Monday 4th of July 2022

Nairobi, Kenya

Top 10 Richest and Poorest Countries in Africa

Posted On : April 21, 2020

Oscar Alochi


Listing and ranking richness of countries is always a challenge. Between social-economic status, commerce, economics 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 produces $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. 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.


How would Nigeria’s oil export affect its ranking? Does the government domination on the economy in Kenya helps 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?

All nominal data in this article are based on World Bank latest reports.


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 their overall business environment recently.

Nominal GDP Rank: #3
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #15


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 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 sector that accounted for 34.2% of its total GDP, is now plummeting to less than 19%, driving to 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: #4
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #9


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 is by said Bank. With the rainfed agricultural sector contributing to volatility and a timid recovery of the other sectors. The contribution of Morocco net exports is still negative, meaning that Morocco imports more than it exports, reflecting low competitiveness of exports and dependence on energy imports.

Nominal GDP Rank: #5
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #12


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 their 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: #7
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #14


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, 6th biggest in Africa. That brings its GDP per capita figure to $1,172. The people of Tanzania largely rely on agricultural for 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: #10
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #30

The Democratic Republic of Congo

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 do to it’s large population.

With 89.56 million people living in the country, it bring 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: #11
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #46

Ivory Coast

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 accounts 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: #12
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #21


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 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: #13
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #6

Republic of Cameroon

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 land mass.
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: #14
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #24


Tunisia is in the midst of a long reform process that has been going on for over 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 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: #15
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #13


Uganda is of the poorest nations in the world. The country’s total GDP accounting for $33.57 billion, along with a $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. As during 2019 The Ugandan economy reported a strong growth, estimated at 6.3%. Largely driven by the expansion of services sectors, and industrial sectors (mostly construction and mining).
Nominal GDP Rank: #16
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #39


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 their dependency on agricultural as a second source of income. Sudan is also the largest exporters 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: #17
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #42

South Sudan

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.

Nominal GDP Rank: #17
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #42


Senegal is limited in natural resources, forcing most of its economy to be based in 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 a significant source 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 expected to continue to do so during 2020.

Nominal GDP Rank: #18
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #25


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 developing 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: #28
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #50


Niger is among the poorest countries in Africa, with a population of 24.2 million, 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 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: #35
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #48


Malawi 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 with tea, sugarcane, and coffee exporting, account 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. Additional, annual inflation was estimated at 9.0% in 2019, significantly improving from its 21.7% in 2017.

Nominal GDP Rank: #38
Nominal GDP Per Capita Rank: #51

Photo credit : Mutua Matheka , Michael Tompsett

This article originally appeared on Everyday Chimp


Oscar Alochi


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