Top richest and poorest African countries
Listing and ranking the richness of countries is always a challenge.
Listing and ranking the richness of countries is always a challenge. Between social-economic status, commerce, economic shifts, natural disasters, many years of colonialism, poverty, and inequality, and government corruption – there are most definitely many challenges in economic growth and maintaining a healthy, wealthy and productive society.
There are 1.33 billion people living across Africa, in 54 different countries, that produce $2.2 trillion in nominal GDP thanks to trade, agriculture, and harvesting various sources of energy (oil being the dominant one in certain countries). Not too long ago, in 2013, Africa was the world’s fastest-growing continent at 5.6% a year.
The future holds great things for the continent of Africa, but it’s important to understand the present as we explain in the next pages.
Nowadays, the African Development Bank predicts an increase of 4.3% in yearly growth across the continent. World Bank expects most of the African countries to reach a GDP per capita of at least $1,000 (ranking those as “middle income”) by 2025.
All nominal data in this article are based on World Bank’s latest reports.
How would Nigeria’s oil export affect its ranking? Does the government domination of the economy in Kenya help its rank? How do countries like Ghana and Zimbabwe rank in comparison to Zambia and Uganda? Does South Africa’s complex social history hurt its economic growth? Which other countries occupy the top and bottom of this list?
Nominal GDP Rank: #7
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #14
With a total GDP of $124.6 billion and a staggering GDP per capita of $4,101, Angola takes 5th place in the richest countries on the continent. Angola is largely dependent on its natural oil and gas reserves, along with hydroelectricity, diamonds, and agriculture.
Angola has a population of 32.9 million people, most of whom are still highly influenced by European culture due to Portuguese colonialism in the country. The official language of Angola is still Portuguese.
In 2019, President João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço has focused a lot on diversifying the economy to focus less on oil dependency, and those efforts are slowly paying off. Angola continues to trend upwards in several sectors they had very little presence in previously.
Nominal GDP Rank: #17
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #42
South Sudan is one of the poorest countries in Africa, with an economy that is weak and underdeveloped. South Sudan has a population of 11.2 million, with only about 24% of the population being literate. This makes it hard for the country to turn things around quickly.
Its GDP stands at $3.15 billion and GDP per capita is $235.52. Conditions in South Sudan are known to be very problematic. In most of the populated areas, there is no electricity and access to water suitable for drinking.
Republic of Cameroon
Nominal GDP Rank: #14
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #24
With a per-capita GDP of $1,537.61, The Republic of Cameroon is one of the ten highest in Africa by that metric. The total GDP of the country is $39.22 billion.
As an economy largely based on agriculture and oil, many of the 26.55 million people, still keep the industry trending upward. The overall economy has increased over the years slowly. Timber reserve adds value to the economy of the country as it accounts for about 37% of the total landmass.
During the last year, the country continues to try to overcome a poor infrastructure to rise into a top country in Africa financially. The building of the deep-sea port in Kribi is the first-ever in Central Africa, and it should help expand hydropower generation significantly.
Nominal GDP Rank: #5
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #12
Morocco is the 5th richest and the 11th biggest country in Africa. With a GDP of $121.35 billion and a population of 36.9 million, is it also one of the leading countries in Africa in terms of GDP per capita. They come in with a figure of $3,410, which is good for 12th on the continent. Morocco is considered a relatively liberal economy with large sectors such as tourism (which the government hopes to reach 20% of its GDP by 2020), agriculture, solar and coal energy, and cannabis.
Fun fact: according to a study from 2016, around 70% of the cannabis consumed in Europe comes from Morocco.
According to World Bank, during 2019 Morocco’s economy continued to operate below the potential assigned to it by said Bank. The rainfed agricultural sector contributed to the volatility and a timid recovery of the other sectors. The contribution of Morocco’s net exports is still negative, meaning that Morocco imports more than it exports, reflecting the low competitiveness of exports and dependence on energy imports.
Nominal GDP Rank: #3
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #15
Egypt has been a major country in Africa forever. It is obviously well known for iconic monuments such as The Great Pyramids, The Great Sphinx, and the ruins of Memphis and Thebe. Nowadays, Egypt is the 3rd biggest economy in Africa, with a GDP figure of $237.03 billion as well as a GDP per capita of $2,500.
