10 numbers that show how a few African nations are winning - or can top - the race to be very rich

A fifth of Africa's candles are imported by Angola alone, Nigeria produces two thirds of Africa's yams and a quarter of Africa's eggs

IT seems that every day, a new road is being commissioned or built in Ethiopia; the country is on a massive infrastructure-building spree. 

Although hard data is scanty on just how many new roads, ports, houses and bridges have been built in the past few years, it can be inferred by looking at cement consumption per capita.

Before 2010, the country’s cement consumption per capita was just 35kg/year, very low indeed by international standards; the global average was 390kg/year. But with the government’s Growth & Transformation Plan (GTP) launched in 2010, cement consumption by 2013 had nearly doubled to 62kg/year. 

If the GTP is implemented in full, cement production will spike to 300kg/year by 2017, meaning that a large chunk of new infrastructure built in Africa over the next three years will probably be in Ethiopia.

We look at ten other scenarios in Africa where one - or a handful - of countries make an outsized contribution to the total:

1.   The Congo River is massive in terms of water volume. Of the 13 fairly big rivers in Africa – those with a discharge of more than 2,000 cubic metres per second – the Congo River accounts for 44% of that flow, discharging 41,200 cubic metres per second. Although the Nile is Africa’s longest river, it actually doesn’t have that much water in it, discharging just 2,830 metres per second. In fact, of those 13 big rivers, nine are tributaries of the Congo.

2.    21.8% of alcohol consumed per capita in Africa is in just five countries – South Africa, which consumed 11 litres of pure alcohol per person (aged 15+), Gabon at 10.9 litres, Namibia at 10.8 litres, Nigeria at 10.1 litres, and Uganda and Rwanda are tied in fifth place at 9.8 litres per person.

3.    Africa is famously power-starved, but has huge untapped potential, particularly in renewables. 80% of Africa’s untapped geothermal power is in Ethiopia and Kenya, and 50% of Africa’s  hydro potential is in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 66% of sub Sahara Africa’s wind potential is in five countries—Angola, Chad, Somalia, South Africa, and Sudan.

4.    Candles are a major source of lighting for much of Africa, with the continent using up 27 candles per person each year, which is more than the per capita consumption of Coca Cola. Africa as a whole imported $103 million worth of candles in 2013, with Angola accounting for 20% of that import bill – this is despite the fact that Angola is sub-Sahara Africa’s third richest country.

5.    Africa produces 10 million metric tonnes of refined sugar a year, but a fifth of that – 2.1 million tonnes – are produced in South Africa alone. But South Africa is currently facing the worst drought in two decades, particularly in Kwa-Zulu Natal where most of the sugarcane farms are located; at least three mills have closed so far, with eight more facing closure.

6.    One in five of the babies born in Africa are born in Nigeria. There are about 30 million babies born every year in Africa, which comes to about 57 births a minute. 11 of those are in Nigeria, where 5.9 million babies are born every year.

7.    Two-thirds of the yams produced in Africa are produced in Nigeria; the country produced 40.4 million tonnes in 2013, while Africa’s production was 60.6 million. In fact, global production was 63 million, thus Nigeria produced 64% of the world’s yams. Nigeria also produces a third of Africa’s millet and a quarter of Africa’s eggs.

8.    According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the average protein supply per person in Africa from meat is just 7 grams per day, compared with China where it is 19g per capita/day, and the US where it is 39g. But an outsized chunk of the protein from meat available in Africa is in South Africa, at 22g per person per day. Some big countries have a very small meat protein supply per person - Nigeria is at 3.46g while Ethiopia is just 2.8g.

9.    Two-thirds (66%) of the fixed line telephone subscriptions in Africa today are found in just four countries: Egypt, South Africa, Algeria and Morocco. And when it comes to broadband, 35% of Africa’s broadband subscriptions are found in Egypt.

10.   Half of the cement being consumed in Africa today is in just two countries – Nigeria (18.3 million metric tonnes) and South Africa (12.2 million metric tonnes). In fact, half of Africa’s infrastructure stock of $400 billion in 2012 was held by just four countries: South Africa, Algeria, Egypt and Morocco.

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