Did you know that Africa is the poorest continent in the world? In fact, all of its countries are considered to be developing nations.
What’s worse, is that the rate of poverty has been rising over the past years. Just a little over two decades ago, 278 million people lived below the poverty line. Fast forward to today and this figure has gone up to 413 million people. And if nothing changes, nearly 90 percent of African people will be on the verge of poverty by 2030, according to an estimation by World Bank.
Interestingly enough, however, Africa is rich in a variety of resources. For one thing, it contains nearly 40 percent of the world’s gold and up to 90 percent of platinum and chromium, both of which are precious metals. The largest reserves of uranium, diamonds, cobalt, and platinum are also located on the continent.
Why is Africa so poor despite its abundance of natural resources? There are several reasons. Mismanagement, for one. Bad infrastructure also prevents individuals from harvesting resources efficiently.
Having said all that, there are a few African nations that are doing quite well. What are their GDPs? Why are they so successful compared to the rest of the continent? Let’s find out.
Top 10 Richest Countries in Africa in 2023
Without further ado, here are the top ten richest African countries by overall GDP.
Eswatini is a small landlocked country in Southern Africa. Officially known as the Kingdom of Eswatini, it is unique in that it’s one of the last remaining absolute monarchies in the world as the king, who resides in Lobamba, rules over all of his subjects. It’s also one of the smallest nations with a population of under 1.2 million. The official languages are Siswati and English.
The tenth richest African country, its GDP per capita is $3,978 while its GNI per capita is $3,650. As for its economy, it’s largely dependent on the forestry and agriculture sectors (mainly sugarcane and sugar). The country’s manufacturing sector, which includes food processing and textiles, has also seen significant growth over the past several years. Not only that but the country is also rich in a number of mineral resources including gold, coal, and diamonds. Because of this, it has received many foreign investments.
Tourism is also a major part of their economy. In fact, they have a number of casinos and hotels. many of which feature handicrafts such as tapestries and textiles.
Like most of Africa, however, it still faces high poverty rates. HIV/AID rates are also high among the population.
Algeria has a GDP per capita of $3,690 and a GNI per capita of $3,660, which puts it at number nine on our list. Located in North Africa, it is bordered by Western Sahara, Morocco, and the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Niger, Mali, and Mauritania to the south, and Tunisia and Libya to the east.
A member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the country’s economy mainly relies on its gas and oil sectors, which account for over 95 percent of all its exports. Not only that but Algeria also has a well-developed agriculture sector that makes up a quarter of its economy. The most common crops are cereals such as oat, barley, wheat, and pulses.
While the Algerian economy decreased by 5.5 percent in 2020, it later expanded by nearly 4 percent during the first few months of 2021. Rising foreign investments have also boosted the country’s overall economic activity.
Despite its wealth, however, the nation still faces a number of challenges such as high unemployment rates (11.75 percent as of 2021). The poverty rate also increased sharply between 2021 and 2023.
Namibia is a large country that’s located in South Western Africa. Despite its size, it’s sparsely populated with only 7.0 inhabitants per square mile. Known for its wildlife, it’s bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the west, Zambia and Angola to the north, Botswana to the east, and South Africa to the east and south.
The eighth richest country in Africa, it has a GDP per capita of $4,860, and a GNI per capita of $4,650. It also has a sophisticated economy that’s heavily dependent on farming, manufacturing, brewing, metal fabrication, and fish processing (many species are found in high numbers including horse mackerel, sardines, hake, and anchovy). Not only that but it’s also rich in a number of minerals including uranium, diamonds, and other precious metals.
Compared to other African nations, it also has a stable political environment, which makes it attractive for foreign investors. However, the country does have a fair share of challenges including high poverty rates, poor access to basic services, as well as high unemployment levels. Income inequality has also been widening between the rich and poor in recent years.
7. Equatorial Guinea
Equatorial Guinea is a small country that’s located in Central Africa. Formerly a colony of Spanish Guinea, it consists of two main areas, a mainland, and an insular region, the latter of which consists of several islands, including Bioko Island.
While the government has one of the worst human rights records in the world, the country itself is fairly rich with a GDP per capita of $7,507 and a GNI per capita of $5,150 (its GNI is 83 times larger than the poorest country, Burundi). This is mainly due to its abundance of gas and oil reserves, which is responsible for a large portion of its total export earnings.
Not only that but Equatorial Guinea is also known for its fishing, farming, and forestry sectors, all of which contribute a significant amount to their GDP. Agriculture is also one of the country’s main sources of employment (it provides income for more than 50 percent of the workforce).
