Africa's top economic performers
If the state of a country’s economy is a good indicator of the quality of its political leadership, then Africa has not been doing too badly over the last decade.
Angola’s economy was in the doldrums for most of
the 1980s following nearly three decades of war.
In 1999, at the height of the political turmoil, the
economy was growing at an average of 2.1% and
consumer price inflation was at a staggering 325%. The death
of warlord Jonas Savimbi in 2000 ended years of conflict and
set the country on a path to recovery. Angola started an IMF
staff-monitored program in 2000, which succeeded in unifying
exchange rates and moving fuel, electricity and water prices
closer to market rates. These moves helped reduce inflation to
106% in 2002. The oil sector, now producing up to 993,000
barrels per day (bpd), behind only Nigeria in Africa, accounts
for 90% of exports and government revenues. In the first half
2004, Angola earned an extra US$275m as a result of higher oil
prices. Let‘s hope the cash will go towards its 13 million people
living below the poverty line.
• Real GDP growth rate - 11.4 % (2004)
• GDP per capita - $2,525 (2004)
• Inflation rate- 95.2 % (2004)
• Currency: kwanza
• Exchange rate: kwanza per US dollar - 74.61(2003)
Since Benin’s transition to democracy in 1990, the economy of
this country is finally on the road to recovery. Growth in real
output has averaged 4.9% in the past six years, a far cry from
the dismal -0.9% per capita growth between 1982-1992. In
January this year, Benin was assigned sovereign credit ratings
of ‘B+’ long-term and ‘B’ short-term by international ratings
agency Standard & Poor’s. The agency said it expected the
government to continue with prudent fiscal policies while raising
social expenditure and reducing poverty. The government had
hoping for growth of around 7% in 2004, but it appears
it would only manage growth of around 5%. Maize prices have
doubled in recent months, contributing towards inflationary
pressures. Hopefully, the government of President Kérékou is
not losing the plot.
• Real GDP growth rate: 5.5% (2003)
• GDP per capita: US$539 (2003)
• Inflation rate: 2.4% (2002)
• Currency: Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (XOF)
• Exchange rate: XOF per US dollar - 581.2 (2003)
Botswana has an impressive record of economic growth, thanks
to a stable government and a flourishing multi-party democracy.
Between 1966 and 1999, economic growth averaged more than
9% per year, and the government has maintained budget surpluses
for 12 of the last 13 years. The country has transformed
itself from one of the poorest countries in the world before
independence to a middle-income nation with a per capita
GDP of US$8,800
in 2003. Inflation has been limited to single
digit figures since 1997. Diamond mining accounts for more
than one-third of GDP and nine-tenths of export earnings. The
government has yet to fully develop the tourism, subsistence
farming, and cattle raising sectors. Unemployment remains high:
official figures say 21%, but unofficially the figure is thought to be closer to 40%. The government will need to rectify this
anomaly if it is to remain the economic jewel of Africa.
• Real GDP growth rate - 7.6% (2003)
• GDP per capita - US$8,800
• Inflation rate- 8.1% (2002)
• Currency - Pula
• Exchange rate - Pula per US dollar - 4.95 (2003)
4) Cape Verde
Cape Verde’s recent economic upsurge has surprised even the
most eternal optimist. In the mid-1980s, a devastating drought
that lasted for years nearly brought the economy to its knees,
leading to the delivery of emergency food aid into the Island.
Again in 1997,
drought wiped out over 80% of the island’s grain
crops. In the same year, the government laid out a four-year
economic development plan, and by 1998, GDP growth was
hovering at about 5.6%, and inflation had dropped to 4.7%
from 8.7% the year before. In 2002, the economy grew by about
4%, inflation was lower, and the fiscal deficit slightly lower than
expected. The economy is service-oriented, with commerce,
transport, tourism, and public services accounting for 72% of
GDP. Last year, the IMF commended the government for its solid macro-economic policies. This country’s prospects for 2004 depend heavily on the maintenance of aid flows and the momentum of the government’s development programs.
• Real GDP Growth rate - 6% (2002)
• GDP per capita: US$1,400 (2002)
• Inflation rate: 1.7% (2002)
• Currency: Cape Verdean escudo (CVE)
• Exchange rate: CVE per US dollar - 97.7 (2003 average)
In 1993, per
capita income in this landlocked country was
US$210, making it one of the poorest countries in the world.
The economy was showing little progress, with many citizens
dependent on subsistence farming and fishing. With political
turmoil and a severe drought in the 1980s, inflation was a staggering
41% in 1994. In 1995, the economy grew by a mere 2.6%
and GDP per capita was at US$600. Inflation has since dropped
to 9% in 1995 and 6% in 2002, and Chad’s economy is expected
to grow at an impressive 54% this year, thanks to oil exports.
But the country remains incapable of producing electricity to
meet its own power needs. The World Bank has identified the
electricity crisis as one of the major development issues facing
Chad. The question is whether the government will channel its
foreign earnings from oil to develop the poor, or will President
Idriss Deby use it to reinforce his military infrastructure?