It is also the 3rd biggest country in Africa, with a population of 102.3 million. The Egyptian economy is largely based on tourism, commerce, natural gas, agriculture, and sea transportation, and oil. With a production of over 700,000 oil barrels a year, Egypt possesses the largest oil refinery capacity in the entire African continent.
As long as there is a need for oil, the outlook for Egypt is strong as an economic power on the continent. The availability of hard currency has helped Egypt see a boost in its overall business environment recently.
Nominal GDP Rank: #35
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #48
Niger is among the poorest countries in Africa, with a population of 24.2 million, a GDP of $9.72 billion, and a per capita GDP of $487.68. This puts them amongst the poorest countries in the world. Niger’s economy is based on agriculture (mainly subsistence agriculture), which provides jobs for most of its citizens, and its large uranium deposits, which is actually one of the largest in the world.
Despite the efforts, Niger’s economy struggles to make huge strides. It is negatively affected by drought cycles, rapid population growth, and the decline in uranium prices over the years.
Until entrepreneurial dynamism improves, the landlocked country will struggle to really see any huge improvements. There are some growth opportunities with the mineral exports, but the country is still figuring out how to fully capitalize.
Nominal GDP Rank: #12
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #21
The Ivory Coast enjoys a stable economy. They have a population of 26.4 million, a GDP of $45.3 billion, and a considerable GDP growth of 8.5% per year. This currently puts them 4th highest in GDP growth worldwide. The vast majority of Ivory Coast residents (about 70%) are engaged in agriculture.
The leading crops in the Ivory Coast are coffee and cocoa beans, which account for about 40% of the world’s production. As a result, the economy of the Ivory Coast is heavily influenced by fluctuations in the prices of cocoa and coffee. This led the Ivorian government to push for greater diversification of the country’s economy. Those attempts resulted in failure, and most of the industry is still agriculture-based.
The pro-market and pro-business reforms in the country continue to help move the country forward during 2019 and 2020. Analysts expect them to stay strong with year-to-year growth.
Nominal GDP Rank: #13
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #6
Libya is one of the smallest countries in Africa, with a population of only 6.87 million people. It holds a GDP figure of $44.96 billion, which might not sound like a lot, but it places Libya as the 6th richest country in Africa, in terms of GDP per capita with a figure of $6835.62.
Just like many Africa countries, most of Libya’s economic growth comes from oil. It accounts for over half of its GDP and about 97% of its exports. Due to those figures, Libya has been described as the “Upper Middle Economy of Africa” by the World Bank.
It is hard to look into the future for Libya right now with so many moving parts in the country. From political instability to major security threats, there are definite challenges the country must face head-on during 2020 and 2021.
Nominal GDP Rank: #16
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #39
Uganda is of the poorest nations in the world. The country’s total GDP accounting for $33.57 billion, along with an $828.06 GDP per capita is tough to overcome for the 45.74 million living there. Uganda is one of the largest countries in Africa in terms of population, but they have a hard time getting out of severe poverty. However, the country has witnessed a recent change in the economy, thanks in large part to the protection of the natural resources of the country.
In 1992, 56% of the country’s population was under the poverty line of $1.25 a day. In recent years that number has been reduced to around 25%. Government officials are still hopeful that in the coming years they will reach their goal of reducing the number of poor in its population to 10%.
There was a big push in the 1980s to make Uganda economically liberalized, but that has diminished over the years. They continue to look for answers that will help get so many out of a life of poverty. During 2019, The Ugandan economy reported strong growth, estimated at 6.3%. Largely driven by the expansion of services sectors, and industrial sectors (mostly construction and mining).
The Democratic Republic of Congo
Nominal GDP Rank: #11
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #46
The Democratic Republic of Congo has a mixture of economic sectors such as mining, fishing, forestry, agriculture, and copper and cobalt. While the country’s total GDP of $48.46 billion may seem high in comparison to other African countries, but that is mostly due to its large population.
