STORY Sep 10, 2019 Charles Yao Kouame Bala Bhaskar Naidu Kalimili Florina Pirlea

Many African economies are larger than previously estimated

Since 2010, several countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have revised their national accounts estimates to incorporate new data sources - an effort that ensures better coverage of economic sectors and includes new activities. Standards and methods have been updated (such as the implementation of the 2008 System of National Accounts) and a more recent base year was implemented for constant price estimates.

As new census and survey data have become available, and countries updated the base years used for national accounts statistics, estimates for economic activities previously not covered in national accounts have been included to better reflect the true size and structure of the economy. For many countries, incorporating new activities has led to upward adjustments of GDP.

Nigeria’s nominal GDP was adjusted upwards by 60 percent. In 2014, the country revised their 2010 GDP estimate – by incorporating new and better methods and source data – which increased the nominal GDP level from $229.5 billion1 to $366.4 billion2.

Recently, Zimbabwe’s GDP data for 2017 has been revised upwards by 20 percent, and Ghana’s nominal GDP increased by 32 percent. Senegal also recently updated its GDP estimates by changing the base year from 1999 to 2014, which resulted in an upward revision of 29 percent of the country’s 2017 nominal GDP. A similar rebasing exercise also led to significant revaluations of Kenya’s GDP estimate, which now stands 21 percent higher.

The improved coverage of more economic sectors has provided better GDP estimates and a more accurate picture of the size and the structure of the economy. Based on the new data, many economies in Sub-Saharan Africa are larger than previously estimated. Following Nigeria’s rebasing exercise, and the availability of new GDP estimates, the aggregate GDP for the Sub-Saharan Africa region increased by 13 percent. More countries are currently embarked in a comprehensive revision of their national accounts statistics and will be implementing similar updates in the coming years.

You can explore the GDP overall and per capita rankings of Sub-Saharan African economies in current terms in the chart below. In current total terms Nigeria is at present the largest economy, followed closely by South Africa, whereas Seychelles and Mauritius have the largest per capita GDP in the region. To learn more about the available national accounts data, you can explore the Economy indicators and access the database.

Notes:(1) Refer to Nominal GDP as published in the World Development Indicators, December 2013; (2) Refer to Nominal GDP as published in the World Development Indicators, July 2014.