List: The Wealthiest African Countries in 2020 ranked by GDP

top 10 Richest African countries 2020 richest countries in Africa

The beautiful continent of Africa is blessed with an abundance of natural resources, raw materials, precious metals, and fertile soil. My posts about Africa — the most inspiring quotes about Africa and the best African sunsets — are among the most read pieces on this site. And I’m so glad to see that so many of you are as interested in Africa as I am. With my background in finance, I thought I’d combine my love for travel and learning more about the world to showcase something little different. Let’s look at the economic situation of this continent, including a list of the richest countries in Africa. 

Did you know: Africa holds approximately 30% of the world’s known mineral reserves with the most significant resources being gold, diamonds, cobalt, uranium, oil and gas reserves.

Africa comprises 54 countries, with over 1,3 billion people, producing $2.2 trillion in nominal GDP.  

The largest drivers of the economy are agriculture, natural resources, and trade. In 2013, it was the fastest growing continent and remains a powerhouse of resources, ideas, and innovation.

With consistent growth and improvement, it is estimated that the African economy will reach a GDP of $29 trillion by the year 2050, playing a major role in the global economy. The World Bank expects most of the countries on this continent to reach “middle income” status, with a GDP per capita of at least $1,000 within the next decade.

Growth is stable and forecast to pick up

Africa’s economic outlook has stabilised and is expected to increase, despite remaining below historical highs. The total real GDP growth, of 3.4% 2019, is forecast to increase to 3.9% in 2020 and to 4.1% in 2021. Leading the way are six economies among the world’s 10 fastest growing economies that include Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Côte d’Ivoire, Benin, and Ghana.

The economic growth in Africa varies significantly across country and across regions with the diversity extending beyond culture and trade to factors such as historical development, international relations, and important resources. The continent’s fastest growing region is East Africa with an average growth of 5% last year. The second fastest region is North Africa, having a growth rate of 4,1% in 2019 and making the largest contribution to Africa’s overall GDP growth. In the middle is West Africa (3,7% growth rate) and Central Africa (3,2% growth rate). Trailing at the back is the Southern African region where growth slowed from 1,2% in 2018 to 0,7% in 2019.

Wealthy African countries rich economy GDP

Exports and investments are increasingly driving growth

Africa’s growth’s fundamentals are also improving. There is a gradual shift towards investments and net exports, away from private consumption. In 2019, investment expenditure accounted for a larger share of GDP growth than private consumption. Net exports were also a strong contributor, particularly among commodity exporters. Long-term growth is driven mainly by physical capital accumulation, but human capital plays an important complementary role. 

Is Africa poor?

Though Africa is rich in resources, the continent and its people have been exploited for decades. Yes, several countries of Africa are among the poorest in the world and a large section of the population lives below the poverty line. Another reason is because the economic growth on the continent has not been inclusive, with only about a third of African countries having achieved inclusive growth. The inequality in income will deter the distribution of wealth among the African people.

Ending extreme poverty remains a challenge for most African countries. The continent has jointly set a target of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030. It remains off track thus far, with the rate projected to fall to only 24,7% in 2030, far from the 3% Sustainable Development Goal target.

Did you know:
A handful of African countries have the fastest-growing economies in the world.

people of Africa richest countries 2020

How do you determine the wealth of a country?

The most commonly-used and best metric to quantify this value is by using what is referred to as the Gross Domestic Product or GDP. GDP is defined as the total value of all services and goods produced in a nation’s economy over a set period of time, usually a year. This measurement reflects how productive a country is. 

The shortcoming with using GDP is that this measurement does not consider the difference in the cost of living between countries as well as the differing inflation rates, thus not necessarily portraying the complete picture.

This is where GDP per capita at purchasing power parity (PPP) comes in, providing a better indication of just how well-off the citizens of a country really are. It is calculated by dividing the total GDP of a country by the population of that country giving an average GDP per individual. GDP (PPP) takes into account the fact that the same amount of money can buy a different amount of goods in each country. Using PPP helps to reduce the differences in the exchange rates, providing more accurate results. 

