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Wealth and Population Data in Africa

National and UN/World Bank estimates of African GDP/capita are seriously flawed

Brian Sturgess - May 2012

There are very good grounds for challenging much of the conventionally accepted UN and World Bank economic data relating to both the absolute and relative per capita income of many African countries and to their growth rates over time. A recent paper by Morton Jerven published in World Economics demonstrated the unreliability of much if not most African GDP data and a new paper published in this issue by Deborah Potts challenges the accuracy of African population estimates"

Key Points
  • Most sub-Saharan African GDP data is of very poor quality, and in most cases probably significantly under-estimates the real level of economic activity.
  • Most African population data is of equally poor quality, and may over estimate population in many cases.
  • Due to the persistent underestimation of GDP and the likely overestimation of population , real income per capita in Africa may be significantly higher than previously assumed.
  • As a result almost all UN, World Bank , Aid Agency or similar data based on African income per capita statistics should be viewed as extremely unreliable.

Last year we published an article by Morton Jerven [1] of the University of British Colombia in Vancouver who demonstrated based on his own in-depth research and country visits to national statistical offices that faith in the accuracy of most sub-Saharan African country’s national accounts was little more than folly. Jerven’...

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