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A police officer directs traffic in a bustling downtown intersection in Freetown, Sierra Leone. (Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)
A police officer directs traffic in a bustling downtown intersection in Freetown, Sierra Leone. (Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)

Africa next

Africa next: With investment outpacing aid, is this a new golden age for the poorest continent? Add to ...

For example, Mozambique, one of the poorest and most war-damaged countries in Africa, is grappling with a flood of billions of foreign dollars into developing its coal deposits and natural-gas reserves. It will create thousands of jobs, but many of them will be filled by foreigners. Meanwhile, the boom is already causing the prices of food, electricity and transport to rise sharply.

Some countries are finding more sustainable ways to build growth.

In the “Silicon Savannah” of Kenya, a burgeoning high-tech sector and a fast-growing cellphone-based mobile-money industry have nurtured thousands of entrepreneurs. In mountainous Lesotho, thousands are employed in textile factories that take advantage of a U.S. duty-free policy, making Lesotho the continent’s biggest apparel exporter to the United States.

In Sierra Leone, one of the biggest hopes for sustainable job potential is the nascent tourist industry. Sierra Leone is trying to lure tourists by branding itself as “a diamond in the rough.”

Just outside Freetown, a new four-lane highway is beginning to stretch toward the idyllic palm-fringed sandy beaches of the Atlantic coast. The beaches are largely empty, but they represent an asset that could generate thousands of jobs.

So far, potential tourists’ impressions are still clouded by memories of televised war and bloodshed. But entrepreneurs are persisting. At a resort called Tokeh, the owners are planning a $5-million renovation, with several dozen rooms and villas to be opened by 2014.

“It’s a frontier now, but this place is going to explode in the next 10 years,” says Joe Pearce, a British consultant who is helping with the rehabilitation.

He recalls how the resort was looted during the war years. “Generator by generator, floorboard by floorboard, tile by tile, it was dismantled.”

Now, the Sierra Leonean family that owns it are repairing a helipad, buying a new boat and planning a marina for their future visitors.

“You just have to stand on the beach to see it,” Mr. Pearce says. “You have everything here: mountains, wildlife, rain forest, deep-sea fishing, amazing beaches. The potential here is fantastic.”

By the numbers

7 of 10: The proportion of the fastest-growing economies from 2011 to 2015 that are projected to be in sub-Saharan Africa. Ghana, with a 13-per-cent growth rate, boasted the world’s fastest expansion last year. In eight of the past 10 years, sub-Saharan Africa has grown faster than Asia.

5.4: Percentage by which Africa’s gross domestic product is expected to rise this year, well above the global growth rate of 3.5 per cent. Analysts predict that Africa will continue expanding at 6 per cent annually for the next decade – approaching or exceeding Asia’s growth rate.

4: The number of major African wars today, down from 12 in the mid-1990s. The number of coups has dropped by half from the average of 20 per decade from 1960 to 2000.

48: Percentage by which secondary-school enrolment in Africa rose from 2000 to 2008. Child mortality has declined by more than 5 per cent annually in at least 10 African countries since 2005. Malaria deaths have dropped dramatically, falling by more than 30 per cent in countries such as Zambia and Tanzania since 2004.

100,000: The number of Portuguese living in Angola last year, up from 21,000 in 2003. That is more than triple the number of Angolans living in Portugal. Migration flows are beginning to reverse, with thousands of construction workers from Europe flocking to Africa to find jobs in the boom.

$554-billion: Cumulative foreign direct investment in Africa by the end of 2010 – up from a total of just $110-billion in 1998. Annual investment flows into Africa are expected to double over the next three years.

$1.4-trillion: The level that annual consumer spending in Africa is projected to reach by 2020, nearly double the $860-billion in 2008. By 2050, a projected 63 per cent of Africa’s population will be urban dwellers. Africa’s middle class is the fastest-growing in the world, and by some measures has doubled in less than 20 years.

1,400: The number of KFC outlets that Yum Brands plans to have in Africa by 2014, twice as many as in 2010. IBM has opened offices in more than 20 African countries. Wal-Mart spent $2.4-billion to acquire a department-store chain with nearly 300 outlets across Africa.

20 per cent: The annual growth in cellphone sales in Africa in each of the past five years, making the continent the world’s fastest-growing market for cellphones. In the late 1990s, Ghana had only 50,000 functioning phone lines for its 20 million people. Today, three-quarters of its population has access to cellphones.

$900-billion: The projected level of Africa’s annual agricultural output two decades from now, up from $280-billion today. Africa has 60 per cent of the world’s uncultivated arable land.

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