With this in mind, I have provided a list of the richest countries in Africa based on both GDP and GDP per capita to give you a better indication of the economic situation on the continent.

You will see the results differ significantly depending on which measurement is chosen, with only a handful of countries making both lists. You will also find a list of African countries rich in natural resources. 

Ready? Let’s get into it...

TOP 10 RICHEST AFRICAN COUNTRIES IN 2020 RANKED BY GDP & PRIMARY EXPORTS

Here we discuss the 10 wealthiest countries in Africa 2020 and the nature of their economies.

All figures are based on the latest annual report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank using GDP current prices in U. S. dollars.

1 | NIGERIA – THE RICHEST COUNTRY IN AFRICA (GDP: $446.543 Billion)

Richest country in Africa Nigeria Lagos city

GDP: $446.543 Billion (nominal, 2019 est.)
Global Ranking: 27th
Population: 195,874,740
GDP per capita: $2,222 (nominal, 2019 est.)
Country group: developing lower-middle income economy
Value of exports: $46.68 billion (2017)
Current account balance: $10.38 billion
Currency: Nigerian Naira (NGN, ₦)

This West African country, with a population of over 200 million citizens, makes up an essential part of the African economy. With a GDP just under $450 billion, Nigeria holds the position of the richest country in Africa.

The sizeable GDP is mainly driven by finance, transport, infrastructure, tourism, and an abundance of crude oil.

The country records around 1.6 million barrels of crude oil a day, according to OPEC, making it the largest exporter of crude oil in Africa. These petroleum exports make up 10% of the total GDP and over 80% of the export sector revenue.

In addition to petroleum, Nigeria has an abundance of raw materials and natural resources, contributing to the region’s wealth. These include coal, limestone, zinc, lead, tin, natural gas, niobium, and iron ore. There is also sufficient fertile land for agriculture, which is responsible for over 20% of the GDP, producing cocoa and rubber. The large population have helped to propel Nigeria as the largest consumer retailer in Africa and the digitally aware residents have contributed to the country’s fast growing tech sector.

According to the World Bank, Nigeria’s GDP grew 7% year-on-year between 2000 and 2014, one of the fastest rates in Africa. This has slowed to 2% in recent years due to political instability, socioeconomic factors, and oil and production shocks. The country has placed a strong emphasis on protecting it natural resources, trying to move away from its large reliance on oil refineries and processing plants.

Known for its vibrant cultural heritage, different ethnicities, natural splendour, and large population, Nigeria remains the number one producer in terms of GDP output on the continent and Africa’s wealthiest country.

PRIMARY EXPORTS OF NIGERIA

Petroleum (crude, refined, and gas)
Cocoa beans
Rough woods
Chemicals
Vehicles and aircraft parts


2 | SOUTH AFRICA (GDP: $358.839 Billion)

Johannesburg South Africa Rich African countries

GDP: $358.839 Billion (nominal, 2019 est.)
Global Ranking: 35th
Population: 58,775,022
GDP per capita: $6,100 (nominal, 2019 est.)
Country group: developing upper-middle income economy
Value of exports: $108 billion (2017)
Current account balance: −$8.584 billion (2017 est.)
Currency: South African Rand

This southernmost country in Africa is another significant player on the continent as the second richest African country. With a highly developed economy, advanced infrastructure, and a GDP of over $350 billion, the country is considered one of the fastest-developing countries in the world.

Often referred to as the rainbow nation, South Africa is one of the only countries on this list that is not reliant on a single source of revenue. The country has a good mix of mining, manufacturing, financial services, and tourism. It is also abundant in natural resources and raw material exports the likes of gold, diamonds, platinum, coal, and iron ore. It is one of the world’s largest exporters of these commodities, particularly gold and platinum. The country is world renowned as a major tourist destination and places a lot of emphasis on tourism as a part of its economy.

