Top 10 Largest economies in Africa


With a Gross Domestic Product of $376.28 billion (Sh38.16 trillion) as at 2017, the west African country is Africa’s largest economy on top of having the largest population. The current population of 200 million based on the latest United Nations estimates makes it a powerhouse of economy and development compared to its neighbours.

It has an abundance of natural resources with some of the biggest exports including oil, cocoa, and rubber. In fact, it is Africa’s largest crude oil supplier. Not to mention the rich agricultural sector responsible for 18 per cent of the country’s GDP and almost a third of employment.

2. South Africa

The country has the second largest economy in Africa, with a GDP of $349.3 billion (Sh35.44 trillion). Statistics were higher than expected for 2017, seeing as the country’s economy grew by 1.3 per cent, just higher than the National Treasury’s expectation of one per cent.

The highest performing industry to contribute to this growth was agriculture, followed by mining and manufacturing. A demand for manganese ore, chrome, iron ore, and anything used in the production of steel helped spur on this growth. Some of the country’s key exports include gold, corn, diamonds, and fruit.

 3. Egypt

The gross domestic product of the north African country, which has a long, rich trade history with plenty of ups and downs, in 2017 was $237.04 billion (Sh23.862 trillion). After the 2011 revolution, foreign exchange reserves fell considerably. Reserves fell from $36billion (Sh3.65 trillion) in December 2010 to only $16.3 billion (Sh1.65 trillion) in January 2012.

The revolution also negatively impacted the country’s economic growth, urging the government towards economic reform that will focus on sustainable growth. The country’s main exports include petroleum, insulated wire, video displays, and gold. The biggest non-petroleum-based industries are tourism, textile production, food processing. The land of the Pharaohs is also a holy land with heavy affiliation to the early biblical era.

 4. Algeria

With a nominal GDP of $178.29 billion (Sh18.07 trillion) as at 2017, the country’s economic growth, however, slowed down in the same year due to a slight decline in hydrocarbon production.

Petroleum and natural gases are the country’s most important mineral resources, with the biggest exports being either mined or manufactured, while agriculture plays a comparatively minor role. Some of Algeria’s principal farm crops that are exported are wheat, oats, citrus fruit, olives, and dates.

 5. Angola

The country is still recovering from a 27-year-long civil war that began immediately after becoming independent from Portugal in 1975, before finally coming to an end in 2002. But the country’s economy picked up considerably in the years following the war and is today considered one of the fastest-growing in the world, despite recent struggles with the global oil market.

In 2017, it had a GDP of $124.21 billion (Sh12.590 trillion), but the sharp decline in global oil prices caused GDP growth to drop to 1.5 per cent from 10.3 per cent pre-2014.

The government intervened by cutting down expenditure, increasing non-oil revenue, and devaluing the kwanza – the country’s currency. It exports crude oil, petroleum products, diamonds, fish, fish products, coffee, sisal, cotton, and lumber and its biggest industries are oil, diamonds, agriculture, and fishing.

6. Sudan

The country had a GDP of $117.5 billion ( Sh11.92 trillion) as at 2017, averaging 4.26 per cent in terms of annual growth rate from 2005 . Despite the significant growth, Sudan still faces an array of problems such as political conflicts and lack of basic infrastructure in large areas.

As for the secession of South Sudan, the country lost three-quarters of its oil production in 2011, a massive blow considering that the oil industry drove much of its GDP growth since 1999.

As a large Arab nation, the country is dotted with ancient pyramids that attract tourists from other Arab and Western countries, subsequently contributing to its tourism industry. Main exports are oil and petroleum products, cotton, sesame, livestock, groundnuts, Arabic gum, and sugar.

 7. Morocco

Gross domestic product was $109.82 billion (Sh11.13 trillion) in 2017. The services sector accounts for just over half of GDP and industry a quarter, made up of mining, primarily phosphate rock mining, construction, and manufacturing. 

Tourism, telecoms and textile sector recorded the highest growth. Important exports excluding phosphates are electric components, inorganic chemicals, transistors, citrus fruits, vegetables, and fish. However, the country suffers both from structural unemployment and a large external debt. Youth unemployment rate stood at 42.8 per cent in 2017.

8. Ethiopia

With a 2017 gross domestic product of $80.87billion (Sh8.17 trillion), the country has one of the fastest-growing economies in the world today and has the second largest population in Africa (105 million citizens). According to the IMF World Economic Outlook, growth for 2018 is predicted at around 8.5 per cent.

The country’s accelerated economic growth is driven largely by industrial activity, seeing investments in infrastructure such as the Grand Renaissance Dam and a light rail system, as well as manufacturing. Ethiopia’s major exports include coffee, leather, textiles, natural gum, spices, and mineral products.

Agriculture is perhaps the country’s largest industry. The banking, telecommunications, and transportation sectors are dominated by State-owned companies.

9. Kenya

The country had a GDP of $79.51billion (Sh8.064 trillion) in 2017 which subsequently got a hit later on following Post-Election Violence, thus ending at $74.94 billion (Sh7.6 trillion). Trade is a crucial part of the country’s growth. The combined value of exports and imports equals 38 per cent of the entire GDP. The agricultural sector dominates the economy.

Main industries are agriculture, industry and manufacturing, and services. With a rich agricultural sector, the country produces tea, coffee, floriculture, sisal, pyrethrum, corn, and wheat are grown in the fertile highlands. Tourism also plays a big role in the country’s service industry despite taking a downturn due to security issues and poor image.

10. Tanzania

In 2017, according to IMF, Tanzania’s GDP was $52.09 billion (Sh5.28 trillion). Half of the country’s workforce are employed in the agricultural sector, while the rest are divided among mining, manufacturing, food processing, and telecommunications.

The heavy reliance on agriculture makes Tanzania vulnerable to environmental shocks and commodity pricing instability. Some of its main exports are minerals such as gold and diamonds, coffee, cotton, tea, and tobacco. Tourism, the main source of foreign currency in the country, is also rising.


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