• GDP - Real growth rate: 15% (2003)
• GDP per
capita: US$1,200 (2003)
• Inflation rate: 6% (2002)
• Currency: Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (XAF)
• Exchange rate: XAF per US dollar - 581.2 (2003 average)
6) Equatorial Guinea
This country is back on the world map not only because of
news linking Sir Mark Thatcher, the son of former British Prime
Minister Margaret Thatcher to a coup plot, but also because
of its oil. Since the discovery of the Zafiro field in 1995, oil
production has increased more than tenfold, and oil has become
the country’s most important export commodity. Despite the
country’s economic windfall from oil production resulting in a
massive increase in government revenue in recent years, critics
say there have been few improvements in the country’s living
standards. But real GDP growth was 45.5% in 2001, up from
16.9% in 2000, and narrowly missing the record 71.2% growth
in 1997. It remained strong in 2002 at 24%, but dropped to
last year. Consumer inflation has averaged 6% over the few
years. A November 2003 IMF report says progress has been made in enhancing the transparency of oil-related transactions. The jury remains out on that one.
• GDP - Real growth rate: 15% (2003)
• GDP per capita - $2,700 (2002 est.)
• Consumer Inflation- 6.8% in (2003)
• Currency - Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (XAF)
• Exchange rate - XAF per US dollar - 581.2 (2003 average)
Not yet a stellar economy, but certainly heading in the right
direction. Once labelled the slowest country in East Africa, Tanzania
is fast becoming a viable and attractive market for foreign
investors. In 1995, GDP per capita was US$68.67, one of the
lowest in the world. Since then, that figure has grown ten-fold.
Tanzania was named by the IMF as one of the top ten fastest
growing economies in sub-Saharan Africa in 2004. The IMF
says real GDP growth has
been strong, averaging almost 6% in
the past three years. With growth of 4.6% in 2003, this country
has managed to recover from years of economic turmoil.
Year-on-year inflation was pegged at 6.4% in May 2004. Real
GDP is forecast to grow by 5.8% in 2004 and 6.1% in 2005.
But, the economy still lacks the dynamism to achieve growth of
7-8% needed to have a significant impact on poverty. Since the
economy is highly dependent on aid, the IMF has warned that
its macroeconomic stabilisation could be vulnerable to sudden withdrawals of aid.
• GDP: 5.2% (2003)
• GDP per capita: US$600 (2003)
• Inflation rate- 4.6% (2003)
• Currency - Tanzanian shilling (TZS)
• Exchange rate - TZS per US dollar - 966.58 (2002
Mauritius has been a virtual miracle in the Indian Ocean over
the past 16 years. It has moved from a per capita income of
US$260 at the beginning of the 1960s to a middle-income
with a per capita income of US$3,800 in 2003. The
economy has grown 5-6% a year over the last 20 years. Inflation
remains in single digits - around 6.3% in 2002 - and the fiscal
deficit has averaged about 4% a year between 1985 and 1999.
Mauritius’s success is largely due to good fiscal governance,
which has kept the country from falling into a debt trap, but
unemployment is rising, having jumped from 2.7% in 1991 to
just over 10% in 2002.The country is also facing tough times
ahead as it prepares to lose its status of preferential access to US
and European markets by 2007. This is likely to hit hard on the
sugar and textiles industries. The leadership will have to prove
• Real GDP growth rate - 4.6% (2003)
• GDP per capita - US$11,400 (2003)
• Consumer Inflation rate- 6.4% (2002)
• Currency - Mauritian rupee (MUR)
• Exchange rate - MUR per US dollar - 27.9 (2003 average)
The early 1990s saw a steady upswing in Mozambique’s
economy after 16 years of civil war and recurring droughts. In
1994, the economy grew at an average 8.2%, and inflation was
low, thanks to structural economic reforms backed by the World
Bank and the IMF. Devastating floods in 2000 and 2001 were
a setback, leading to lower growth of 1.3%, but in 2002, on the
back of solid reform agendas and good governance, the economy
grew at an impressive rate of 12%, among the fastest in
Africa. In spite of these gains, Mozambique remains dependent
upon foreign assistance for much of its annual budget, and the
majority of the population remains below the poverty line.
• Real GDP Growth Rate: 7% (2003)
• GDP per capita: US$1,200 (2003)
• Inflation rate: 15.2% (2002.)
• Currency: metical (MZM)
• Exchange rate: MZM per US dollar - 23,782.3 (2003)
Having survived the 1994 genocide
and food shortages in the
early 1990s, Rwanda is making a remarkable recovery. The
economic upshot of the genocide was a 50% decline in output,
and inflation rocketing to 64%. The country’s main industry,
the coffee sector, lost export earnings because of production disruptions.
In 1993, at the height of political strife, the economy
recorded negative growth of -10%. Between 1995 and 2001, it
improved to an impressive 8.2%. The government says its “central
goals of 2001-2010 are to concentrate on improving and
expanding the economic foundation at a steady and firm pace”.
In June, the World Bank approved a grant of US$2m for poverty
alleviation in rural areas. The biggest challenge is to channel
economic development through the rural productive sector.
• GDP: 3.5% (2003)
• GDP per capita: US$1,300 (2003)
• Inflation rate: 7.7% (2003)
• Currency: Rwandan franc (RWF)
• Exchange rate: RWF per US dollar - 537.66 (2003)
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