>> Read next: The top 20 reasons to visit South Africa

However, political and global turmoil have hindered its ability to meet its full potential. The country was faced with a recession after experiencing consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth rates and development has slowed, growing its GDP by only 0.2% in 2019. South Africa also has the highest rates of inequality in the world.

PRIMARY EXPORTS FROM SOUTH AFRICA

gold, diamonds, platinum, coal, iron ore, other metals and minerals
machinery and equipment, motor cars,
agricultural foodstuff, wine


3 | EGYPT (GDP: $302.256 Billion)

Richest African countries cities Nairobi Kenya

GDP: $302.256 Billion (nominal, 2019 est.)[
Global Ranking: 40th
Population: 100,000,000
GDP per capita: $3,046 (nominal, 2019 est.)
Country group: developing lower-middle income economy
Value of exports: $23.3 billion (2017 est.)
Current account balance: −$14.92 billion (2017 est.)
Currency: Egyptian Pound (EGP, E£)

This ancient land in Northern Africa held the spot of the richest country in Africa for many years. However, the economy suffered severely and foreign exchange reserves tumbled following the 2011 revolution during the Arab uprising. With the most recent GDP of over $300 billion, Egypt now holds the third spot on this rich list. 

Economic activities have improved and stabilised over the last decade to experience positive economic growth. The government recently concluded an economic reform program alongside the IMF aimed at reforming and bolstering the economy. Real GDP growth reached 5,6% in 2019, up from 5,3% in 2018. The country has also seen unemployment levels fall, an improvement in foreign exchange reserves, higher export of goods and services, and a bolstered tourism sector all contributing to its development.

>> Read next: Essential Egypt travel tips to know before you go

The leading factors of the Egyptian economy include petroleum and natural gas exports, tourism, wholesale and retail trade, construction, and real estate. The state has diversified its economy away from just raw material exports in recent years and over half of the GDP now comes from service based employment. 

However, Egypt could face some socio-economic issues due to a large percent of people living below the poverty line, unemployment, a weak healthcare system, and a global slowdown.

PRIMARY EXPORTS FROM EGYPT

crude oil and petroleum products
cotton, textiles and agricultural goods
metal products
chemicals


4 | ALGERIA (GDP: $172.781 Billion)

Algeria Wealthy African countries

GDP: $172.781 Billion (nominal, 2019 est.)[
Global Ranking: 53rd
Population: 42,972,878
GDP per capita: $3,980 (nominal, 2019 est.)
Country group: developing upper-middle income economy
Value of exports: $34.37 billion (2017 est.)
Current account balance: −$22.1 billion
Currency: Algerian dinar (DZD, دج)

The largest country on the continent found in the north, Algeria comes in at fourth place on this list of wealthiest countries in Africa. Boasting a significant economy and available infrastructure and a GDP of over $170 Billion, the county achieved a notable achievement of reducing poverty by 20% within the last 20 years.

Crude oil reserves are abundant in this developing Saharan country and the economy is heavily reliant on it. So much so that hydrocarbons (oil and natural gas) make up almost 70% of the income of the country. A recent discovery of more crude oil reserves have boosted this rapidly growing industrial country. Other sectors that make up the Algerian economy include agriculture, industrial works, commercial services, and construction. The country is also one of the largest suppliers of Ammonia in Africa.

However, it is worth noting that the recent depression and instability in oil prices has resulted in a decline in the country’s currency reserves. In addition, political uncertainty and scandals in the hydrocarbon industry have caused a dip in Algeria’s economic growth. 

