GDP per Capita within African Regions

In this blog post I’ll explore GDP per capita within the regions of Africa.

What is GDP per capita?

GDP per capita is a measure that represents the average economic output per person in a country, calculated by dividing the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of a country by its population. Expressed often in current US dollars for international comparisons, it serves as a proxy for the average standard of living and economic well-being of a country’s citizens.

While it provides a useful snapshot of economic performance and prosperity, it does not account for income distribution among the population or other factors affecting quality of life, making it an important but not exhaustive indicator of a country’s economic health.

In this blog post I’ll be using GDP per capita in current USD, from the World Bank’s World Development Indicators public dataset hosted on BigQuery.

African Union Regions

There are multiple ways to categorize African nations, but the one I will be using is based on the regions within the African Union.

These are North Africa, West Africa, Central Africa, East Africa and Southern Africa.

African Union regions. North Africa, West Africa, Central Africa, East Africa and Southern Africa.

North Africa

North Africa’s economy is diverse and includes significant sectors such as agriculture, mining, manufacturing, and services. The region is a major exporter of oil and gas, particularly in Algeria, Libya, and Egypt, contributing substantially to their GDPs.

Egypt’s economy is also bolstered by the Suez Canal, a crucial international shipping lane. Agriculture plays a vital role in the region’s economy, with Morocco being a significant producer and exporter of phosphates and fruits. Tourism is another critical sector, with the region’s rich history and cultural heritage attracting visitors worldwide.

Mauritania has the lowest GDP per capita of the region by a large margin.

North Africa countries

West Africa

West Africa’s economy is varied, with agriculture being a significant sector across many countries, producing cocoa, cashews, and cotton, especially in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Nigeria. Nigeria, the largest economy in the region, is a major oil and gas producer, significantly influencing the region’s economic performance.

The region also has a growing services sector, including finance, telecommunications, and transportation. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) plays a crucial role in promoting economic integration and development. Despite its natural and human resources, the region faces challenges such as political instability and infrastructure deficits that affect economic growth.

Cabo Verde has by far the highest GDP per capita of the region, with Niger and Sierra Leone having much lower figures.

West Africa countries map
a list of west african countries by gdp per capita

Central Africa

Central Africa’s economy heavily relies on natural resources, with significant contributions from the oil sector in countries like Angola, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is rich in minerals, being a leading producer of cobalt and diamonds, essential for the global electronics and jewelry industries.

However, the region faces challenges such as political instability, corruption, and inadequate infrastructure, which hinder economic development. Agriculture remains a vital sector for livelihoods, though it operates below potential due to these challenges. Efforts by the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) aim to promote economic cooperation and integration to overcome these obstacles and leverage the region’s vast resources for development.

Equatorial Guinea and Gabon are both outliers in the region, having significantly high GDP per capita.

Central Africa
a list of central african countries by gdp per capita

East Africa

East Africa is one of the fastest-growing regions on the continent, with a diverse economic landscape. Agriculture is a backbone for many of its countries, providing employment and exports. Kenya’s economy is notable for its horticulture, tea, and coffee exports, while Ethiopia is a leading coffee producer.

The region has also seen growth in the telecommunications, banking, and services sectors. Tanzania and Uganda have invested in natural gas and oil exploration, respectively, to diversify their economies. The East African Community (EAC) promotes regional integration, aiming to enhance trade and investment among member states.

The numbers are skewed with the island nations of the Seychelles and Mauritius having significantly higher GDP per capita than any of the major countries in East Africa.

east african countries

Southern Africa

The economies of Southern Africa are characterized by their richness in natural resources, including minerals, diamonds, and metals, with South Africa, Zambia, and Angola being notable for their mining industries. South Africa stands out as one of the continent’s most developed economies, leading in sectors such as finance, legal, communications, energy, and transport.

Agriculture is significant in countries like Malawi and Zimbabwe, despite challenges such as climate variability. The region also benefits from a growing tourism industry, thanks to its wildlife reserves and scenic landscapes. Integration efforts, such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC), aim to enhance economic cooperation and development.

Botswana has the highest GDP per capita of the region, surpassing the regional powerhouse South Africa by a significant margin.

GDP per capita across Africa as a whole

If we look at Africa as a whole, once again the small island nations trump the mainland continent when it comes to GDP per capita. Seychelles has a GDP per capita almost double that of South Africa, once known as the economic leader of the continent.

map showing African countries by GDP per capita.
chart showing African countries by GDP per capita.

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