NEW YORK – Africa is changing dramatically – and so are outsiders’ attitudes toward it, with the US finally seeming determined to catch up with China, Europe, and India in their interest in the continent. US President Barack Obama’s recent summit with 40 African heads of state and more than 200 US and African business leaders suggests a new, more confident mood. That is encouraging; but as long as parts of Sub-Saharan Africa continue to struggle with violent conflict, poverty, and corruption, the continent’s economic potential will not be fully realized.
Africa’s economic growth and commercial opportunities are exciting and enticing. The region’s 300 million-strong middle class is growing by more than 5% annually. The continent leads in mobile banking. Consumer spending per capita is close to Indian and Chinese levels. If foreign investment, in partnership with the continent’s vibrant private sector, can benefit key sectors – particularly education, health care, and infrastructure – Africa may gain the broad-based development boost that its people need.