PRIMARY EXPORTS FROM ALGERIA

petroleum, natural gas and petroleum products
ammonia


5 | MOROCCO (GDP: $119,04 Billion)

Morocco Richest African countries economy

GDP: $119,04 Billion (nominal, 2019 est.)
Global Ranking: 58th
Population: 36,029,138
GDP per capita: $3,345 (nominal, 2019 est.)
Country group: developing lower-middle income economy
Value of exports: $24,5 billion (2017) 
Current account balance: −$3.92 billion (2017 est.)
Currency: Moroccan dirham (MAD)

With a GDP of almost $120 Billion, Morocco comes in at number 5 on this list of richest countries in Africa. The economy of this country in North Africa is versatile and stable, experiencing growth in a number of industries over the last decade. It is the second-richest non-oil-producing African country.

The country’s economy is driven by mining and manufacturing. 30% of Morocco’s GDP comes from industry, 15% from agriculture, and 55% from services. This is supplemented by a growing tourism sector with locals being welcoming of tourists and the government placing a strong emphasis on attracting visitors to the country that is well known for its attractions.

Morocco relies heavily on its agriculture and is the third largest producer of phosphorus in the world. The country has benefited greatly from its diversified exports, not limited to electrical equipment, vehicles, and vehicle parts. Additionally the telecom and textile industries bring a lot to the economy.

However, Morocco has experienced stunted economic growth owing to internal problems, with real GDP growth of only 2.7% in 2019, missing the World Banks’ estimate of 2.9%.

PRIMARY EXPORTS FROM MOROCCO

clothing and textiles
automobiles, aircraft parts, electric components
inorganic chemicals, crude minerals, fertilizers, petroleum products
citrus fruits, vegetables, fish


6 | KENYA (GDP: $99,246 Billion)

Richest African countries cities Nairobi Kenya

GDP: $99.246 billion (nominal, 2019 est.)
Global Ranking: 61st
Population: 47,564,296
GDP per capita: $2,010 (nominal, 2019 est.)
Country group: developing lower-middle income economy
Value of exports: $5.792 billion (2017 est.)
Current account balance: −$5.021 billion 
Currency: Kenyan shilling (KES, KSh)

Kenya, a country in East Africa well known for its vast landscapes and wildlife is next on Africa’s richest country list, having a GDP of almost $100 Billion. This nation with its stable living conditions, an established coffee and tea sector, and rapidly growing agricultural sector is the wealthiest in southeast and central Africa.

Historically, its coastline has been home to a number of strategic ports for Asian and Arabian traders for centuries, becoming a trade hub for the region. The Kenyan economy is not built around the oil sector like so many other countries on this list, but still experiences diverse positive growth. 

The nation has emerged as one of the fastest growing economies in Sub-Saharan Africa, growing GDP by 5.7% in 2019. This as a result of positive investor confidence, a stable political climate and service sector, a good macroeconomic environment, and a clear business agenda.

The industrial sector contributes almost 50% of the GDP. The agricultural sector contributes to 35% of the GDP with the main products being coffee, tea, and maize. Fast growth was also experienced in the tourism, financial services and technology industries. 

PRIMARY EXPORTS FROM KENYA

tea, coffee, horticultural products
petroleum products
fish, cement, apparel

Kenya’s major exports are all mainly based on its agricultural sector, with horticulture, coffee, and tea being the primary three. Petroleum also makes up for a part of their foreign exchange, but with tourism on the rise and a world-renowned coffee bean, Kenya is showing signs of healthy diversified growth.


7 | ANGOLA (GDP: $91,527 Billion)

Luanda Angola 2020 richest countries Africa

GDP: $91,527 Billion (nominal, 2019 est.)
Global Ranking: 62nd
Population: 30,809,762
GDP per capita: $3,038 (nominal, 2019 est.)
Country group: developing lower-middle income economy
Value of exports: $33.07 billion (2017 est.)
Current account balance: −$1.254 billion 
Currency: Angolan kwanza (AOA, Kz)

The country of Angola has one of the biggest reserves of raw materials in Africa. Essentially, it could be higher up on this list of Africa’s richest nations. However, due to resource mismanagement and internal corruption, the economy of the country has been negatively affected. With a GDP of over $90 Billion, it comes in at number 7 on this list.

