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Can Nigeria’s booming economy lift its poorest people?

Nigeria is a nation of superlatives. It’s Africa's richest country and its fastest growing economy. At the same time, millions still live in poverty and lack basic services like running water. As part of a week-long series "Nigeria: Pain and Promise," special correspondent Nick Schifrin reports on the country's massive economic surge, new millionaires, growing inequality and those fighting to provide new opportunities for all Nigerians. 

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    We return now to our continuing series this week, "Nigeria: Pain and Promise."

    Tonight, special correspondent Nick Schifrin looks at the country's massive economic surge, new millionaires, growing inequality, and those fighting to provide new opportunities for all Nigerians.

  • NICK SCHIFRIN:

    In Africa today, for the young, the hip, the rich, there's no better place than Lagos.

  • TOLA ADEAGBO, Designer:

    Nigeria's just the place to be right now in the developing world.

  • NICK SCHIFRIN:

    Tola Adeagbo designs handbags for Florian London. Increasingly, her market is in Lagos. This is the world's fastest growing mega-city.

  • TOLA ADEAGBO:

    Any international business, don't be shy of Africa. There's no Boko Haram anywhere, especially not in Lagos.

  • NICK SCHIFRIN:

    This is a nation of superlatives, Africa's largest population, richest country, and fastest growing economy.

  • ANURAG SHAH, Porsche Dealer:

    I'm very sure that this will be the main hub in Africa when it comes to the luxury goods in near future.

  • NICK SCHIFRIN:

    Straight from Germany?

  • ANURAG SHAH:

    Straight from Germany.

  • NICK SCHIFRIN:

    Anurag Shah sells Porsches that cost 600 times the average Nigerian's annual salary. The ultra-rich are growing at a higher percentage here than in the U.S.

  • ANURAG SHAH:

    You have luxury yachts, you have luxury aircraft, you have luxury wristwatches. Every luxury business in Nigeria currently is booming.

  • NICK SCHIFRIN:

    It's not only the rich. Between now and 2030, the middle class will grow by a factor of eight. Their spending power has made Nigeria the world's largest consumer of Guinness beer.

  • MAN:

    This is what I drink. This is Guinness. That's what I like.

  • MAN:

    In Lagos here, you can see many, many things. This is where you can get what you want. I love Lagos very well.

  • NICK SCHIFRIN:

    Half the country is under 30. Smart young Nigerians have more money, and they are starting their own businesses.

  • TONY ELUMELU, Businessman:

    These guys are entering the job market. So, if you don't cater for these guys, there's going to be insecurity for everyone everywhere in the world.

  • NICK SCHIFRIN:

    Tony Elumelu is one of Africa's richest men. He is trying to build the middle class by investing $100 million of his $700 million net worth in 10,000 young entrepreneurs.

  • TONY ELUMELU:

    The right, sustainable way to intervene in Africa for economic development, for inclusive development is to invest.

  • ISAZODUWA AGBONENI, Entrepreneur:

    When I started initially, I did a free wash, so people were actually attracted to the place.

  • NICK SCHIFRIN:

    Isazoduwa Agboneni is one of Elumelu's first entrepreneurs. She calls herself Neni, as in the founder and lead mechanic of Neni's Auto Care.

  • ISAZODUWA AGBONENI:

    I was amongst the best five in class. I was like, wow, if I can do well among the guys, so let me give it a try.

  • NICK SCHIFRIN:

    Neni's invested $50,000 of her own money. Tony Elumelu's money bought an engine lift and will convert this hole into a proper mechanic's pit. It will make her team faster, and allow her to hire more people.

  • ISAZODUWA AGBONENI:

    Doing this type of thing is going to help the unemployment rate in Lagos.

  • TITUS IGWE, Entrepreneur:

    My name is Titus Igwe.

  • TOBIAS IGWE, Entrepreneur:

    My name is Tobias Igwe. We are the Igwe twins.

  • NICK SCHIFRIN:

    Titus and Tobias Igwe are also Elumelu entrepreneurs. Five years ago, the twins were mopping floors when their father died suddenly. They taught themselves how to cook.

  • TOBIAS IGWE:

    It was a means of survival. We're doing it because we want to survive, because there was hunger. Hunger is imminent. And there's no way help will come.

  • NICK SCHIFRIN:

    Today, they run Speedmeals mobile kitchen. Within a year, they hope to cook and cater for 1,000 people a day.

  • MAN:

    The most important the part of the part that we love the most, some mouths are hungry. We get to feed them.

  • NICK SCHIFRIN:

    On this day, they give away packaged lunches to prospective clients. And they feed about 100 churchgoers. They are always smiling and always dreaming. Elumelu's $10,000 rented this new office space.

  • MAN:

    We re going to have computers in all the rooms.

  • MAN:

    We're going to the moon with this place. That's exactly what it means.

  • NICK SCHIFRIN:

    The twins use their rags-to-riches story to motivate and mentor younger entrepreneurs.

  • TOBIAS IGWE:

    We intend to use the story to encourage and inspire the next generation. If the twins can actually make it in this harsh economy, in these same bad conditions I find myself, who am I? What is then my excuse?

  • NICK SCHIFRIN:

    And that's when the mentees sound like the mentor.

  • TONY ELUMELU:

    Because your success is not only success for you and your family. It's success for Africa.

  • TOBIAS IGWE:

    And that is the only way African can grow, when young businesses and entrepreneurs begin to support other entrepreneurs. Then the growth can be a chain reaction.

