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3. African economy today

Economists use a number of indicators to measure a welfare of population of given country. Undoubtaly the most important of them are GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and GNP (Gross National Product). In order to make the comparision more expressive, these indexes are calculated not in absolute values but per capita. This method helps researchers to disengage themselves from the size of the country. Two of other important indicators are Life Expectancy at Birth and Illiteracy Rate.

In 1998 real GDP growth was higher in Africa than any other developing region, while inflation was slightly higher than in Asia and significantly lower than other developing regions. Half the world's ten fastest growing economies are in Africa, although growing off very low bases.

1999 was not a good year for Africa. Armed conflict increased and looks set to continue. The slow-down in the world economy affected stock markets; caused currencies to depreciate; and reduced foreign exchange income from oil, minerals and metals and agricultural products. Aid to the region is reducing and investors are having second thoughts, leaving many projects on the drawing board. Aids, malaria, cholera and other diseases are rampant. Foreign debt servicing and corruption mean that little foreign exchange trickles through to fund education, health and infrastructure. Tourism and, strangely enough, information technology provide the best hope for the dark continent.

The highest GNP per capita from the mentioned countries have Botswana($3240), Algeria($1550) and the lowest  Chad($210), Rwanda($250). There’s no need to bring the whole figures in the text but I want to mention some common clauses.

·        All the countries in the list besides the Algeria situated in the south Africa. The rule is that the South Africa is poorer then the North. Though there is some exceptions Botswana ($3240), South African Republic ($3240).

·        I try to select the countries which indicators are representing the picture of southern part. Some of the other countries have the indicators lower then mentioned,Burundi ($120), Malawi ($180), Sierra Leone ($ 130) and the other higher, Seychelles ($6500), Gabon ($ 3300), South African Republic.

As it can be easily seen  Algeria and Botswana per capita GDP is 3 – 6 times higher then the average on Africa. Some others have 2-6 times lower. In order to explain these exceptions one must consider the particularities of the countries. That’s why I’m bringing short overviews of the mentioned countries followed by some generalizations.

Algeria. The hydrocarbons sector is the backbone of the economy, accounting for roughly 52% of budget revenues, 25% of GDP, and over 95% of export earnings. Algeria has the fifth-largest reserves of natural gas in the world and is the second largest gas exporter; it ranks fourteenth for oil reserves. Algiers' efforts to reform one of the most centrally planned economies in the Arab world stalled in 1992 as the country became embroiled in political turmoil. Burdened with a heavy foreign debt, Algiers concluded a one-year standby arrangement with the IMF in April 1994 and the following year signed onto a three-year extended fund facility which ended 30 April 1998. Some progress on economic reform, Paris Club debt reschedulings in 1995 and 1996, and oil and gas sector expansion contributed to a recovery in growth since 1995. Still, the economy remains heavily dependent on volatile oil and gas revenues. The government has continued efforts to diversify the economy by attracting foreign and domestic investment outside the energy sector, but has had little success in reducing high unemployment and improving living standards.

Angola. Angola is an economy in disarray because of a quarter century of nearly continuous warfare. Despite its abundant natural resources, output per capita is among the world's lowest. Subsistence agriculture provides the main livelihood for 85% of the population. Oil production and the supporting activities are vital to the economy, contributing about 45% to GDP and 90% of exports. Notwithstanding the signing of a peace accord in November 1994, violence continues, millions of land mines remain, and many farmers are reluctant to return to their fields. As a result, much of the country's food must still be imported. To take advantage of its rich resources - gold, diamonds, extensive forests, Atlantic fisheries, and large oil deposits - Angola will need to implement the peace agreement and reform government policies. Despite the increase in the pace of civil warfare in late 1998, the economy grew by an estimated 4% in 1999. The government introduced new currency denominations in 1999. Expanded oil production brightens prospects for 2000, but internal strife discourages investment outside of the petroleum sector.

Botswana. Agriculture still provides a livelihood for more than 80% of the population but supplies only about 50% of food needs and accounts for only 3% of GDP. Subsistence farming and cattle raising predominate. The sector is plagued by erratic rainfall and poor soils. Diamond mining and tourism also are important to the economy. Substantial mineral deposits were found in the 1970s and the mining sector grew from 25% of GDP in 1980 to 38% in 1998. Unemployment officially is 21% but unofficial estimates place it closer to 40%. The Orapa 2000 project, which will double the capacity of the country's main diamond mine, will be finished in early 2000. This will be the main force behind continued economic expansion.

Cameroon. Because of its oil resources and favorable agricultural conditions, Cameroon has one of the best-endowed primary commodity economies in sub-Saharan Africa. Still, it faces many of the serious problems facing other underdeveloped countries, such as a top-heavy civil service and a generally unfavorable climate for business enterprise. Since 1990, the government has embarked on various IMF and World Bank programs designed to spur business investment, increase efficiency in agriculture, improve trade, and recapitalize the nation's banks. The government, however, has failed to press forward vigorously with these programs. The latest enhanced structural adjustment agreement was signed in October 1997; the parties hope this will prove more successful, yet government mismanagement and corruption remain problems. Inflation has been brought back under control. Progress toward privatization of remaining state industry should support continued economic growth in 2000.

Chad. Landlocked Chad's economic development suffers from it's geographic remoteness, drought, lack of infrastructure, and political turmoil. About 85% of the population depends on agriculture, including the herding of livestock. Of Africa's Francophone countries, Chad benefited least from the 50% devaluation of their currencies in January 1994. Financial aid from the World Bank, the African Development Fund, and other sources is directed largely at the improvement of agriculture, especially livestock production. Due to lack of financing, the development of the Doba Basin oil fields, originally due to finish in 2000, has been substantially delayed.

Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire). The economy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo - a nation endowed with vast potential wealth - has declined drastically since the mid-1980s. The new government instituted a tight fiscal policy that initially curbed inflation and currency depreciation, but these small gains were quickly reversed when the foreign-backed rebellion in the eastern part of the country began in August 1998. The war has dramatically reduced government revenue, and increased external debt. Foreign businesses have curtailed operations due to uncertainty about the outcome of the conflict and because of increased government harassment and restrictions. Poor infrastructure, an uncertain legal framework, corruption, and lack of openness in government economic policy and financial operations remain a brake on investment and growth. A number of IMF and World Bank missions have met with the new government to help it develop a coherent economic plan but associated reforms are on hold. Assuming moderate peace, annual growth is likely to increase to nearly 5% in 2000-01, but inflation will continue to be a problem.

Djibouti. The economy is based on service activities connected with the country's strategic location and status as a free trade zone in northeast Africa. Two-thirds of the inhabitants live in the capital city (Djibouty), the remainder being mostly nomadic herders. Scanty rainfall limits crop production to fruits and vegetables, and most food must be imported. Djibouti provides services as both a transit port for the region and an international transshipment and refueling center. It has few natural resources and little industry. The nation is, therefore, heavily dependent on foreign assistance to help support its balance of payments and to finance development projects. An unemployment rate of 40% to 50% continues to be a major problem. Inflation is not a concern, however, because of the fixed tie of the franc to the US dollar. Per capita consumption dropped an estimated 35% over the last seven years because of recession, civil war, and a high population growth rate (including immigrants and refugees). Also, renewed fighting between Ethiopia and Eritrea has disturbed normal external channels of commerce. Faced with a multitude of economic difficulties, the government has fallen in arrears on long-term external debt and has been struggling to meet the stipulations of foreign aid donors.