Angola’s economy is built on oil, with large reserves of natural gas and oil, making up over one-third of its GDP. The production and export of crude oil contributes significantly to foreign exchange. In fact, 90% of the nation’s revenue in the export sector comes from the sale of crude oil. Other noteworthy exports include diamonds and cargo ships. Agriculture is also expected to become an important sector for the economy going forward.

The civil war in Angola ended in 2002. Since then positive steps have been taken, striving towards economic advancement and stability. There has been work on both political and structural reforms alongside the IMF and the World Bank. Since then, the country has experienced one of the fastest growing economies in the world and become one of the richest African countries.

PRIMARY EXPORTS FROM ANGOLA

crude oil, refined petroleum products
diamonds
coffee, sisal, fish and fish products, timber, cotton


8 | ETHIOPIA (GDP: $91,166 Billion)

Top 10 Wealthiest african countries Ethiopia Addis ababa

GDP: $91,166 Billion (nominal, 2019 est.)
Global Ranking: 63rd
Population: 108,113,150 
GDP per capita: $953 (nominal, 2019 est.)
Country group: developing low income economy
Value of exports: $3.23 billion (2017 est.)
Current account balance: −$6.551 billion
Currency: Birr (ETB, ብር)

Found in the horn of Africa, the landlocked country of Ethiopia split by the Great Rift Valley is the eight richest country in Africa. With archaeological finds dating back over 3 million years, this ancient land is famous for being the place where the coffee bean first originated. The nation is the highest coffee and honey producer in Africa, making up a large portion of the country’s foreign exchange. Other exports include legumes, oily seeds, and cut flowers.

The GDP of $91,166 billion comprises agriculture, construction, manufacturing, tourism, food processing, resources and energy. Agriculture is the region’s most promising resource, making up over 40% of the GDP, 60% of exports, and more than 80% of total employment.

Ethiopia’s economic growth has averaged 9.9% year-on-year for 10 years since 2008. This stable annual growth, something that very few African have managed, has begun to attract foreign investment. In 2018, the government launched an ambitious economic reform to open up the economy even further and spearhead transformation. The country’s poverty level fell to 31% by 2015 and it intends to be a middle-income economy by 2025.

However, high consumer inflation, socio-political instability, and an underdeveloped private sector are issues to keep an eye on.

PRIMARY EXPORTS FROM ETHIOPIA

coffee, qat, oilseeds
gold, leather products, live animals


9 | GHANA (GDP: $67,077 Billion)

Ghana Accra wealthiest countries in Africa

GDP: $67,077 Billion
Global Ranking: 71st
Population: 29,767,108
GDP per capita: $2,223 (nominal, 2019 est.)
Country group: developing lower-middle income economy
Value of exports: $13.84 billion
Current account balance: −$2.131 billion
Currency: Cedi (GHS, GH₵)

Ghana, found in West Africa, has an economy that is both diverse and rich in resources. With a GDP of $67,077 Billion, it just makes this list of wealthiest countries on the African continent coming it at number nine. The country was the first in sub-Saharan Africa to break free from colonial rule as well as the first to achieve the target of halving extreme poverty.

The nation has attracted foreign investment due to its overall positive business environment, experienced economic growth of just over 6% in the last two years. Services contributes to around 50% of the Ghanaian GDP and employ almost 30% of the work force. Industry is the next biggest contributor to GDP at just under 25%, followed by agriculture.

Ghana has an abundance of natural resources, helping to feel an economic boom. Gold is the country’s main export. This is followed by petroleum and together they make up 50% of the country’s foreign exchange. Other major exports include cocoa beans, timber, and gold.

