Editor's Note: Eliot Pence is a Director at the Whitaker Group, a corporate strategy firm focused on sub-Saharan Africa with offices in Washington, DC and Accra, Ghana.
By Eliot Pence - Special to CNN
Since The Economist labeled Africa “the hopeless continent” ten years ago, the continent has changed dramatically for the better. While a number of factors contribute to the continent’s increased growth, four trends in particular standout:
1. Political stability ― Africa has slowly become more stable, if only marginally more democratic. Overall country risk, according to the Economist’s research outfit, EIU, of Senegal, Ghana, and Mozambique is lower than those of other emerging markets generally considered more stable, such as Argentina, Ukraine and the Philippines, and of the 17 elections Africa had this year, the majority were free and fair.
2. The commodities “super cycle” — 2003-08 was the third major commodity price boom since the Second World War (1951-53 and 1973-75 were the others). China’s resource intensive growth prompted the boom and substantially increased demand for Africa’s resources, pushing up the prices of hard and soft commodities by, in some cases, over 250%. In their 2010 report, McKinsey estimated that the commodities boom accounted for about a third of Africa’s growth.
3. Trade and aid — Public Private Partnerships, a concept that emphasizes collaboration between public sector and private actors, has opened up investment opportunities that would otherwise be unfeasible or unattractive by increasing risk sharing, technology transfer and sustainability.
4. A technological boom — Saying Africa “leapfrogged” through technology would underestimate the effect technology has had. Already, Africa has over 500 million mobile subscribers (up from 15 million in 2000). By 2015, Africa will have the highest mobile subscription rate in the world. African companies have also pioneered integrative technologies, such as mobile banking, where 1 in 2 mobile bankers globally is African (actually, Kenyan).
The Economist's reversal (they now dub Africa the "hopeful continent") may well become the bumper-sticker description for Africa’s remarkable change since 2000. But as the Economist itself notes, there remain massive obstacles — not least of which is marked by World Aids Day and the reality that fully 60% of people living with HIV live in Africa.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of Eliot Pence.