  • TONY ELUMELU:

    If you succeed in employing 100 people, 1,000 people, you're playing your own part. The fewer level of poverty, abject poverty, we have, the better for everyone.

  • NICK SCHIFRIN:

    But that poverty is still everywhere. And the wealth gap here is among the world's largest.

    In elite neighborhoods, tuk-tuk taxis weave between mansions, and share the road with luxury Mercedes SUVs. The rich build houses that literally look down on the poor, who are getting poorer. In 1980, the poverty rate was 27 percent. By 2010, it was 69 percent, even though the country's wealth has increased dramatically.

    Nigeria may be Africa's richest country, but here in Lagos alone, there are more than 100 slums, including this one. This is known as Makoko, where the houses are literally built on stilts on the water. Across the country, more than 100 million people don't have toilets. And only 2 percent have running water.

  • FELIX MORKA, Activist:

    So, the people live below the poverty line, because — not because they are less citizens of this country, not because they are less deserving, but because the government is failing to provide those services.

  • NICK SCHIFRIN:

    Felix Morka is a community organizer for Makoko's 200,000 residents. The water here is filthy and smells of sewage. And yet young residents learn to swim before they can walk.

  • FELIX MORKA:

    When the government that is supposed to provide those services is not providing those services, then obviously what you have is a lot of deprivations. There's no potable water. There's no access to health care, primary health care. The schools are completely private. There's no official presence in Makoko.

  • NICK SCHIFRIN:

    Morka accuses the government of rallying around the rich and penalizing the poor. Three years ago, government-paid thugs tried to drown Makoko, so it could be replaced with a fancy boat club.

  • FELIX MORKA:

    You see a lot of wood stumps sticking out of water. This used to be the foundation of a house, one of the houses that was sliced down by the demolition squad. It was simply an unleashing of violence on the community.

  • NICK SCHIFRIN:

    While the government targeted Makoko, it endorsed what developers hope becomes Lagos' and Africa's premier address.

  • DAVID FRAME, South Energyx Limited:

    Nigeria and specifically Lagos today is where China was three to four decades ago.

  • NICK SCHIFRIN:

    David Frame has lived in Nigeria for 30 years. He hopes Eko Atlantic City is his legacy.

  • DAVID FRAME:

    Eko Atlantic City could be that catalyst to establish Lagos as that financial hub for the entire continent of Africa.

  • NARRATOR:

    In the heart of this iconic city, rises the new financial hub of Lagos.

  • DAVID FRAME:

    Slick promotional videos envision a city of the future, four square miles, nearly the same size as Midtown Manhattan, all built on land reclaimed from the Atlantic Ocean with 140 million tons of sand. Eko Atlantic is Africa's largest construction project.

  • NICK SCHIFRIN:

    In 10 years, what is all this going to be?

  • DAVID FRAME:

    All the water that you see, from here to the shore, will be reclaimed. So, this will be part of Eko Atlantic.

  • NICK SCHIFRIN:

    This is building for the rich on the world's poorest continent; 400,000 people will live and work here. They have already sold nearly every plot without any government money.

  • DAVID FRAME:

    And our model is, live in Eko Atlantic, work in Eko Atlantic, and enjoy the facilitates in Eko Atlantic.

  • NICK SCHIFRIN:

    The most important part of Eko Atlantic, in fact, the only reason it can exist, are these rocks. They're called the Great Wall of Lagos. And that is what prevents the Atlantic Ocean from coming in and reclaiming the land.

    The wall will be 5.5-miles-long, and weigh 4.5 million tons. It will keep Eko Atlantic dry, and keep Lagos safe from erosion.

  • DAVID FRAME:

    Whatever the ocean can throw at us, and including the projected rises in sea level, to the end of the century, this wall will protect Eko Atlantic.

  • NICK SCHIFRIN:

    Eko Atlantic's chief developer is Gilbert Chagoury. He and his family are the embodiment of Nigeria's well-heeled and well-connected. He holds an honorary ambassadorship. And he donated more than a million dollars to the Clinton Foundation.

    Two years ago, Clinton and Nigeria's most senior politicians christened the new city.

    BILL CLINTON, Former President of the United States: They have reclaimed five million square meters of land from the sea. This is something, I'm telling you, there will be countless numbers of people coming here to study.

  • NICK SCHIFRIN:

    The construction is not without controversy. Before Eko Atlantic could be built, the government evicted residents who used to live on the beach. Frame says the neighborhood is better for it.

  • DAVID FRAME:

    The police would attribute a lot of the crime that was going on in the area to people living in those camps. So, it was very necessary to move them out.

  • NICK SCHIFRIN:

    But Morka, and those who advocate for the poor, believe Nigeria's priority should be building equity, not new cities.

  • FELIX MORKA:

    Your need effective balance. You must ensure that whatever policy that drives Eko Atlantic City drives even further for the millions of people who are left behind. Unless that is done, it becomes a very skewed development policy that advances the interests of a few, to the detriment of the majority.

  • NICK SCHIFRIN:

    In 35 years, there will be more Nigerians than Americans. For so many here, there's so much promise and so much pain.

    Building the economy and bridging the wealth gap could change the city, the country, and the continent.

    Nick Schifrin, PBS NewsHour, Lagos, Nigeria.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Tune in tomorrow night for the next story in our "Nigeria: Pain and Promise" series about the nation's crippling corruption.

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