PRIMARY EXPORTS FROM GHANA

gold, bauxite, aluminum, manganese ore, diamonds,
oil
cocoa, timber, tuna, horticultural products


10 | TANZANIA (GDP: $62,224 Billion)

Richest African countries 2020 Tanzania Dar es salaam

GDP: 62,224 Billion (nominal, 2019 est.)
Global Ranking: 74th
Population: 58,552,845
GDP per capita: $1,105 (nominal, 2019 est.)
Country group: developing lower-middle income economy
Value of exports: $5.6685 billion
Current account balance: –$4.002 billion 
Currency: Tanzanian shilling (TZS, TSh)

Rounding up this list of the top 10 richest African countries is Tanzania, with a GDP of $62,224 billion over the last year. Known as the home of some of the continent’s most famous national parks and of course Kilimanjaro, the country comprises a lower-middle mixed income economy.

The country’s economy is largely based on agriculture, contributing almost 25% to GDP, and employing half of the workforce. Industries are a growing component of the economy, which accounts for almost 30% of GDP and includes mining, manufacturing, construction, electricity, natural gas, and water supply. The main exports include gold, coffee, cashew nuts, and cotton.

Tanzania has achieved a relatively high economic growth in recent years, with a 5,6% growth rate, bust this does seems to be slowing down. The medium-term outlook is positive, which is supported by large infrastructure spending. However, despite economic growth and the poverty rate having decreased in the past few years, the absolute number of people living in poverty has remained the same.

PRIMARY EXPORTS FROM TANZANIA

gold, cashew nuts, coffee and cotton.


Let’s take a look at another way to quantify the wealth of an economy:

Richest African Countries by GDP per capita

As mentioned… there are several ways to compare the wealth of country. GDP, as shown above is one such popular and most commonly-used metric.

The problem, however, is that GDP does not necessarily provide a complete or candid picture of the situation. While GDP accurately shows how productive a country is, it fails to portray the economic situation of individuals with that country i.e. how rich or poor the citizens are.

That’s where GDP per Capita comes in, calculated as the total value of good and services produced by a country (GDP) divided by the population size. This provides an average GDP for individuals within the country and provides an indication as to how well-off the locals are. 

Based on this measurement the top 10 wealthiest countries in Africa are:

RankCountryGDP Per Capita (International Dollar)
1Equatorial Guinea34,865
2Seychelles28,712
3Mauritius21,628
4Gabon19,266
5Botswana18,146
6Algeria15,150
7South Africa13,403
8Egypt12,994
9Tunisia11,987
10Namibia11,528
Economy of Africa countries GDP ranked richest

Before you go, let’s take a look at:

What are the wealthiest African countries in terms of natural resources

This beautiful continent has been endowed and blessed with an abundance of natural resources. Some countries more than others. African countries hold the most amount of principal resources such as diamonds, platinum, cobalt, zirconium, and gold to name a few.

Let’s take a look at which nations in Africa are rich in fertile land and mineral resources.

CountryNatural Resources
Tanzaniatanzanite, diamonds, gold, silver
Democratic Republic of Congocobalt, copper, diamonds, coltan, oil, tin, gold
Namibiauranium, zinc, diamonds, lead, sulphur, tantalite, copper
Nigeruranium, gold, cement, coal
Nigeriaoil, gas, coal, uranium, marble, tantalite, salt, gold, gemstones
Ghanagold, crude oil, diamonds, manganese, silver, bauxite
South Africadiamonds, gold, coal
Botswanadiamonds, nickel, copper, coal, soda ash
Zambiacopper, cobalt , emerald
Mozambiquealuminum

Did you know: Who is the richest man in Africa

With a net worth of $14.1 billion, Aliko Dangote, is Africa’s wealthiest. His business empire started at the age of 21 with $3,000, borrowed from his uncle. This business of importing and selling agricultural goods in Nigeria has since grown into a multinational industrial conglomerate.


I hope you enjoyed reading and learning more about the richest countries in Africa. 

Did any on this list surprise you at all? Let me know in the comments.

Cheers,

Rai

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *