10 Most Globally Competitive Sub-Saharan African Countries

By Peter Pedroncelli AFKI Original Published: October 20, 2015, 5:15 am
Satellite Agreement Set To Expand Broadband Access In East And Central Africa - broadband africa shutterstock_128237849 East Africa's broadband boom | BiztechAfrica Mobile,Technology ... www.biztechafrica.comSatellite Agreement Set To Expand Broadband Access In East And Central Africa. Photo: Shutterstock

Sub-Saharan African countries have been working hard to improve their economies and become more globally competitive as a result. The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index takes into consideration a myriad of factors driving productivity and prosperity in 140 countries, which represent 98.3 per cent of the world’s GDP.

The Global Competitiveness Report uses 12 pillars of the index to decide the ranking for all considered nations. The 12 pillars are institutions, infrastructure, macro-economic environment, health and primary education, higher education and training, goods market efficiency, labour market efficiency, financial market development, technological readiness, market size, business sophistication, and innovation.

In the overall 2015-2016 ranking Switzerland remained number one for the seventh year running, while Singapore and the United States remain second and third respectively. In Africa it is interesting to note a few changes, and see which countries rank highest according to the World Economic Forum.

We take a look at the 10 Sub-Saharan African countries that finished highest on the Global Competitiveness Index in 2015.

Sources: ENCAThe Citizen, Moneyweb, WeForum, AllAfrica,

White House | Amanda Lucidon

White House | Amanda Lucidon

10) Gabon

The top 10 from an African perspective sees a few surprise names emerging, with Gabon in tenth spot amongst those nations that may shock some, despite an overall placing of 103. The country benefits from strong oil, mining and timber industries, and as a result many other African nations would be envious of their above average GDP from a Sub-Saharan standpoint. As with many of the countries in this list, Gabon’s macroeconomic environment was a positive, while their institutions also ranked high in Africa.

financial inclusion Africa Kenya

Nairobi, Kenya. Getty

9) Kenya

Kenya has been a good news story from an economic perspective for quite some time, and they continue that trend by placing as the ninth most competitive economy on the continent this year. Despite dropping nine places from last year’s ranking and placing in 99th spot, Kenya was able to maintain a position in the top 10 thanks to a strong financial market and labour market efficiency, but corruption remains a concern in the East African nation.

Seychelles, blog.gogo.vacations.com

Seychelles, blog.gogo.vacations.com

8) Seychelles

A popular destination for tourists looking for an idyllic setting in the Indian Ocean, the island nation is also a competitive economic country within the African framework, thanks to a GDP that is higher than many other African states. This is due to the bustling tourism sector that is present throughout the islands, but stumbling blocks to increased competitiveness include the small market size and underdevelopment of the financial systems.

Lusaka, Zambia zambiatourism.com

Lusaka, Zambia

7) Zambia

The Zambian economy has been spurred on by the tourism sector in the country, as popular destinations such as Victoria Falls continue to attract visitors. The competitiveness report indicates that infrastructure is still problematic in Zambia, but the macroeconomic environment and improvement in terms of institutions are positives for the country and may lead to its ability to attract international investors. A placing of 96 overall can be improved upon in future years.

Cote d'Ivoire

6) Cote D’Ivoire

Many may be surprised to see the likes of Cote D’Ivoire on this list, with countries such as Nigeria and Ghana missing out on the top 10, but the world’s largest cocoa exporter is the biggest mover amongst the African top 10, rising 24 places to 91st position thanks to gains made in terms of their financial market and competition within the local economy. Their improvement is an example for other nations in the West African region.

Windhoek, Namibia

Windhoek, Namibia. Photo: Gary Latham/Getty Images.

5) Namibia

Another Southern African country on the list, Namibia, has done well to place at fifth on the continent from a global competitiveness perspective, combined with an overall ranking of 85th. The Namibians received good scores with regards to their technology and innovation, as well as the market efficiency rating, and as a result they saw a seven position improvement in their overall ranking since two years ago. The renewable energy sector will be an interesting one to monitor going forward, and can certainly boost the local economy and see further rises in future lists.

Gaborone Botswana

Workers polish diamonds in Gaborone. Photo: Monirul Bhuiyan/Getty Images

4) Botswana

Botswana is an interesting case study in Africa, as it relies heavily on the diamond industry which was heavily affected by the global economic crisis, but has been able to work its way up the Sub-Saharan African ladder to fourth spot in the competitive index and 71st overall. Problems with inefficient government bureaucracy and labour force work ethic is countered by an excellent macroeconomic environment which is attractive from an investment point of view.

Cyber café at a Kigali shopping mall. Photo: un.org intellectual property rwanda

Cyber café at a Kigali shopping mall. Photo: un.org

3) Rwanda

The East African country managed to continue a five-year upward trend, improving in seven out of the 12 pillars that were measured and placing in 58th spot overall. Business sophistication and financial markets both scored high in their respective rankings, allowing for the continued climb. The country benefits from strong public and private institutions, as well as efficient markets. The most impressive note concerning Rwanda is the fact that they are in third position overall when it comes to female participation in the labour force.


South African Rands

2) South Africa

South Africa was able to finally reverse a four-year decline in this particular list, moving up seven positions to 49th in the world and second in Africa. South Africa did well in the pillar that looks at technological readiness, rising from 66 to 50, while the country’s efficiency in the labour market also improved. They did, however, decline in six of the 12 pillars, which will be of concern going forward.

Port Louis, Mauritius

Port Louis, Mauritius

1) Mauritius

This is the second successive year that the island nation has topped the globally competitive list from an African perspective. It is ranked 46th in the world, down from 39th last year, but the country’s political stability and strong tourism industry has allowed it to secure top spot once again. Mauritius was able to score well in terms of business sophistication, infrastructure and higher education, making for a massive success story on the continent.

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