chaired by @benmurraybruce

Others feel the "buy Naija" campaign get K-leg*.

What grates for me is that #BuyNaijatoGrowtheNaira is a convenient way of govt sidestepping its responsibility of creating enabling environ.

That's Nigerian slang for saying "I don't buy it."

And even if the sentiment behind "buy Naija" isn't necessarily misplaced, history isn't on Nigeria's side.

Remember the time Nigeria's former President Goodluck Jonathan vowed to eat cassava bread daily during his time in office? There's a litany of "buy Naija" products — whether Jonathan's cassava bread or computers — that have failed to take off, either because of poor quality or ill-advised policies.
Via google.com

Remember the time Nigeria's former President Goodluck Jonathan vowed to eat cassava bread daily during his time in office? There's a litany of "buy Naija" products — whether Jonathan's cassava bread or computers — that have failed to take off, either because of poor quality or ill-advised policies.

So until the day razor blades are made in Nigeria...

(The country spent $15.4 million importing razor blades in 2013. That looks unlikely to change anytime soon.)

...the slogan ~probably~ won't have much impact on the ground.

Can u post messages only on nairaland instead of using Twitter,that's why $ is strong against d naira#benmurraybruce #BuyNaijaToGrowTheNaira

Support our journalism

Help BuzzFeed News reporters expose injustices and keep quality news free.

Start
ADVERTISEMENT