These will be Africa's fastest growing economies in 2018

Illegal money changers pose while exchanging a new Zimbabwe bond note (L) and U.S. dollar notes in the capital Harare, Zimbabwe, November 28, 2016. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo - RC130F5B2970

Most of 2018’s top performers are non-commodity intensive economies. Image: REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Yinka Adegoke
Africa editor , Quartz
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Africa?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Africa is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:


On the face of it, 2018 is going to be a good year for sub Saharan Africa’s economies. The World Bank forecasts growth of 3.2% for the year, up from 2.4% in 2017. It also predicts slightly higher growth for 2019 of 3.5%.

As usual, much of that growth will still rely on improving commodity prices and executing economic reforms. But it’s all rather delicately balanced. World Bank thinks a drop in commodity prices, higher-than-expected global interest rate rises and the ongoing debt mismanagement by some countries could set the region back.

Ultimately, as Brookings points out (pdf) in its Foresight Africa 2018 report, half of sub Saharan Africa’s economies will grow at a rate similar to or higher than during the heyday of the “Africa rising” narrative, which was in the run-up to the commodity price crash of 2014.

The region’s growth is higher, at 5%, if you exclude the big three economies of Nigeria, Angola, and South Africa. The first two, as the continent’s largest oil producers, should see accelerated expansion as oil prices recover this year. Brent crude hit a high of $70 this past week. That’s good news for president Buhari’s 2019 re-election bid in Nigeria and the reform agenda of Angola’s still new president Lourenço—after 38 years of president dos Santos. The World Bank says South Africa will expand by 1.1% compared with 0.8% last year while Nigeria should grow by 2.5% from 1% in 2017. Angola will expand by 1.6%.

But the big economies have to get their act together, says Brahima Coulibaly, director of Brookings’ Africa Growth Initiative: “These large economies are at risk of a lost decade unless policymakers implement significant reforms to shift the growth model away from excessive reliance on oil in Angola and Nigeria and, in the case of South Africa, to overcome structural problems—many inherited from the apartheid era.”

It makes sense. Most of 2018’s top performers are non-commodity intensive economies. The list is led by Ghana (8.3%), which we should point out is boosted by oil & gas expansion, Ethiopia (8.2%), Côte d’Ivoire (7.2%), Djibouti (7%), Senegal (6.9%) and Tanzania (6.8%). Africa has six of the world’s ten fastest growing economies this year, according to the World Bank.

Image: Atlas
Have you read?

Cloudy horizon

But both the World Bank and Brookings warn that many of the region’s economies—regardless of size or growth rate—need to pay more attention to debt management in 2018. IMF chief Christine Lagarde made this perfectly clear in her interview with us last month. Public debt is approaching critical levels in some countries in the region, says Brookings. Debt was at 56% of GDP on average in 2017 versus 40% in 2013. It exceeded 25% in oil-dependent countries last year.

Like Lagarde, Brookings believes there will be tighter monetary policies introduced in advanced economies over the coming months which will have an impact on African economies with both unfavorable foreign exchange rates and existing and future debt becoming more expensive.

Among several fixes, including aiming to improve on the abysmal savings rate in the region, Brookings argues for an improvement in building tax revenue. While the OECD average tax revenue to GDP ratio is 24%, Africa’s at 15%. The low rate can be explained by so many of the region’s economies being dominated by the informal sector—and it also means there’s still plenty of room to grow.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
AfricaEconomic Progress
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

Two-thirds of Africa’s birds of prey are on the brink of extinction. Here's why that could be bad news for humans

Madeleine North

February 15, 2024

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum