Top 20 Richest Countries in Africa

By Victor Oluwole
GDP per Capita is one of the best measures of a country’s wealth as it provides an understanding of how each country’s citizens live on average, showing a representation of the quantity of goods and services created per person.

Top 20 Richest Countries in Africa
Africa suffered its worst recession in more than 50 years in 2020 due to the COVID–19 pandemic, as its GDP declined by 2.1 per cent. But it is expected to increase by 3.4 per cent in 2021. Across the regions, East Africa seems to be the most resilient region, thanks to less reliance on primary commodities and greater diversification. It enjoyed 5.3 percent growth in 2019 and an estimated 0.7 percent growth in 2020. In 2021, the growth of real GDP is projected at 3.0 percent, and in 2022, 5.6 percent.

Southern Africa is the region that was hardest hit by the pandemic, with an economic contraction of 7.0 percent in 2020. It is projected to grow by 3.2 percent in 2021 and 2.4 percent in 2022.

GDP in West Africa is estimated to have contracted by 1.5 percent in 2020, better than the initial projection of a 4.3 percent decline in June. However, many West African countries maintained positive growth in 2020 thanks to more targeted and less restrictive lockdowns.

In Central Africa, real GDP is estimated to have contracted 2.7 percent in 2020, while the economies of North Africa contracted by an estimated 1.1 percent in 2020, propped up mainly by Egypt, which maintained 3.6 percent growth despite the relatively severe health impact of the virus in the country.

This article has prepared a list of the 20 African countries with the highest GDP per Capita in 2021. The top 20 list of the Richest Countries in Africa is drafted on the basis of a report given by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank.

20. Cameroon

GDP Per Capita (in US$): $1,657

Cameroon is a lower-middle-income country with a population of over 25 million (2018). Located along the Atlantic Ocean, it shares its borders with the Central African Republic, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Nigeria. Two of its border regions with Nigeria (northwest and southwest) are Anglophone, while the rest of the country is Francophone. Cameroon is endowed with rich natural resources, including oil and gas, mineral ores, and high-value species of timber, and agricultural products, such as coffee, cotton, cocoa, maize, and cassava.

19. Mauritania

GDP Per Capita (in US$): $1,782

Mauritania is essentially a desert country, with vast expanses of pastoral land and only 0.5% of arable land. According to the National Statistics Office, Mauritania has a population of about 4 million (2018), and a population density of 3.9 inhabitants per square kilometre, making it the fourth-least densely populated country in Africa. By 2020, the country will have more urban than rural inhabitants, with 52.8% of the population living in urban areas, against 48.3% in 2013.

18. Kenya

GDP Per Capita (in US$): $2,122

Kenya has made significant political and economic reforms that have contributed to sustained economic growth, social development, and political stability gains over the past decade. Over 2015-2019, Kenya’s economic growth averaged 5.7%, making it one of the fastest-growing economies in Sub-Saharan Africa. The economy’s performance has been boosted by a stable macroeconomic environment, positive investor confidence and a resilient services sector.

17. Angola

GDP Per Capita (in US$): $2,130

Despite significant progress on macroeconomic stability and structural reforms, Angola is still suffering the effects of lower oil prices and production levels. The oil sector accounts for one-third of GDP and more than 90% of exports, and macroeconomic stability has been restored and maintained through a more flexible exchange rate regime, restrictive monetary policy, and fiscal consolidation. These reforms are already producing some positive results, as Angola tapped the Eurobond market again in the amount of $3.0 billion, and the IMF approved the second review of the EFF program in December 2019.

16. Nigeria

GDP Per Capita (in US$): $2,209

A key regional player in West Africa, Nigeria accounts for about half of West Africa’s population with approximately 202 million people and one of the largest populations of youth in the world. With abundant natural resources, it is Africa’s biggest oil exporter and has the largest natural gas reserves on the continent.

Before the 2016 recession, Nigeria’s economy was growing fast at 6.3%. By contrast, before COVID-19 struck, the economy was growing at 2.2%. Inflation was in the single digits in 2014, compared to about 12% in 2019. The general government fiscal deficit was 4.4% of GDP in 2019, compared to 1.8% in 2014.

Unemployment and underemployment are expected to increase, affecting poor households and increasing the share of the population vulnerable to falling into poverty. Only agriculture is expected to positively contribute to growth in 2020.

15. Republic of the Congo

GDP Per Capita (in US$): $2,271

After the profound economic crisis that plagued the country from mid-2014 following the decline in oil prices, the Congolese economy resumed an upward trajectory in 2018, with real GDP growth projected to reach 1.6% after two years of negative growth.

Growth was driven by the increase in oil production and by favorable market conditions, with oil prices holding steady in late 2018 and the resumption of demand from partner emerging countries. Nevertheless, the non-oil sector continues to decline, contracting by 5.5% as a result of the weakening of activity in construction and public works, transport, and telecommunications.

14. Ghana

GDP Per Capita (in US$): $2,300

Ghana’s economy contracted by 3.2 and 1.% in the second and third quarters of 2020, respectively, pushing the country into a recession for the first time in 38 years. However, a modest growth of 1.1% is for the full year of 2020 thanks to a strong 4.9% growth in the first quarter of 2020, at the onset of the COVID-19 crisis. The 1.1% GDP growth in 2020 is a steep fall from the pre-COVID-19 levels of 6.5%.

With relative stability in the exchange rate and the central bank’s gradual return to a tighter monetary policy stance, inflation is expected to moderate to the central bank’s target range. The fiscal and current account balances are expected to improve only slowly over the medium term, largely reflecting adverse external factors and a slow return to normalcy in domestic revenue mobilization.

13. Côte d’Ivoire

GDP Per Capita (in US$): $2,571

Côte d’Ivoire has enjoyed vibrant, robust, and stable economic growth since 2012, but experienced a slowdown in 2020 owing to the COVID-19 crisis. The country nonetheless remains Francophone West Africa’s economic hub and exerts significant influence in the region.

Côte d’Ivoire’s score on the World Bank’s human capital index (0.38) improved slightly in 2020 relative to 2019. Poverty fell sharply from 46.3% in 2015 to 39.4% in 2020, but this decline was confined to urban areas as rural poverty levels rose by 2.4% over the same period.

12. Djibouti

GDP Per Capita (in US$): $3,275

Djibouti’s economy weathered the initial impact of the pandemic well, averting a contraction. Output expanded by 0.5% in 2020, driven by buoyant free zone re-exports and exports of transportation, logistics, and telecommunication services to and from Ethiopia in the latter half of the year. Yet, extreme poverty increased slightly to 14.7% in 2020. Djibouti’s growth prospects, while favourable, depends critically on Ethiopia’s political and economic conditions. High global food prices raise a concern about Djibouti’s food security.

11. Tunisia

GDP Per Capita (in US$): $3,380

As 2020 drew to a close, the depth of the pandemic’s impact on the Tunisian economy became more apparent. Tunisia has experienced a sharper decline in economic growth than most of its regional peers, having entered this crisis with slow growth and rising debt levels.

Poverty and vulnerability are expected to grow and invert a trend observed in poverty reduction over the last few years. Extreme poverty—measured using the international poverty line of living on US$1.90 per day—still remained below 1% in Tunisia; however, poverty measured within the US$3.20 per day bracket was estimated to have increased from 2.9% to 3.7%.

10. Morocco

GDP Per Capita (in US$): $3,409

On the economic front, the shock of COVID-19 has pushed the Moroccan economy into its first recession since 1995. Economic output contracted by 15.1% in the second quarter of 2020, primarily due to the lockdown and a sharp reduction in exports caused by the pandemic’s disruption to global value chains and the collapse of receipts from tourism. The shock to supply and demand, triggered by the pandemic, has been compounded by the fall in agricultural production due to a severe drought. Although activity picked up in the third and fourth quarters of 2020, the government’s preliminary estimates indicate that Morocco’s real GDP contracted by 7% in 2020, leading to an increase in unemployment from 9.2% to 11.9%.

9. Algeria

GDP Per Capita (in US$): $3,449

The economic crisis caused by the pandemic follows five consecutive years of slowdown in GDP growth (2015-2019) in Algeria, driven by a shrinking hydrocarbon sector, a labyrinthine and public-led model of growth, and a private sector struggling to become the new engine of economic growth. The hydrocarbon industry, which accounted for 20% of GDP, 41% of fiscal revenues, and 94% of export earnings in 2019, is experiencing a structural decline.

