West Africa drives wealth growth in the continent

Pedro Gonçalves
West Africa drives wealth growth in the continent

West Africa has recorded the largest growth of wealth in the continent, led by Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Ghana.

The latest figures show that between 2007 and 2017 the amount of wealth held in Africa rose by 13%. 

The report by Oxfam said that six of the 10 fastest-growing economies in Africa were in West Africa. They included Côte d'Ivoire, Senegal, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Benin and Guinea; while Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Senegal were among the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world.

In most countries, the benefits of this unprecedented economic growth have gone to a tiny few"

Oxfam noted that the region has seen impressive economic growth in the past two decades, and in a few countries, this has been matched by a significant reduction in poverty levels.

"However," it added, "in most countries, the benefits of this unprecedented economic growth have gone to a tiny few. Inequality has reached extreme levels in the region, and today the wealthiest one per cent of West Africans own more than everyone else in the region combined."

Côte d'Ivoire recorded a 43% rise in wealth, followed by Ghana, 39% and Nigeria, 19%.

According to the Forbes annual billionaire list for Africa, three of the continent's billionaires are West Africans, all from Nigeria.

"Five of Nigeria's wealthiest people, including Africa's richest man Aliko Dangote, have a combined wealth of $29.9bn - more than the country's entire national budget for 2017," the report noted. "Nigeria's high net worth population is predicted to rise by a compound annual rate of 16.3% between 2019 and 2023. It is Africa's biggest economy and its most populous country, but over 50% of its citizens live on less than $1.90 a day, the threshold for absolute poverty."

West African countries lose an estimated $9.6bn to corporate tax incentives offered to multinational companies. That would be enough to build about 100 modern and well-equipped hospitals each year in the region or seven brand new hospitals per country in one year.

Governments of some of these countries in West Africa are refusing to spend in areas that benefits the poor.

The report called on governments to do more to promote progressive taxation, boost social spending, strengthen labor market protection, invest in agriculture and strengthen land rights for smallholders.

The West Africa region has the least population with access to water and decent education in Africa. Nigeria has the worst score on social spending, not only in Africa but in the world.

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