Africa

Overview

Africa is composed of fifty-four countries, which can be divided into five geographic regions: Central, Eastern, Northern, Southern, and Western. The continent can also be divided into four income groups: mineral-rich countries (LI-1), countries with more favorable agricultural conditions (LI-2), countries with less favorable agricultural conditions (LI-3), and middle-income countries (MI). Africa has eight Regional Economic Communities (RECs), including the Community of Sahel Saharan States (CEN-SAD), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC), the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA)


  • Source: Authors’ calculation based on World Bank 2013.
    Notes: Figure in parenthesis is the region’s and country’s percentage share in Africa’s and the region’s total agriculture value added (2005 PPP$, 2003–2010 annual average), respectively. Sudan includes South Sudan because the data are not disaggregated for the two countries.

  • Source: Authors’ calculation based on Benin et al. (2010a) and World Bank (2013).
    Notes: Figure in parenthesis is the region’s and country’s percentage share in Africa’s and the region’s total agriculture value added (2005 PPP$, 2003–2010 annual average), respectively. Sudan includes South Sudan because the data are not disaggregated for the two countries.

  • Sources: Authors’ calculation based on AU 2011, CEN-SAD 2011, COMESA 2010, EAC 2011, ECOWAS 2010, IGAD 2011, SADC 2010, UMA 2011, and World Bank 2013.
    Notes: CEN-SAD is the Community of Sahel-Saharan States; COMESA is the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa; EAC is the East African Community; ECCAS is the Economic Community of Central African States; ECOWAS is the Economic Community of West African States; IGAD is the Intergovernmental Authority for Development; SADC is the Southern Africa Development Community; and UMA is the Union du Maghreb Arabe. Figure in parenthesis is the region’s and country’s percentage share in Africa’s and the region’s total agriculture value added (2005 PPP$, 2003–2010 annual average), respectively. Sudan includes South Sudan because the data are not disaggregated for the two countries.

Northern and Southern Africa account for the largest shares of Africa’s economy (32.9 percent and 32.5 percent of total African GDP from 2003 to 2012, respectively). Central Africa has the smallest share of African GDP (Figure 1.1). A somewhat different pattern emerges for regions’ contributions to agricultural GDP, with Western Africa accounting for the largest share (37.7 percent), followed by Northern and Eastern Africa. Central Africa again accounts for the smallest share of agricultural GDP (Figure 1.2).

The group of middle income countries account for over four-fifths of African GDP, or 86.2 percent. Countries with more favorable agricultural conditions constitute 9.3 percent, while countries with less favorable agricultural conditions and mineral-rich countries each account for around 2 percent. The pattern is similar for agricultural GDP shares, with middle-income countries contributing 71.1 percent of African agricultural GDP, followed by countries with more favorable agricultural conditions (18.3 percent).

CEN-SAD, the largest REC by number of countries, accounts for the largest share of African GDP (20.7 percent), followed by SADC. CEN-SAD also contributes the largest share of agricultural GDP (33.5 percent), followed by ECOWAS. EAC accounts for the smallest shares of both GDP and agricultural GDP (3.8 and 4.0 percent, respectively). 


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Source: ReSAKSS, based on World Bank 2014.

Figure 1.2: Share of total African agricultural GDP by geographic region, income group, and Regional Economic Community


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Source: ReSAKSS, based on World Bank 2014.

Africa’s economic growth has fluctuated from year to year, but overall has improved markedly during the last two decades (Figure 1.3). From 1980 through the early 1990s, annual GDP growth rates varied between approximately 1 and 4 percent, before hitting a low of zero percent growth in 1992. Growth improved and reached a vigorous 8.6 percent in 2004, but declined afterwards, particularly during the years of the global financial crisis. In 2009 economic growth registered its lowest rate since the early 1990s, 2.6 percent, but has since increased to 4.1 percent in 2012.  

Figure 1.3: Annual African GDP growth rates, 1980–2012

Source: ReSAKSS, based on World Bank 2014.

Figure 1.4: Annual average GDP growth rate for the 1995–2003 period and the 2003–2012 period

Source: ReSAKSS, based on World Bank 2014

Despite the reduction in growth rates during the years of the financial crisis, the past decade has been one of strong growth across Africa (Figure 1.4). Every geographic region, income group and REC saw GDP growth rates increase between the 1995–2003 period and the 2003–2012 period. For the continent as a whole, GDP growth increased from 3.9 percent in 1995–2003 to 5.2 percent in 2003–2012.  The largest increases were in mineral-rich countries (LI-3), where average growth rates more than tripled from 1.8 percent in 1995–2003 to 5.2 percent in 2003–2012. The Western region, whose countries also comprise the ECOWAS REC, experienced a near doubling of growth rates, from 4.0 percent in 1995–2003 to 7.6 percent in 2003–2012.

During the 1995–2003 period, Eastern Africa had the highest growth rate of the geographic regions, but its growth was surpassed by that of the Western region in 2003–2012. Among economic groupings, countries with less favorable agricultural conditions (LI-1) had the highest average growth rates in both periods, of 5.1 and 6.4 percent. ECCAS had the highest growth rates of the RECs during the 1995–2003 period, and was second to ECOWAS, comprised of the group of Western African countries, in 2003–2012.

Although GDP growth rates for the 2003–2012 period as a whole were greater than those of the preceding period, growth rates did decline between 2003 and 2012 in many areas. The region with the largest decline was Northern Africa, where GDP growth rates decreased by an average of -0.4 percentage points annually from 2003–2012. By economic grouping, middle-income countries saw the largest annual decline in GDP growth rates, of -0.2 percentage points. UMA had the largest annual decline of the RECs, at -0.5 percentage points. Other areas experienced smaller declines, and average GDP growth rates rose slightly in the Southern region, in countries with more favorable agricultural conditions and countries with less favorable agricultural conditions, and in the ECCAS and SADC RECs. Overall, GDP growth rates for Africa as a whole fell slightly, with an annual average decline of -0.1 percentage point.

Last updated on June 2015