Q: What do the following 15 countries have in common? Botswana, Cameroon, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Lesotho, Swaziland, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Thailand, Zimbabwe?
A: From 1960 to 1970, all of them were poorer than Zambia in terms of GDP per capita. As of 2011, all of them (apart from Zimbabwe) were richer than Zambia.
Q: Which countries experienced a decline in GDP per capita?
A: Zimbabwe and Zambia are the only countries that today have a lower GDP per capita than in 1960. Between 1960 and 2000, Zambia was the only one that experienced a decline.
Q: Which years are the extremes for Zambia?
A: In 1965, Zambians were at their best and in 1999 at their worst, suffering a 50% decline. In 2011, there was a 41% improvement from the lowest figure in 1999. Zambians in 1965 were just over 40% richer than today.
Q: What is the gap between Zambia and the best country (Botswana) on the list?
A: Botswana is almost ten times richer than Zambia. Between 1960 and 1965 Zambia was more than twice richer than Botswana. Botswana overtook Zambia in 1972.
Q: What about Zambia and China compared?
A: In 1962, Zambia was seven times richer than China until 1990 when China overtook Zambia. Currently, China is six times richer than Zambia.
Q: What other important observations are there?
A: Zambia suffered the longest continuous period of decline (35 years). Every 5 years from 1965 to 2000, there was an overall decline. Eleven countries had a steady upward improvement from 1965. The other four (Cameroon, Nigeria, Sudan, Zimbabwe) experienced wild fluctuations.
Q: What lessons can we learn from all this?
A: Considering the wide diversity of countries compared, the policies Zambia followed after 1964 are what had the greatest impact. It is not resources, culture, population, the oil crisis of the 70s or even the drop in copper prices in the same period. Watch this space for more details.
GDP per capita at constant 2000 US$
http://bit.ly/18y4u4u (Logarithmic Scale)
http://bit.ly/11coS96 (Linear Scale)