In the end credit scene of 2018’s Black Panther, King T’Challa gave a speech to the United Nations General Assembly. He stated that the Kingdom of Wakanda will not, cannot, and must not watch the world from the seclusion of its borders. Instead, the nation will share its knowledge and resources with the outside world and serve as an example of how people should treat each other. A rather moving speech was interrupted by a world leader who had, expressing due respect, asked King T’Challa what the nation of farmers could offer the rest of the world?
But what Assembly members didn’t know at the time is that Wakanda is one of the wealthiest and most technologically advanced countries on Earth in Marvel’s universe, thanks to its numerous resources. These resources include uranium, coal, diamonds, and Vibranium — an extraterrestrial metal that can manipulate kinetic energy and other near mystical properties. The studying and exploitation of this rare metal made Wakanda incredibly prosperous, but to what extent? Just how rich is the nation of Wakanda in terms of GDP?
GDP, or gross domestic product, is a monetary measure of the market value of all the final goods and services produced by a country within a specific timeframe. For example, the current GDP of the US is at approx. $19 trillion. However, GDP is an incredibly complex measure, and it’s often revised several times over before being considered a reliable indicator of growth. So, calculating a GDP of a fictional kingdom isn’t really feasible. But we can still discuss the numbers disclosed in Marvel Comics and the MCU.
The Black Panther movie narrates the story of how Vibranium first struck the African nation and how it fused with the continent and its fauna. In fact, the meteorite formed a mountain rich with Vibranium and was named Mount Bashenga — after the warrior shaman who became the first Black Panther and united the Wakandan Tribes under his rule. Mount Bashenga, or the Great Mound, is the world’s only known natural source of powerful and precious metal.
The people of Wakanda began studying and excavating the Vibranium and, upon discovering its nearly endless applications, decided to isolate the country from the outside world to keep the metal out of the wrong hands. And from both a moral and economic standpoint, this was the right thing to do. Most countries that finance their economies on one resource aren’t really interested in its broader applications and are mostly looking to profit from one or two products or derivatives of said resource.
Such states often fall under what’s called a “resource curse,” where the worth of the resource and its sale is the primary concern and the broader applications aren’t. The most common examples are the countries that export crude oil to petrol-states, which refine it into gasoline and other products, and profit even more. And this is where Wakanda differs from other countries. Having chosen isolation, the Wakandan ancestors basically confined the Vibranium within the country’s borders, which encouraged its people to study the metal further, and refine it for broader applications.
This means that nearly everything in Wakanda, from textiles and electronics to heavy machinery, involves the use and application of Vibranium metal. This requires specialized talent and engineers, which in turn, requires a strong educational foundation and infrastructure. In fact, as the future Queen Shuri had pointed out, Wakanda has an entire Research & Development department dedicated to developing further uses for Vibranium.
So, instead of simply funding their economy, Vibranium and its refinement for more extensive use actually form the backbone of Wakanda’s economy. Wakanda isn’t rich because Vibranium retails at $10,000 per gram, as stated in Fantastic Four #607 comics. It’s rich because the country didn’t sell it as raw material but has instead used it to industrialize first, gain the technological advantage, and then use said advantage to develop the nation and improve the quality of life of its people.
And now for the numbers: Wakanda’s sitting on top of 10,000 tons of mined Vibranium, kept in the country’s vaults. Considering its price of $10,000 per gram times 1000 grams per kilo, times 1000 kilos per ton, the end value of mined Vibranium is approximately $100 trillion. And that’s just for the Vibranium that Wakanda had mined; we don’t really know how much Vibranium fell to Africa. However, Vibranium isn’t the most valuable resource in Wakanda.
At one point in the comics, all Vibranium on Earth was rendered inert, and the metal’s value plummeted significantly, leaving Wakanda without one of its most significant resources. In the very same issue of Fantastic Four, T’Challa revealed that he began liquidating Wakanda’s Vibranium resources at some 400 ounces a day in the past decade. Using the previously established numbers as an example, that’s close to $113 million a day, or well over $413 billion per decade. We haven’t adjusted the numbers for inflation.
But T’Challa goes on to explain that the incoming capital was heavily invested in developing economies, and as the result of this forward-thinking, Wakanda’s cash reserves numbered trillions of dollars even with the Vibranium inert. That’s enough to ensure Wakanda’s continued development for generations to come.
This is a very stirring reminder that Wakanda’s riches don’t stem from the country’s vast supply of Vibranium. Instead, the nation’s riches and prosperity are a return on investments made by its leaders through history, who had the well-being and education of its citizens in mind first. And that’s just one page from Wakanda’s book all political leaders should take.