Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity


Views from the Center


The Economist has a nice piece here on the True Size of Africa. It’s about geographic size (Africa is bigger than you think – which is true for all countries and regions near the equator that don’t benefit from the Mercator distortion in our two-dimensional map world).

The True Size of Africa- The Economist

Here’s a copy of my comment posted there:

The true size of Africa? Not bigger than we think because Mercator projection confuses, but smaller than we think because we can't "map" ECONOMIC size. Not even the Economist has done it -- but here is a summary.

Five years ago sub-Saharan Africa's economy was no bigger than that of the city of Chicago. (Imagine Chicago with 46 different ministers of education, transportation, finance etc., and 46 customs border inspection systems. And visas needed to go from downtown to uptown or whatever they call it in Chicago.) Today, my colleague Todd Moss at the Center for Global Development reports that mostly due to oil sub-Saharan Africa is bigger (economic size remember): now comparable to Chicago only if South Africa is excluded, which is all by itself the size of . . . Atlanta! Add South Africa and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa and you get Chicago plus Atlanta: an economy approaching $1 trillion. In this ChicAtlan continental economy the median country is about one-quarter the economic size of. . . . Vermont, the smallest U.S. state.

That's why Africa's leaders wish they could overcome the politics of sovereignty and eliminate the cost of all those borders -- something the Europeans have been working on for half a century.

Update: The folks at Worldmapper have actually produced a map that shows what the world would look like if countries' geographic size corresponded to their economic size (GDP). Here it is (a bigger version is on their site):

World Wealth Map


CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.