Counting the Bottom Billion: Measuring the Wealth and Progress of African Economies

Morten Jerven

Published: December 2011

What do the statistics from the international databases tell us about income and growth in Sub-Saharan Africa? Less than we would like to think. The article takes a starting point in per capita GDP estimates in Africa. Recently, Ghana announced a revision of its GDP statistics, increasing its national income estimates by over 60%. This article shows that similar revisions are to be expected in other countries. Many statistical offices are currently using outdated data and methods. It is argued that with the current uneven application of methods and poor availability of data, any ranking of African economies according to GDP levels is misleading. It is argued that the World Bank, prominent among data disseminators, is currently not providing the necessary information to complement its datasets, and that this shortcoming misleads data users.

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