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Mauritius is Africa's top ranked economy for global competitiveness.
Reuters/Jacky Naegelen
The pinnacle of competitiveness in Africa.
NOT SO FAST

Africa is growing fast—and yet it’s still wildly uncompetitive

Sub-Saharan Africa may be one of the fastest growing regions in the world, but few African economies are expanding in a way that will lead to sustainable, widespread prosperity, according to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) latest ranking of countries by a wide measure of productivity.

In the annual global competitiveness list (pdf), released this week, 15 out of the 20 lowest ranked economies were in sub-Saharan Africa. Only three countries—Mauritius, South Africa, and Rwanda—were ranked above 70th place, out of 140 countries. The index looks at factors including progress on infrastructure, financial markets, ease of doing business, and technological gains.

Top 10 countries for global competitiveness
Switzerland1
Singapore2
United States3
Germany4
Netherlands5
Japan6
Hong Kong7
Finland8
Sweden9
United Kingdom10
Lowest 10 countries for global competitiveness
Myanmar131
Venezuela132
Mozambique133
Haiti134
Malawi135
Burundi136
Sierra Leone137
Mauritania138
Chad139
Guinea140

The region averaged over 5% yearly growth over the past 15 years, but much of that has been driven by selling off its natural resources—Africa is home to a third of the world’s minerals as well as a tenth of its oil. So far, this kind of growth hasn’t translated into a healthier, more educated work force, better productivity, or more reliable government institutions—all factors that affect an economy’s competitiveness, according to the WEF.

The report, which combines over 100 indicators measuring productivity, attributes this year’s poor performance to inadequate infrastructure, weak government institutions, and lagging health and education sectors. Falling commodity prices and growing investor caution toward emerging markets also haven’t helped.

It isn’t all bad news. The region is still expected to expand 4.2% this year and commodities are playing less of a role in some of its largest economies, like Nigeria, where services now account for 60% of GDP. Mauritius ranks 28th on the World Bank’s ranking of countries according to ease of doing business there, which also noted that no region had done more to improve regulation than sub-Saharan Africa.

Several countries are instituting structural reforms that are paying off. Côte d’Ivoire’s remarkable recovery after two civil wars has helped it jump 24 places to 91st rank, while Ethiopia also moved up nine spots. Chad and Guinea, this year’s lowest ranked, also moved up four rankings from last year.

Here is how the rankings look across the continent.

CountryAfrica Global competitiveness ranking 2015
Mauritius46
South Africa49
Rwanda68
Botswana71
Namibia85
Côte d’Ivoire91
Zambia96
Seychelles97
Kenya99
Gabon103
Ethiopia109
Senegal110
Cape Verde112
Lesotho113
Cameroon114
Egypt116
Ghana119
Tanzania120
Benin122
Gambia123
Nigeria124
Zimbabwe125
Mali127
Swaziland128
Liberia129
Madagascar130
Mozambique133
Malawi135
Burundi136
Sierra Leone137
Chad139
Guinea140

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