Sub-Saharan Africa is, geographically, the area of the continent of Africa that lies south of the Sahara. According to the United Nations, it consists of all African countries that are fully or partially located south of the Sahara.

Key Facts

1. Sub-Saharan Africa is a diverse region. It is not a single country, and shouldn’t be treated as such. It is a region home to a diverse range of people, languages, cultures, economies, motivations and attitudes. To give just one example in 2014, per capita GDP ranged from US$24,984 in Réunion to US$192 in Somalia, the median age of the population ranges from 35.1 in Mauritius to 15.0 in Niger.

PER CAPITA GDP IN SELECTED SUB-SAHARAN AFRICAN ECONOMIES: 2014


Source: Euromonitor International from national statistics/ OECD/UN/IMF

2. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to a young and growing population which will total 1 billion by 2018. It is experiencing the fastest population growth in the world – at 13.9% its population is expected to grow more than twice as fast as emerging and developing countries overall between 2014 and 2030.

POPULATION GROWTH IN EMERGING AND DEVELOPING ECONOMIES V SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA: 2014-2030


Source: Euromonitor International from national statistics/UN

3. Access to finance remains a key constraint to doing business in Sub-Saharan Africa. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2014/2015, in almost two thirds of the Sub-Saharan African countries included in the report, access to financing was deemed to be the most problematic factor for doing business. A lack of access to formal banking is a key feature of the region: according to the World Bank’s Global Findex, only 24% of the adult population (aged 15+) in Sub-Saharan Africa had an account at a formal financial institution in 2011, and only 3% had a credit card.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA’S MOST AND LEAST UNBANKED POPULATIONS: 2011


Source: World Bank Global Findex

4. Sub-Saharan Africa is the world’s least urbanized region, with 61.8% of the population residing in rural areas in 2014. There is a region of contrasts with urbanization ranging from about 12 % in Burundi to nearly 95% in Réunion. The region is developing fast, but at current rates, urbanization is unlikely to reach 50% before 2040.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA’S MOST AND LEAST URBANISED COUNTRIES: 2014


Source: Euromonitor International from national statistics/UN

5. Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. The region as a whole should be the second fastest-growing globally (behind Asia Pacific) achieving its fastest rate of growth since 2010.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA’S FASTEST-GROWING ECONOMIES IN 2015


Source: Euromonitor International from national statistics/ OECD/UN/IMF

6. Consumer expenditure has been exhibiting strong growth. Total spending in the region surpassed US$1 trillion for the first time in 2013 and reached US$1.1 trillion in 2014. Yet, in the majority of countries in the region, consumer expenditure still lies below US$1,000 per capita and it is not anticpated to be until 2030 that half of the region’s countries will reach the US$1,000 level (in 2014 prices).

PER CAPITA CONSUMER EXPENDITURE IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA’S LARGEST CONSUMER MARKETS: 2014 AND 2030


Source: Euromonitor International from national statistics/UN/OECD

Note: Data are in constant 2014 prices