Sub-Saharan Africa: Countries, population and economy

Sub-Saharan Africa is argued to be the poorest part of the world in terms of demographics. The region consists of all nations that are located south of the Sahara desert, which typically includes all African nations, excluding countries in North Africa. 

There are over one billion people living in Sub-Saharan Africa, with over 65% of that population living below the poverty line. The region has been pulled down by corruption, civil conflicts, communal wars, an increasing population and a low life expectancy.

Sub-saharan Africa is also the least migrated region in the world. The region’s economy stands at $1.92 trillion as of 2021, with Nigeria and South Africa claiming over 50% of the sum. Sub-Saharan Africa has a GDP per capita income of $1,645 with nine of the top ten poorest countries situated in the region. The region’s biggest economy is agriculture, which is also the regions largest employer of labour, employing over 60% of the entire population of the region. Also, Sub-Saharan Africa has strong reserves of natural resources and is the richest region on the planet in terms of mineral resources. 

The region is the world’s lowest emitter of CO2 emissions having only 0.7% with South Africa being the continent’s largest emitter.  

This article details all there is to know about the various countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

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List of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and population

CountryPopulationCapital
Angola33,086,278Luanda
Benin12,506,347Porto Novo
Botswana2,410,338Gaborone
Burkina Faso 21,510,181Ouagadougou
Burundi12,574,571Bujumbura
Cabo Verde563,198Praia
Cameroon27,220,000Yaounde
Central African Republic 5,633,412Bangui
Chad16,818,391N’Djamena
Comoros798,000Moroni
Côte d’Ivoire29,389,150Yamoussoukro
Democratic Republic of the Congo99,010,000Kinshasa
Equatorial Guinea1,505,588Malabo
Eritrea3,684,000Asmera
Eswatini1,202,000Mbabane
Ethiopia105,163,988Addis Ababa
Gabon2,233,272Libreville
Ghana33,133,230Accra
Guinea12,907,395Conakry
Guinea-Bissau 1,647,000Bissau
Kenya56,622,037Nairobi
Lesotho2,183,006Maseru
Liberia5,343,155Monrovia
Madagascar29,400,710Antananarivo
Malawi21,507,723Lilongwe
Mali22,594,000Bamako
Mauritania 4,556,758Nouakchott
Mauritius 1,276,825Port Louis 
Mozambique 31,616,078Maputo
Namibia2,550,226Windhoek
Niger26,309,583Niamey
Nigeria218,541,000Abuja
Republic of the Congo5,970,000Brazzaville 
Rwanda13,722,415Kigali
São Tomé and Príncipe223,364Sao Tome
Senegal17,223,497Dakar
Seychelles 100,447Victoria
Sierra Leone8,494,260Freetown
Somalia17,598,000Mogadishu
South Africa60,604,992Pretoria 
South Sudan11,380,000Juba
Sudan44,956,995Khartoum
Tanzania 61,280,743Dodoma
The Gambia2,706,000Banjul
Togo7,886,000Lome
Uganda48,971,937Kampala
Zambia19,623,400Lusaka
Zimbabwe15,178,979Harare

10 Largest economies in Sub-Saharan Africa

RankCountryGDP
1.Nigeria$440,776,971.54
2.South Africa$419,946,428.13
3.Ethiopia$111,271,112.33
4.Kenya$110,347,079.52
5.Ghana$77,594,279.05
6.Angola$72,546,985.71
7Cote d’Ivoire$69,764,827.47
8.Tanzania$67,775,101.79
9.Democratic Republic of the Congo53,958,573.69
10.Cameroon45,238,613.48

Nigeria and South Africa are by far the biggest economy in Sub-Saharan Africa.

10 Smallest economies in Sub-Saharan Africa

RankCountryGDP
1.Sao Tome and Principe$547,092.92
2.Seychelles$1,320,053.79
3.Comoros$1,327,964.25
4.Guinea-Bissau$1,638,517.53
5.Cabo Verde$1,936,174.04
6.Eritrea$2,065,001.63
7.The Gambia$2,078,070.68
8.Central African Republic $2,516,498.30
9.Lesotho$2,518,468.89
10.Burundi$2,902,029.39

Sao Tome and Principe have the smallest economy in Sub-Saharan Africa.

10 Richest countries in Sub-Saharan Africa

Here are the richest countries in Sub-Saharan Africa by GDP per capita

RankCountryGDP per capita
1.Seychelles$13,306.7
2.Mauritius$8,812.1
3.Equatorial Guinea$8,462.3
4.Gabon$8,017.0
5.Botswana$7,347.6
6.South Africa$6,994.2
7.Namibia4,729.3
8Eswatini$4,214.9
9.Cabo Verde$3,445.8
10.Cote d’Ivoire$2,578.8

Seychelles is the richest country in Sub-Saharan Africa when you consider GDP per capita.

10 Poorest countries in Sub-Saharan Africa

Here are the poorest countries in Sub-Saharan Africa based on GDP per capita

RankCountriesGDP per capita
1.Burundi$236.8
2.Somalia$445.8
3.Mozambique$500.4
4.Central African Republic$511.5
5.Madagascar$514.9
6.Sierra Leone$515.9
7.Democratic Republic of the Congo$584.1
8.Niger$594.9
9.Eritrea$642.5
10Malawi$642.7

Burundi is the poorest country in Sub-Saharan Africa when you consider GDP per capita.

Regional analysis

Southern Africa

This is the Southern region of Sub-Saharan Africa consists of plateaus, islands, coastal mountains and escarpments that stretch down to the Indian ocean. The region bothers the Atlantic Ocean to its west and the Indian Ocean to its east. 

Southern Africa’s climate is seasonal, ranging from arid to semiarid and from temperate to tropical. Drought is very common in this region.

