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Published: Wednesday, 12/28/2011


Better days in Africa

After years of turmoil, Africa's economic performance and political stability are showing an uptick.

The International Monetary Fund projects economic growth in Africa of about 6 percent, both this year and in 2012. Over the past decade, six of the world's 10 fastest-growing economies have been in Africa. Africa's productivity has been growing at 3 percent a year, compared with 2.3 percent for the United States.

Africa's 1 billion people create a largely undeveloped market that offers significant potential to investors and exporters. Although African economies still depend greatly on export commodities such as copper, diamonds, gold, and oil, light industry and services are growing in importance on the continent.

Africa's trade continues to shift from former colonial powers to Brazil, Russia, India, and China. Those countries now account for 20 percent of African commerce.

Political instability continues to impair Africa's prospects for economic improvement. Ghastly spots of warfare on the continent render some countries human-rights catastrophes as well as centers of exemplary corruption.

In the latter category are clearly Zimbabwe, Somalia, and the new South Sudan. Egypt and Libya also are countries of concern, as the Arab Spring proceeds in North Africa.

Two potential sticks of dynamite haven't exploded -- yet. Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo held disputed elections this fall. There was major concern in both countries that voters would not accept results that were subject to doubt.

Liberians re-elected President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, although opponents claimed fraud. So far, events after the elections have proceeded more smoothly than Liberia's violent recent history might have suggested.

President Joseph Kabila won re-election in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but again with charges of fraud. One defeated candidate has had himself installed as a rival president.

But the country, like Liberia, hasn't blown up. Both Liberians and Congolese appear to have grown weary of pointless violence that severely damages their prospects for economic development.

These matters hint at a brighter future for Africa, whose modern history has been economically and politically blighted. The rest of the world can rejoice.

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