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A Healthier, Wealthier Africa

ZURICH – The BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) have long been the focus of emerging-market investors. But it is in Africa, a region with the world’s second-fastest growth, where the next big business opportunities lie. In about one-third of the continent’s 55 countries, annual GDP growth is above 6%, and Sub-Saharan Africa grew at an estimated 5.1% pace in 2013.

Foreign investors report that their return on investment in Africa is higher than in any other emerging region. By 2040, the continent’s working-age population will total an estimated 1.1 billion people, providing businesses with a larger labor pool than even China or India. Moreover, economic expansion is taking place not just in urban centers, but in small towns and villages as well.

However, Africa also faces major challenges. One of the biggest concerns is inadequate health care. Preventable and treatable diseases plague the population. Life expectancy is 14 years below the global average. Nearly one in 20 adults in the 15-49 age group in Sub-Saharan Africa lives with HIV – roughly six times the global average. Every minute, an African child dies from malaria.

Africa’s rapid economic growth and urbanization are also creating new health challenges. Non-communicable diseases are projected to become the most common causes of death by 2030. The number of diabetes cases, for example, is expected nearly to double over the next two decades.