Since 1971 when the least developed countries (LDCs) category was created by the UN, sub-Saharan African countries have dominated the list. Four decades later, with 33 members (only 14 of the region’s 47 countries are not LDCs), sub-Saharan Africa still maintains the biggest regional presence in the group. All parts of the sub-continent are represented. In recent years, two countries from the continent, Botswana and Cape Verde, have graduated out of the category. Analysts say others (including Angola and Equatorial Guinea) have the potential to join them. However, the newly created state of South Sudan is widely expected join the LDCs group.
Africa’s LDCs are a highly diverse group, but most have in common an average growth of around 5 per cent in recent years. Of these countries, oil exporters (Angola, Chad, Equatorial Guinea and Sudan) and mineral producers (the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique and Zambia) benefited most from the surge in demand for commodities, mainly from the emerging economies of China, India and Brazil. Such a trend has led to an increased dependence of their economies on primary commodities, according to the latest Least Development Countries Report of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
One feature of African LDCs is their high rates of return on foreign direct investments, at around 13 per cent. UNCTAD says that investing in LDCs is a smart move. “Rates of return on foreign direct investment … are much higher than on investment in developed, or even other developing, countries.”
* Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia.