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Measuring African GDP
Joe Downie, World Economics, June 2011
There is much speculation about the growth potential of African economies. But in the light of unreliable official statistics and the highly selective information often presented by investment companies with an incentive to highlight the positive, this article aims to provide some extra analysis to add to the recent widespread comments on high growth rates within the continent. Problems are noted with official economic data and the strengths of Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) measures for GDP comparisons are noted. GDP figures for Africa and five other major economic areas are analysed for the three decades to 2010 in terms of GDP growth and GDP level by decade. These figures are then viewed in per capita terms, drawing attention to significant population growth within the continent, and therefore less impressive per capita figures. A closer look at the location and distribution of economic activity within the African continent highlights the high concentration of economic activity within a small number of countries. However, it is concluded that the future prospects for African growth are still generally positive. Despite the heavy reliance on oil exports in some countries, headline GDP figures also reflect incidences of broad-based growth which looks set to continue so long as Asian demand remains high and good economic policies are pursued.

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