Also read: 10 Most powerful countries in Africa

Economically the region is the most developed in the Sub-Saharan region having a strong development index of 5.0. South Africa is the region’s biggest economy and population size. The countries in the Southern Africa Sub-Sahara are:

CountriesCapitalPopulation Language 
AngolaLuanda33,086,278Portuguese
BotswanaGaborone2,410,338English
EswatiniMbabane1,202,000Portuguese
LesothoMaseru2,183,006Sotho, English 
NamibiaWindhoek2,550,226English 
South Africa Pretoria 60,604,992English, Afrikaans, Sotho, Xhosa and Zulu 

Central Africa

Central Africa is the central region of Sub-Saharan Africa. Central Africa has had one of the world’s highest reserves of archaeological findings since history.

It provides evidence of human settlements that date back to over thousands of years like the iron smelting and extensive wall site that dates back to over 3000 years have been discovered in this region.

Agriculture remains the influence of the Central African economy accounting for over 70% of the country’s labour force. The Democratic Republic of Congo is the largest country in the region and also possesses the largest reserve of any other country on the continent. 

Eight countries make up the Central African region, these countries are the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Congo Republic, Cameroon, São Tomé and Príncipe, Chad and Gabon.

CountryCapital Population Language 
CameroonYaounde27,220,000English, French
Central African Republic Bangui5,633,412Sango, French
ChadN’Djamena16,818,391French, Arabic
Democratic Republic of Congo Kinshasa13,171,000French
Equatorial GuineaMalabo1,505,588Spanish, Portuguese, French
GabonLibreville2,233,272French
Republic of the CongoBrazzaville 5,970,000French
São Tomé and PríncipeSao Tome223,364Portuguese

West Africa

West Africa is known for having a major migration movement known as Bantu Expansion around 2300 BCE.

Some areas are based on the Trans-Saharan trade, and some areas are also built on stone-like structures, but mainly constructed in adobe. West Africa has a significantly strong economic block not comparable to any other region on the continent, except that of East Africa. The region is made up of over 15 countries with some having strong economies and others being small nations. 

The largest economy in west Africa is Nigeria, which also holds over 70% of the entire west African economy. The West African region also produces 80% of the world’s total cocoa, cassava, and yams

CountriesCapitalPopulation Language 
Benin Porto Novo12,506,347French
Burkina Faso Ouagadougou21,510,181French 
Cabo VerdePraia563,198Portuguese
Côte d’IvoireYamoussoukro29,389,150French
GhanaAccra33,133,230English 
GuineaConakry 12,907,395French 
Guinea-Bissau Bissau1,647,000Portuguese
LiberiaMonrovia3,786,764English 
MaliBamako22,594,000French
Mauritania Nouakchott4,556,758Arabic
NigerNiamey26,309,583French
NigeriaAbuja218,541,000English 
SenegalDakar17,223,497French
Sierra LeoneFreetown8,494,260English 
The GambiaBanjul2,706,000English 
TogoLome7,886,000French

Eastern Africa

The Eastern region of Sub-Saharan Africa is mostly influenced by agriculture. It often is Africa’s gateway to trading with India and the Mediterranean.

Economically, the East African region has the most powerful and most united block than any other region. Ethiopia is the region’s largest economy and also the region’s most populated with over 100 million people.

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The Kenyan capital is a financial powerhouse on the African continent. Ethiopia is also home to the African Union Headquarters. Nonetheless, the region is marked with strong inequalities and is home to a majority of the world’s poorest nations.

The table below contains the country, capital, population and language of the Eastern Sub-Saharan countries.

Countries Capital Population Language 
BurundiBujumbura12,574,571Kirundi, French, English
ComorosMoroni798,000Arabic, French 
EritreaAsmera896,000Tigrinya, Tigre, Saho, Kunama, Rashaida, Bilen, Afar, Beni, Amir, Nera.
EthiopiaAddis Ababa105,163,988Oromo, Amharic, Somali, Tigrinya, Afar
KenyaNairobi 56,622,037English
MadagascarAntananarivo29,400,710Malagasy, French
MalawiLilongwe21,507,723English
Mauritius Port Louis 149,000English
Mozambique Maputo31,616,078Portuguese
RwandaKigali13,722,415Kinyarwanda, English, French, Swahili
Seychelles Victoria 100,447Creole, English, French
SomaliaMogadishu17,598,000Somali, Arabic
South SudanJuba11,380,000English
SudanKhartoum44,956,995Arabic, English
UgandaKampala48,971,937English, Swahili
Tanzania Dodoma61,280,743English, Kiswahili
ZimbabweHarare15,178,979English, Chewa, Chibarwe, Kalanga, Koisan, Nambya, Ndau, Ndebele, Shangani, Shona, Sign Language, Sotho, Tonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa
ZambiaLusaka19,623,400English

Conclusion

The Sub-Saharan countries are 48 out of the 54 African countries in Africa. The region is known for a particular way of life that differs from other regions of the world, including North Africa. 

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Which is the poorest country in Sub-Saharan Africa?

Burundi is the poorest country in Sub-Saharan Africa, followed by Somalia, Mozambique, Central African Republic, and Madagascar.

Why is Sudan a Sub-Saharan African country?

Geographically, Sudan is in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is also important to note that Sudan is not a North African country as it is often mistaken. The country is located in North and East Africa.

What is the largest economy in Sub-Saharan Africa?

The largest economy in Sub-Saharan Africa remains Nigeria with a GDP ofover 440 billion dollars. South Africa is second with a GDP of over 400 billion dollars.

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Richard Okoroafor

Richard Okoroafor

Richard is a brilliant legal content writer who doubles as a finance lawyer. He brings his wealth of legal knowledge in corporate commercial transactions to bear, offering the best value that exceeds expectations.

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