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Seven viral West African economy claims we fact-checked in 2023

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With the financial difficulties citizens of West African countries grappled with in 2023, the traditional and new media were awash with information regarding their nation’s economy. 

Below are some of the claims DUBAWA fact-checked in 2023.

  1. Claims around Nigeria CBN policies in 2023

In Feb. 2023, a statement purported to have come from the apex bank circulated on social media announcing the reissue and recirculation of the old N500 and N1,000 notes till May 1, 2023. Nigeria’s former first lady, Aisha Buhari, shared the false statement on her official social media handles, and the Central Bank of Nigeria debunked it.

Similarly, during his swearing-in ceremony, Nigeria’s president, Bola Tinubu, promised to unify the country’s multiple exchange rates. A few weeks later, the CBN reportedly directed Deposit Money Banks to remove the rate cap on the naira at the Investor’s and Exporters’ (I&E) Window of the foreign exchange market. CBN’s directive allows a free national currency to float against the dollar and other global currencies.

Subsequently, a press release from the CBN circulated on social media claiming the CBN had addressed policy action on foreign exchange. However, checks by DUBAWA revealed that the statement was from 2017. 

  1. Reports that the Sierra Leone government added an extra $165 tax for passengers is false

Amid complaints about the high cost of taxation for travellers using the Lungi International Airport, a report had gone viral claiming that the Sierra Leone government added $165 extra taxes for passengers travelling by air into the country. This elicited more groanings from residents, particularly members of the Hospitality Association, who raised concerns about how this could adversely affect their industry.

DUBAWA came across a press release from the Ministry of Information and Civic Education, which described the information as fake and misleading. Also, DUBAWA contacted some travellers who explained that they were only charged a $25 security fee with no extra tax. 

  1. Multiple false, recirculated claims about Opay, Palmpay, Kuda

In 2023, many false and misleading claims were circulated surrounding the existence of Opay, Palmpay, and Kuda, among others. 

In February, a viral post on X claimed that the Central Bank of Nigeria had ordered the closure of Opay, Palmpay and Kuda. The allegation caused panic. DUBAWA investigated it and found it to be false. 

In Oct. 2023, a video also went viral on social media claiming Opay agents protested missing funds. The footage was accompanied by a caption urging users to transfer their funds to an alternative account. However, checks by DUBAWA showed that the video was used in a misleading context as it was from a 2021 incident. 

Also, in Dec. 2023, another allegation went viral on social media, stating that Opay, Palmpay, and Kuda were among the financial institutions to be taken down. Again, it turned out to be false. 

  1. False! Nana Akomea’s claim of Ghana’s economic growth rate as Africa’s highest is incorrect

A member of the New Patriotic Party, Nana Akomea, claimed that Ghana’s economic growth rate was the highest in Africa between 2017 and 2019. He said the country would have been in a better economic situation than it is experiencing currently but had been adversely affected by COVID-19.

Data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Bank of Ghana and World Bank showed that Ghana recorded a growth rate of 8.1% in the administration’s first year. This reduced to 6.2% in 2018 before a marginal rise to 6.5% in 2019.

In 2017, three African countries, Ethiopia, Guinea, and Libya, recorded a higher growth rate than Ghana’s in 2017. The growth rate of Burkina Faso and Rwanda’s economies was higher than that of Ghana in 2018 and the same in 2019, rendering the claim false. 

  1. Nigerian politicians make false claims about the country’s inflation

One of the major highlights of the year 2023 was the election in Nigeria. To gain support for themselves or their preferred candidates, some Nigerian politicians made allegations surrounding the country’s inflation rate to mislead people. 

Former president Muhammadu Buhari had blamed COVID-19 majorly for the rising inflation rate in the country. He also said other countries experienced a similar situation. However, our investigations showed that while there was an increase in the inflation rate of other countries, other factors apart from COVID-19 were responsible. 

In a related development, current Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo, alleged Nigeria had the highest inflation rate under the Obasanjo-Atiku administration, not under former President Muhammadu Buhari. 

However, findings by DUBAWA showed that Nigeria experienced the highest inflation rate in 1995 at a critical mark of 72.84%, while Olusegun Obasanjo’s tenure started in 1999, four years later. 

Also, former Kwara state governor Bukola Saraki stated that the inflation rate remained at a single digit under the People’s Democratic Party. However, DUBAWA’s findings showed that during the PDP rule from 1999 to 2015, the country’s inflation rate fluctuated between 6.6 in 1999, 18.9 in 2001, 23.8 in 2003, and 15.1 in 2008. 

  1. Public Sector Investment was not US$27million when George Weah became Liberia’s President

The Assistant Minister for Planning at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) under the previous administration, Benedict Kolubah, claimed that the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) took over the country from the Unity party at a point when Public Sector investment was US$ 27 million.   

DUBAWA visited the official website of the Ministry of Finance for information on the public sector investment under the previous Sirleaf-Johnson administration compared to that of the first year of the CDC administration. Meanwhile, former President George Weah became president in 2018.

According to the last budget, 2017/2018, under the previous administration headed by Ms Sirleaf, public sector investment for the fiscal year 2016/2017 was at US$62,398,129 and 2017/18 was at 55,280,850, contrary to what the Assistant Minister claimed. This showed that the information given by the Assistant Minister was false.

  1. Nigeria’s president Bola Tinubu and former finance minister Zainab Ahmed make false economy claims 

President Bola Tinubu claimed that Lagos State is the fifth largest economy in Africa. On the contrary, DUBAWA’s findings showed that while Nigeria is the biggest economy in Africa with a $440 billion GDP, Lagos state ranked 12th with a GDP of $59.7 million, making the claim false. 

Similarly, former minister of finance, Zainab Ahmed, claimed that the country’s 7.5% VAT rate is the lowest in the world. However, DUBAWA found that at least three countries –Thailand, United Arab Emirates, and Oman, have VAT rates lower than the 7.5% in Nigeria as of 2023.

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