Africa has been a continent weighed down for decades by violence, underdevelopment, and poverty. Yet six decades after most of the continent began to decolonize, several countries have begun to develop a thriving middle class.
Although it may still be early to talk about fully developed countries, the macroeconomic figures allow us to be moderately optimistic about the improvement of living conditions in the short term. These are the five most developed countries in Africa.
1. South Africa
South Africa was one of the first countries on the continent to achieve independence in 1910 and today its economy is the most developed on the continent.
The structure of the South African economy is that of a developed country, with a predominance of the services sector, something not very common in Africa. It stands out for its extensive natural resources and has been considered one of the planet’s great emerging economies since the beginning of the 21st century, although its economy has suffered a significant slowdown since 2013.
With a 64% urban population, South Africa’s great challenge is to find a way out for the millions of people who have been trapped in poverty. Racial inequalities, a legacy of the apartheid regime, are still a major drag on its economy.
Egypt is the most populous Arab country, with almost 100 million inhabitants. Its economy is highly diversified, with a large service sector, particularly its tourism industry, and agriculture with decreasing weight. Their life expectancy is one of the highest in the continent, reaching 71 years.
Although its level of development is not as high as that of South Africa, it is one of the main recipients of investment in the world and its GDP is continuously growing. It has suffered from significant political instability in recent years, although the situation seems to have stabilized.
Maintaining this stability in a region with several open conflicts will be the key for Egypt to make the leap and become a fully developed economy.
A school enrollment rate of more than 98% and a life expectancy of 77.6 years attest to the level of social development in this North African country. Despite its history, marked by war for decades, Algeria has managed to stabilize itself in this century, remaining almost untouched by the political earthquakes that have shaken the Arab world.
This has allowed it to develop its economy, strongly supported by its oil and gas reserves. This dependency is precisely the great challenge to be resolved by Algeria and that cost it an economic crisis in 2016 when the price of oil reached minimum levels throughout the planet. Thus, Algeria enters the list of most developed countries in Africa.
The great asset of the Nigerian economy is its population of 188 million inhabitants, which is also growing at a very high rate. It also has important natural resources, including oil, and its economy has managed to reach even greater volume than that of South Africa. It represents 35% of sub-Saharan GDP.
The main problems facing the country are a stagnant industry and the armed conflict in the north. High levels of violence have scared away some investors and a large part of the population still lives below the poverty line.
Botswana’s economy is far from reaching that of the aforementioned countries, but with only 1.8 million inhabitants, it has been able to take advantage of its mineral wealth to build an economy that has achieved very positive figures.
However, chronic droughts and energy shortages have been two major obstacles to the growth of its economy. Maintaining its political stability to attract more investment will be key to Botswana’s ability to become a developed economy in the future.