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Is Africa catching up?

6 July 2010

The 2000s were for much of the developing world a first decade of strong growth since the 1970s. They were marked by a global shift in wealth and the emergence of a new geography of the world economy. But the shift is not just about major emerging markets such as China, but shows up in African growth figures as well. This should not be surprising: a 2008 article in the OECD Observer reported that Africa had survived the early crisis quite well, and since 2000 the magazine has been highlighting the growing interest in Africa among private investors, not to mention its brighter image as a place for young people from OECD countries to go and find work.

data (xlsx)

Since the 1990s, Africa has experienced faster growth than developed countries and has grown twice as fast since 2000. The trend has been strong throughout the crisis; in 2008, OECD growth averaged about 1.5%, though Africa notched up 5%. Nor is it a matter of one or two major countries leading the way: of the 49 African countries for which we have data, 46 grew faster than the OECD area, with a dozen or so countries exceeding 8% growth.

Africa’s growth rates eased somewhat in 2009, but most countries nevertheless showed some resilience. The upshot, as far as Perspectives on Global Development: Shifting Wealth is concerned, has been greater convergence as large African countries from Ethiopia, Nigeria and South Africa to smaller ones such as Botswana, Ghana and Rwanda narrowed the gap in GDP per head  with OECD countries, as the 3-years averages in the chart show.

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