Despite its wealth of natural resources, however, there are many long-existing issues such as political instability, corruption, poverty, and inequality.
Botswana is a landlocked country located in the center of Southern Africa; it is bordered by Zimbabwe, South Africa, Zambia, and Namibia.
The sixth richest African country, it has a GDP per capita of $6,800, and a GNI per capita of $6,430. Thanks to its booming diamond industry, which has contributed a significant amount to its economic growth over the years, it has become one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.
The tourism industry also accounts for nearly 12 percent of the country’s GDP. Some major tourist attractions include game reserves and national parks, most of which are known for their wetlands and abundant wildlife. In addition to that, half of the country’s population depends on livestock farming and subsistence crops such as cabbage, tomatoes, and onions.
That’s not all, the manufacturing sectors, which include textiles, beef processing, soap making, glass production, and jewelry making, also contribute to their GDP.
5. Morocco – $302.8 Billion
Morocco has the fifth largest economy in Africa, with a gross domestic product of $302.8 billion. As it is, most of their wealth comes from the service industry; this includes mining, manufacturing, and construction.
Not only that but they also rely on the export of phosphate, which is a vital ingredient in many products such as pesticides, fertilizers, and animal feeds (they have control of nearly two-thirds of the world’s phosphate reserves). If anything, this isn’t too surprising as many African nations use their natural resources to drive their economy.
That’s not all, they also mine fluorspar, barite, lead, and cobalt. Agriculture plays a significant role in their economy as well. Some of their leading exports include olives, oranges, and tomatoes.
While the Covid-19 pandemic pushed their economy into recession (they first since the early 90s), activity has picked up over the past year. In 2021, their GDP went up to 7.4% after dropping to 6.3% in 2020.
Algeria has the fourth best-performing economy in Africa with a gross domestic product of $532.6 billion. They’re also the third largest oil producer in the nation and is a key supplier to Europe. Not only that but they also have one of the largest reserves of natural gas in the world. Together, they make up more than 97 percent of their total exports.
While their agricultural sector contributes approximately 8 percent of GDP, it’s unable to meet the food needs of the population. For this reason, many foods are imported. With that said, they do have primary crops of potatoes, barley, and wheat. Dates are also grown and exported to other countries.
In addition to that, the country is rich in minerals, particularly copper, lead, iron, mercury, antimony, and calamine. In 2019, they were also the largest producer of gypsum in the world. Other notable industries include the food industry, pharmaceutical industry, mechanical industry, and electronic industry.
3. South Africa
South Africa is third on our list with an overall GDP of $861.9 billion. Not only is their economy diversified, but they’re also one of the most technologically advanced and industrialized nations in Africa. For one thing, they’re leaders in the security, electronic banking services, and mobile software fields.
The mining sector, which consists of a mix of state-controlled and privately owned mines, is also a major driving force behind their economy. In 2019, they were the largest producer of chromium, magnesium, and platinum in the world. They also export coal, platinum, titanium, palladium, chromium, and kyanite, among many other materials.
Other exports include fruits, corn, wool, sugar, and diamonds. The manufacturing, banking, and wholesale sectors also contribute to the country’s GDP. In 2019 alone, the financial industry contributed more than $41 billion USD to South Africa’s GDP.
Nigeria has the second-largest economy with an overall GDP of $1.14 trillion. Not only are they the largest exporter of oil in Africa, but they also have the largest natural gas reserves. In 2021, they exported 17.2 million tons to the EU.
Their agricultural sector is impressive as well and accounts for nearly 20% of GDP. They currently rank sixth worldwide in farm output and are a major exporter of rice, citrus fruits, cocoa, yam, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cereals, and beans. Interestingly enough, however, it hasn’t been able to keep up with the country’s population growth. For that reason, they important many of its food products.
Their financial market is also the largest in Africa, as is their telecommunication sector, which contributed 12.5 percent to the country’s GDP. Currently, they rank eleventh in the world in terms of the number of internet users.
Egypt is the richest country in Africa with a GDP of $1.38 trillion. While they used to have a highly centralized economy, it has started to become diversified in recent years.
As it is, the textiles and clothing industry makes up the majority of their exports. There are two reasons for this: their geographical proximity to the EU market and the fact that the production of clothing is a low-capital industry; it’s also a labor-intensive industry, which works well for Egypt as their population of 66 million provides a ready workforce.
While cotton used to be one of their primary exports, this is no longer the case. Nowadays, they’re a substantial producer of corn, fruit, sugarcane, vegetables, fodder, rice, and wheat. Citrus fruits, grapes, and dates are also cultivated and exported.