8. Egypt

GDP Per Capita (in US$): $3,606

Egypt’s recent macroeconomic and structural reforms stabilized the economy and have allowed the country to enter the global COVID-19 crisis with improving fiscal and external accounts. However, the adverse repercussions of the pandemic have since undermined this recent progress, shedding light on longstanding challenges. These include sluggish private sector activity and job creation, especially in the formal sector, underperforming non-oil exports and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), elevated government debt-to-GDP ratio (despite its significant reduction in recent years), below-potential revenue mobilization, and an unfavourable budget structure, with limited allocations to key sectors, such as health and education.

7. Namibia

GDP Per Capita (in US$): $4,412

Namibia is a small country of about 2.5 million people, with a long coastline on the South Atlantic, bordering South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Angola. It is the driest country in Sub-Saharan Africa and is rich in mineral resources, including diamonds and uranium.

Namibia is largely dependent on investments in mineral extraction and government spending and has suffered from falling commodity prices, weak growth in key trade partners (Angola, South Africa) and tight fiscal policy on the back of the government’s effort to rebalance public finances.

6. Libya

GDP Per Capita (in US$): $4,733

Libya entered 2021 as a divided nation aspiring for recovery and healing. With intensifying conflict and a blockade of oil terminals and fields, the economy registered one of the worst performances in recent records for the most part of 2020.

However, if the current rapprochement remains on track, a significant economic recovery in Libya from the 2020 slump is within reach in the forthcoming year. With major maintenance problems still pending, oil production is projected to reach 1.1 million barrels per day (MBD) in 2021. This would lead to a rebound in real GDP growth, to 67% in 2021. In terms of the level of GDP, the economy would still be 23% smaller than that in 2010, the year prior to the start of the conflict.

5. South Africa

GDP Per Capita (in US$): $5,236

South Africa has made considerable strides to improve the wellbeing of its citizens since its transition to democracy in the mid-1990s, but progress has stagnated in the last decade. The percentage of the population below the upper-middle-income-country poverty line fell from 68% to 56% between 2005 and 2010 but has since trended slightly upwards to 57% in 2015 and is projected to reach 60% in 2020.

Structural challenges and weak growth have undermined progress in reducing poverty, which have been heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic. The achievement of progress in household welfare is severely constrained by rising unemployment, which reached an unprecedented 32.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020. The unemployment rate is highest among youths aged between 15 and 24, at around 63%.

4. Botswana

GDP Per Capita (in US$): $7,036

Botswana is located at the centre of Southern Africa, positioned between South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. One of the world’s poorest countries at independence in 1966, it rapidly became one of the world’s development successes. Significant mineral (diamond) wealth, good governance, prudent economic management and a relatively small population of slightly more than two million, have made it an upper-middle-income country with a transformation agenda of becoming a high-income country by 2036.

While a recovery is expected in 2021 due to a favourable outlook for the diamond industry, the economic impact of COVID-19 is likely to be deep and long-lasting.

3. Gabon

GDP Per Capita (in US$): $7,785

Gabon is an upper-middle-income country. The fifth-largest oil producer in Africa, it has had strong economic growth over the past decade, driven by its production of oil and manganese. The oil sector has accounted for 80% of exports, 45% of GDP, and 60% of fiscal revenue on average over the past five years. However, as the country is facing a decline in its oil reserves, the Gabonese government has decided to diversify its economy.

This expected growth will be undermined by the COVID-19 crisis and the further decline in oil prices. The sharp drop in domestic revenue mobilization, exports and foreign direct investment will lead to a major fiscal deficit.

2. Equatorial Guinea

GDP Per Capita (in US$): $8,000

has been one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa in the past decade. After the discovery of large oil reserves in the 1990s, Equatorial Guinea became the third-largest producer of oil in Sub-Saharan Africa, after Nigeria and Angola. More recently, substantial gas reserves have also been discovered. However, the country macroeconomic and fiscal situation has deteriorated following the oil price drop.

1. Seychelles

GDP Per Capita (in US$): $12,648

The economic and social shock from COVID-19 (coronavirus) on the Seychellois economy is severe. Economic growth declined significantly in 2020 to -13.5% from 3.9% in 2019 due to the significant disruptions in economic activities in Seychelles, driven by lower tourism activities which declined by more than 60%. In addition, the fiscal deficit widened to 22.6% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020 on account of lower revenues and higher COVID-19-related spending and is projected to be 15.3% in 2021. Recovery is expected to gradually begin in 2021, driven by a resumption of tourism and related capital flows. If unmitigated, the poor are expected to bear a disproportionate impact of the economic shock.

Victor Oluwole
VICTOR OLUWOLE, writes for Business Insider


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