With 89.56 million people living in the country, it brings the GDP per capita figure to an astounding low of $495.08. This places the country in the top ten poorest countries in Africa by that metric. Nonetheless, this country is a perfect example of a mixed economy that is trying to build towards the future.
According to the African Development Bank Group, growth dropped from 5.8% in 2018 to 4.3% in 2019, due to a slowdown in extractives, the economy’s main driver despite a fall in the price of some raw materials (copper and cobalt). Agriculture has suffered from low productivity while energy shortages have hindered industrialization efforts. Growth has been driven by domestic demand, particularly private investment and public consumption, contributing even more to the social-economics gaps in the country.
Nominal GDP Rank: #10
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #30
Next on the list is Tanzania, undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in Africa. With a relatively high total GDP of $61.03 billion, it is the 10th most economically rich country in Africa.
Tanzania has a population of 59.73 million people, the 6th biggest in Africa. That brings its GDP per capita figure to $1,172. The people of Tanzania largely rely on agriculture as a source of their income. The country has increased in terms of GDP but there are people who still are below the poverty line.
A markedly diversified economy, helps Tanzania maintain steady growth, 6.8% during 20018, only shy of 2018 7.0% growth. This diversification is characterized by robust private consumption, substantial public spending, strong investment growth, and an upturn in exports underpinned the positive outlook. Other sectors like tourism, mining, services, construction, agriculture, and manufacturing are contributing factors as well.
Nominal GDP Rank: #17
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #42
Sudan is the 10th most populated country in Africa, with a population of 43.85 million people. It is also the 17th richest country in Africa, with a GDP of $31.47 billion and a GDP per capita of $728.06.
In 2012, Sudan was the 17th fastest growing economy in the world. Largely due to the fact that it’s rich in oil and gas. The country has managed to achieve an increase in GDP along with its dependency on agriculture as a second source of income. Sudan is also the largest exporter of cotton and peanuts all across the world.
The economic uncertainly in recent times has people still a little uncertain about Sudan’s long-term growth. Currency shortages have only added to the mixed feelings people have on the economy, but it continues to trend upwards.
Nominal GDP Rank: #38
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #51
Malawi’s economy is predominantly based on agriculture, as 90% of its 19.13 million people are living in rural areas of the country. The landlocked country is located in the heart of south-central Africa and is regarded by the United Nations as an LDC – a least developed country.
Malawi’s total nominal GDP is set at $7.44 million and its GDP per capita is at the astoundingly low figure of $366.53. Its agriculture sector is being dominated by tobacco manufacturing and exporting. Tobacco exporting, alongside tea, sugarcane, and coffee exporting, accounts for around 90% of Malawi’s total export revenue. Malawi also relies on tourism as a source of revenue, which has seen noticeable growth in the last decade.
It continues to be a struggle for Malawi to connect with the rest of the region, but they continue to push forward with new and creative ways. As GDP grew 5.0% in 2019, compared to 2018 4.0% growth. Additionally, annual inflation was estimated at 9.0% in 2019, significantly improving from its 21.7% in 2017.
Nominal GDP Rank: #4
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #9
Algeria bases most of its economy on fossil fuels and gas. In fact, 95% of Algeria’s exports are based on its advanced fuel and gas industry. With a GDP of $183.69 billion and a per capita GDP of $4,229.78, Algeria is one of the five richest countries in Africa.
Due to its newfound possibilities in recent years, Algeria has been leaning towards sustainable development to create more jobs and ease the housing shortages it faces. The Algerian economy also offers a host of other sectors that show some promise in putting the country’s economy in a respectable position. These sectors include agriculture, fishing, banking, and tourism.
Hydrocarbon, one of the country’s leading sectors that accounted for 34.2% of its total GDP, is now plummeting to less than 19%, driving overall GDP growth to 2.3%. While fiscal and current account deficits are on the rise, 7.9% and 12.6% of the country’s GDP, respectively, during 2019. Compared to 7.0% and 9.6% during 2018.
