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Has Nigeria got an image problem?

The world's negative perception of Nigeria is a "tragedy", a political official from the country told CNBC, who advocated focusing on the strength of Nigeria's economy rather than its struggles with Islamist terrorism and increasing instability.

"We are in the process of rebuilding the country, economically and socially. A lot of reforms are in place and that is what has really been helping Nigeria," Doyin Okupe, senior special assistant on public affairs to the country's president, Goodluck Jonathan, told CNBC on Monday.

Nigeria beat South Africa to become Africa's biggest economy in April this year. But this was overshadowed by the kidnapping of over 200 Nigerian schoolgirls by Islamist militant group Boko Haram, which grabbed headlines around the world and spurred a global social media campaign for their release.

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Three months later, the girls remain in captivity, although Okupe said the authorities' had now at least discovered where the girls were being held.

He added that it would be wrong to view the upsurge in terrorism as a problem peculiar to Nigeria. "It is an asymmetrical warfare, there are no borders, there are no rules."

Rather than the kidnappings, Okupe said the current government should be remembered for the thriving economy it helped build. The International Monetary Fund forecasts the country will grow by 7.1 percent this year, up from 6.3 percent in 2013.

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A man holds a placard reading 'Bring Back Our Girls' to denounce the kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls by Islamic militants on May 13 , 2014 in Malaga.
Jorge Guerrero | AFP | Getty Images
A man holds a placard reading 'Bring Back Our Girls' to denounce the kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls by Islamic militants on May 13 , 2014 in Malaga.

Okupe noted that as well being Africa's biggest economy, Nigeria is also the continent's most populous county, with the largest amount of arable land. But "somehow the global community and global media seems to focus on the negative," he said.

He rejected claims that little government money was being spent on education or health. He highlighted the creation of the Mortgage Financing Corporation, which makes mortgages available to "ordinary Nigerians" and said food imports had been slashed by two-thirds.

In a report on Nigeria published in May, the McKinsey Global Institute said the country was well-positioned to benefit from global trends such as "the shift of demand to developing economies and the explosion of digital technologies".

While many still see the country's economy as resource-driven, McKinsey said that only 14 percent of Nigerian gross domestic product (GDP) now comes from natural resources. Instead, services now contribute the most to GDP.

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