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Yes, California’s GDP is larger than that of Africa’s combined

This article is more than 5 years old

The US state of California has a larger gross domestic product than that of all African countries put together, a popular Twitter account claimed in January 2019.

In a tweet to its nearly 900,000 followers The Spectator Index said the state’s GDP was US$2.9 trillion, and Africa’s $2.33 trillion. More than this, California had a bigger economy than the UK, France, India, Brazil and Russia, the tweet said.

Africa Check has asked Spectator Index for the source of its data. We’ve previously fact checked a number of claims from this account but have not received a response to requests for the source of its information.

Could one US state have a larger GDP than that of Africa, a continent of 55 recognised states? It could, although the actual figures differ slightly.

GDP measures the size of a country’s economy. It is the market value of all goods and services produced in a country in a given period, usually a year.

What does the data show?

In 2017, the combined GDP of 54 African countries was $2.24 trillion, according to the most recent data from the African Development Bank.

California’s GDP was $2.798 trillion in 2017, according to the US Bureau of Economic Analysis. These figures are at current market rates, which means they have not been adjusted for inflation.

Analysts have previously told Africa Check that while GDP at market rates does not always reflect the cost of living in a country, it is the most appropriate measure to get a sense of the size of an economy.

California’s GDP is so large it makes up 14% of the United States’ total GDP of  $19.48 trillion.

Can you compare different geographical regions?

But is it fair to size up economies this way? Comparing the GDP of different geographical regions was accepted practice, Grieve Chelwa, who lectures economics at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business, previously told Africa Check.

It’s a useful way to better understand the size of an economy. “For example, it’s far easier if I say ‘if California were a country it would be the xth largest country by economy’ than if I gave you some absolute statement about the actual size of California’s GDP,” said Chelwa. -Cayley Clifford (21/01/2019)

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