Nominal GDP Rank: #18
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #25
Senegal is limited in natural resources, forcing most of its economy to be based on agriculture, tourism, and foreign exchange of crops and fish. Senegal has a population of 16.74 million, a GDP of $25.32 billion, and a GDP per capita of $1,510.20. Tourism in Senegal is a vital component of its economy, and they continue to pour money into that.
Historic sites, national parks, and nature reserves in Senegal are significant sources attracting tourists from all over the world.
As long as the rest of the economy can stay strong, Senegal has a solid outlook going forward. As public investment in infrastructure, agriculture, and energy are keeping the fiscal deficit at 3.6% of GDP in 2018 and 2019, and is expected to continue to do so during 2020.
Nominal GDP Rank: #15
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #13
Tunisia is in the midst of a long reform process that has been going on for several decades. In the beginning, the Tunisian economy surged significantly. It is now in a state of moderate growth. Tunisia has a population of about 11.8 million, a GDP of $36.2 billion, and a GDP per capita of $3,072.
Despite the improvement in its economic situation, Tunisia is still trying to rebuild its economy. Right around 15.5% of its residents are living below the poverty line and 14.7% are unemployed. Much of Tunisia’s economy is based around tourism, as it’s an attractive destination mostly due to affordable prices, beaches, and pleasant weather. Tunisia attracts about 7 million arrivals per year.
The government does seem focused on fixing the unemployment problem, which is a positive sign for the country as a whole. They have introduced policies to help increase foreign currency reserves, limit fiscal deficit and subsidies, and more. These small steps should help Tunisia get out of a pretty big rut with unemployment.
Nominal GDP Rank: #28
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #50
Despite the potential and growing interest in Madagascar as a thriving tourist destination, tourism in Madagascar remains underdeveloped, with few visitors each year in comparison to its neighboring countries. People are intrigued mostly by the unique forests and habitats. The government continues to attempt to develop the tourism industry, but it’s still a huge work in progress.
Apart from tourism, Madagascar bases most of its economy on agriculture, textile, and mining industries. The population of Madagascar is 27.69 million, its GDP stands at $12.73 billion, and its per capita GDP is $470.67.
Those in charge continue to work on developing a capital market that sticks. Government corruption has always hurt the business environment in the country, so until that is fixed, Madagascar will continue to struggle.
Nominal GDP Rank: #51
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #1
Since its independence, Seychelles, the Indian Ocean island nation, has experienced an increase in GDP which currently stands at $1.65 billion. This may not sound impressive, but considering Seychelles is one of the smallest countries in Africa, with a population of 98,347, this puts them in a great position with a per capita GDP of $17,154.
Seychelles’s economy is based mainly on luxury tourism and fishing. Seychelles was economically dependent on its flourishing tourism until the crisis of the late 1990s and early 2000s when the Seychelles government decided to develop agriculture and fishing in order to create a diversified economy.
The government is doing a great job of being proactive about not becoming too dependent on tourism. They will always be somewhat limited by size, but the economy is very strong when compared to the rest of the continent.
Nominal GDP Rank: #8
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #32
Ethiopia is the second most populated country in Africa, with 114.96 million people strong. It is the 8th richest country in Africa with a GDP of $90.97 billion.
The country doesn’t produce oil, but they still have one of the fastest-growing economies on the continent. It relies on agricultural, export coffee, cattle, gold, and leather products. It also does a great job of leveraging the county’s 14 major rivers (including the famous Nile) to produce energy.
An increase in private-sector involvement is huge for Ethiopia as it continues to move forward. The goal is to eventually be a manufacturing hub instead of relying so much on agriculture.
Nominal GDP Rank: #19
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #27
Due to its rapid urbanization rate, Zambia’s economic growth is one of the fastest in Africa. Despite the significant growth, Zambia is still considered a poor country over the past decades, with a population of 18.38 million, a GDP of $24.6 billion, and a GDP per capita of $1,344.
About 60.5% of Zambians live below the poverty line. Agriculture is one of the most important industries in Zambia, as it provides more employment than the mining industry. The main crops in Zambia are cereals, but other crops include cotton, sugar, and soybeans.
The country still feels the effects of the suspensions of donor aid, which happened back in 2018. This happened after millions were embezzled from social welfare grants. The focus is now on getting more private-sector involvement to help with infrastructure.
