According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in a report titled “Consumer Expenditure Pattern report for 2019,” the typical Nigerian family spends 57% of their income on food due to inflation.
The cost of food in Nigeria increased 22.28% in May of 2021 compared to the same month in the previous year, again, according to the NBS. Food prices in Nigeria have been on an upward trajectory due to many factors, the primary being the activity of bandits and insurgents in parts of the North, leading to a fall in the supply of food; the border closure also did not help.
In summary, the cost of the biggest expenditure item on the budget of the typical Nigerian is up, so expenses are up.
When effective demand for goods remains strong and prices of such and services rise without a corresponding rise in the goods produced and available, this leads to inflation.
From Picture 1 below, we see that Inflation in Nigeria has been double-digit since 2016, This means the legal tender in Nigeria, the Naira, has lost purchasing value.
Inflation happens when there is a surplus of supply in the currency used in a jurisdiction, and that surplus cash travels through the economy causing a hike in prices. A currency is valuable when it is scarce. Thus, the difference between $1 (USD) and N1 is scarcity and supply of both currencies. I will explain.
There is more USD printed than Naira by volume and amount, but USD is accepted as legal tender around the world, in Iran, North Korea, and Afghanistan. Ecuador’s legal tender is the US dollar; thus, the US can print $5 trillion and issue as 10-year bonds with very low coupon rates and other nations will buy those bonds or hold USD because they import goods from the US. So, its utility makes it valuable, and its attractiveness makes it scarce.
For example, crude oil is priced in USD, so to buy oil from Saudi Arabia, you need USD. This keeps the demand for US dollars, thereby maintaining its scarcity.
Naira, on the other hand, is simply legal tender only in Nigeria. Nigerian crude is sold in USD, not Naira. When the CBN prints Naira, the volume of cash in Nigeria goes up. If production of goods and services does not go up as well, then there is excess cash in the system with fewer goods to purchase, that excess cash pushes up prices in the market, leading to inflation as well.
The effect of inflation is serious. Looking at Table 1, if I invest N500,000 in a bond and earn even 15% per annum in Naira terms, I have a negative return in real terms because inflation is higher than 15%.
Inflation reduces the purchasing power of a currency; this means I have to grow my principal by taking a risk and earning a risk-adjusted return just to ensure my income retains the same buying power. Thus, if I earn N500,000, and inflation is 15%, I have to earn N610,000 or N110,000 more to have the same buying power as N500,000.
This is a reason why we must invest and take on risks. Without growing the principal sum, we lose the ability to buy the same items constantly because of price hikes caused by inflation.
How investors can maintain the value of their Naira earnings
To avoid inflation is next to impossible. There is inflation in almost every currency, but the difference is the level of inflation. The trick is to hold and invest cash in a currency that is not depreciating faster than the return earned in Naira. You can have a strategy to simply hold cash in funds that don’t pay fantastic returns but hold value. As the duration of the investment goes longer, it is advised you seek not just current income but some yield to compensate for expected inflation even in USD.
Below are a few recommendations on USD Fixed Income and dividend ETF for consideration to hold surplus naira cash to hedge and earn in USD against inflation. The investor also has to be clear on the risk and duration of the holdings. I propose you divide your cash by when you will need it, for example, before one year and above one year.
These ETF offerings are available on Chaka which is now registered as a digital sub-broker by SEC Nigeria. I like the offering on FINTECH apps like Chaka because they allow you to invest and trade in smaller lot sizes than you would get via traditional brokers.
*Net annual total fees paid by the investor
**Year to Date total return on funds Net Aset Value NAV
Remember, the inflation effect is a loss of purchasing power. To regain purchasing power involves risks. I have stayed only on fixed income and dividend-paying ETFs, but if your investment duration is longer and you can take on more risk, then equities that pay a dividend including REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust) are another good option. Keep in mind that equities are more volatile and you can lose all, including the principal.