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Africa’s G — Growth

How fast is Africa growing relative to the rest of the world?

February 16, 2005

How fast is Africa growing relative to the rest of the world?

Some African countries have seen income growth as fast as that of some of the famous “Tiger'” economies in Asia. During 1980-2000, the economy of Botswana grew at the same rate as Korea's and Singapore's — about 7.5% a year.

At that rate, the size of the economy will double every ten years. Other African economies that averaged growth of over 4% per year include Mauritius, Uganda, Swaziland, Lesotho, Sudan, Burkina Faso and Chad.

Some of the larger countries, however, fared poorly. Congo (Democratic Republic), Zambia, South Africa and Nigeria averaged growth of only 2% a year or less.

That is not fast enough to keep pace with population growth. In other words, per capita incomes — one of the best measures of a country’s prosperity — in these countries were actually shrinking.

Overall, except for the former Soviet Union and its European satellites, Africa was the world's slowest-growing region — averaging 2.1% per year over the past two decades.

While this is precisely the same rate of growth as the European Union, Africa — with average annual incomes per person of only about $500 — needs much faster growth than the European Union with about $22,000.

Luckily, the pace of growth is picking up — from 1.6% annually during the 1980s to 2.6% from 1990 to 2002, about equal to the world’s average.