Dec 2, 2015
  West African Income Growth Comparison

West African Country per capita incom

Source: International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database, November 2015

Per Capita Income, Current US$

Country 1980 2015 % change
Benin 461.169 708.987 54
Burkina Faso 291.201 631.372 117
Cabo Verde 541.435 3,127.28 478
Chad 167.345 1,010.55 504
Côte d'Ivoire 1,256.06 1,318.81 5
The Gambia 611.169 384.243 -37
Ghana 2,591.64 1,401.44 -46
Guinea n/a 545.644 n/a
Guinea-Bissau 206.197 582.243 182
Liberia n/a 469.086 n/a
Mali 250.19 672.226 169
Niger 461.461 403.441 -13
Nigeria 911.133 2,758.41 203
Senegal 620.162 934.643 51
Sierra Leone 510.92 675.18 32
Togo 518.773 578.11 11

There are sharp peaks and troughs, no doubt caused by war, currency devaluation and other socio-economic crises, but the chart and table above turn up some interesting results. The highest income earners are in Cape Verde, a small economy, followed by Nigeria, the largest economy. These are followed by Ghana, Ivory Coast, Chad (technically in Central Africa) and Senegal. The Chadian case points up the dangers in looking only at GNP per capita figures in assessing a country's development. The country has been associated for years with war, political instability, corruption, dictatorship and, yes, poverty. And yet it ends up in the first tier of the countries surveyed. In 1980 Chadians were by some distance the poorest of the countries studied and stayed at or close to the bottom of the list until 2003, when their growth spurt began. Upon closer investigation, this coincides exactly with commencement of oil production by a consortium of international oil companies. It's unclear whether the money flowing in from the oilfields is actually benefitting ordinary Chadians.

There is a gap between these top six earners and the balance nine which are all grouped close together in the $400 to $700 region. Interestingly, these top six high earners, with the exception of Cape Verde, really only started pulling away from the rest around the turn of the century. In 2000 Gambia and Senegal had approximately the same per capita income. By 2015, the IMF estimate was that Senegalese were earning almost 2.5 times their Gambian neighbours. What caused this growth spurt by the high earners should be a worthwhile topic for further study. The Gambia, sometimes thought of as something of a success story under Yahya Jammeh shows a very different picture in these statistics. It's one of three countries that actually showed a decline in per capita income during the 35-year period (Ghana's case is perhaps due to the instability of the period of military rule), and ends up at the bottom of the list of West African income.