Is Africa’s rise for real this time?

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from Fortune Magazine,

Its economics are surging, and foreign investment is exploding. The challenges—including Ebola—are immense. But the continent may finally be ready to deliver on its promise.

Africa may no longer be “the jungle”, but to many in the business world it still seems as untapped a market as is possible in the 21st century. Its economies have soared since 2000, thanks mostly to the rise in prices for commodities that Africa has in abundance, such as gold, copper, iron ore, zinc, platinum, and oil. That, together with big new oil and gas finds and Western countries’ writing off billions in African debt, has meant high growth rates across the continent, even during the worst recession in decades. The IMF predicts 5.4% average growth this year for Africa’s 48 sub-Saharan countries, where more than 800 million people live. That’s far above the 3.6% global average. Oil-rich Nigeria grew 6.2% last year and in April overtook South Africa as Africa’s biggest economy. Even tiny Sierra Leone grew about 13% last year (though the devastating Ebola epidemic has since walloped its economy). Africa’s population is rocketing too. By mid-century there will be more Nigerians than Americans on the planet. And the United Nations estimates that by 2035 half of all Africans will live in cities. That means millions of people who once subsisted as bare-bones farmers will be earning and spending cash and driving demand for countless consumer items, almost all of which are currently imported. The trend is already evident. Nigeria’s 170 million people are now among the world’s biggest consumers of imported tomato paste and rice, and they drink more champagne than anyone outside France.

In the popular imagination, there have long been two dominant visions of Africa—as a land of dire poverty and conflict, and as a place of sublime wilderness. Now there is a third cliché: “Africa rising.” The phrase describes a continent whose dire limitations—such as the chronic lack of electricity, rail lines, airports, and paved roads—translate into astonishing business opportunities as economies expand. The sense that one can tap into gaping needs, often with few competitors, has not gone unnoticed by U.S. investors.

In August, President Barack Obama hosted the first-ever U.S.-Africa business summit in Washington, with dozens of African leaders in attendance. The focus was not on aiding the poor, as it might once have been, but on making multibillion-dollar deals that eclipsed decades of government handouts to African states.

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