Nominal GDP Rank: #2
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #7
South Africa has a complex and awing social history, with a multiethnic society and a wide range of cultures and languages. The southernmost country has a population of 59.31 million. It is also the 2nd richest country in Africa, with a GDP of $371.27 billion and a mesmerizing GDP per capita of $6,331, which is only beaten by six other countries in Africa.
These six countries ahead of South Africa, Botswana, Gabon, Mauritius, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, and Seychelles, all have populations under seven million people. The African Economy is largely based on mining, agriculture, automotive manufacturing, telecommunications, and tourism. Despite all these great figures, South Africa is still showing a high rate of poverty and unemployment. South Africa is also in the top ten countries in the world for income inequality.
South Africa continues to be near the top of the class in Africa, even if they have had some issues. Macroeconomic stability has returned to the country, which was an ongoing issue up until a couple of years ago.
Nominal GDP Rank: #20
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #25
In the past, Zimbabwe was known in Africa for its extensive wheat and cotton crops. However, since the early 2000s, Zimbabwe’s economy has shrunk considerably. Zimbabwe has a population of 14.86 million people, a GDP of $22.3 billion, and a GDP per capita of $1,423.
Zimbabwe’s local currency, the Zimbabwean dollar, has reached a status of hyperinflation in the past decade, to a point where 100 billion Zimbabwean dollars was equivalent to one US dollar. After many attempts to restore the currency, in 2009 it was decided to abandon it. Since then, Zimbabwe has been using foreign currencies such as the US dollar and its economy has begun a reform process.
The government continues to put together a reform plan, but there is no assurance that it will work. It could take years to see any noticeable improvement in the country going forward.
Nominal GDP Rank: #9
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #17
Ghana accounts for a total GDP of $68.26 billion. The country has a rich and vast economy, placing it 9th in terms of the highest GDP in Africa, right after Ethiopia.
The position of their GDP has increased with a lot of management plans that they have applied to improve the country’s position. With it being blessed with natural resources, the country continues to rely on it as a source of income. With a population of 31.07 million people its GDP per capita stands at $2,262.
Ghana’s economy continued to expand in 2019, with real GDP growth estimated at 7.1%. High growth momentum since 2017 has consistently placed Ghana among Africa’s 10 fastest-growing economies.
Nominal GDP Rank: #6
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #21
The eastern African country of Kenya has a population of 50.95 million people. It produces a GDP of $99.25 million ranking as the 9th richest country in Africa in terms of GDP. Its GDP per capita stands at $2,011 making it a “middle income” country according to World Bank.
Kenya leads a market-based economy, with several government-owned infrastructures, yet maintaining a liberalized trade system while taking advantage of its ports to the Indian Ocean. Sectors like fishing, mining, and tourism aid the country’s growth. However, it is agriculture that takes a major role in Kenya’s economy and labor, as about 75% of its workforce is making a living of it. The coffee and tea industry lead the Kenyan agriculture economy.
Once again, household consumption and investment are the key factors of growth for Kenya. GDP grew 5.9% in 2019, while down from 6.5% in 2018, the Kenyan economy is stable. As inflation remains within the central targets and the decrease in growth between 2018 and 2019 was mainly due to unfavourable weather.
Nominal GDP Rank: #1
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #18
Nigeria is the richest and biggest country in Africa. With a population of 206.14 people, a GDP of $444.92 billion and a GDP per capita of $2,233, this west African country closes our list. The Nigerian economy is defined as a mixed economy emerging market, and according to World Bank, it has reached the status of lower middle income. The Nigerian economy is largely built around commerce and energy.
It is the largest trader with the USA in Africa, as it supplies the country with around 1/5 of its total oil production. That places Nigeria as the 12th largest oil producer in the world and the 8th larger oil exporter. Moreover, Nigerian agriculture is a major source of employment for the country, as around 30% of its population are employed in agriculture.
2019 showed incredible growth mainly in the transport, oil, and information and communications technology sectors. Driving GDP growth to 2.3%, compared to 1.9% in 2018. In addition to those, household consumption was the key driver of growth in 2019.