Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Due largely to the effects of corrupt governments, despotism, and constant conflict, Africa is the world's poorest inhabited continent. According to the United Nations' Human Development Report in 2003, the bottom 25 ranked nations (151st to 175th) were all African nations.

While rapid growth in China and India, and moderate growth in Latin America has lifted millions beyond subsistence living, Africa has gone backwards in terms of foreign trade, investment, and per capita income. This poverty has widespread effects, including lower life expectancy, violence, and instability -- factors intertwined with the continent's poverty.

Some areas, notably Botswana and South Africa, have experienced economic success. The latter has a wealth of natural resources, being the world's leading producers of both gold and diamonds, and a well-established legal system. South Africa also has access to financial capital, numerous markets, skilled labor, and first world infrastructure in much of the country and the opening of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

Over a quarter of Botswana's budget (also a major diamond producer) goes toward improving the infrastructure of Gaborone, the nation's capital, largest city, and one of the world's fastest growing cities. Other African countries are making comparable progress, such as Ghana, Kenya, Cameroon and Egypt.

Nigeria sits on one of the largest proven oil reserves in the world and has the highest population among nations in Africa, with one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.

From 1995 to 2005, economic growth picked up, averaging 5% in 2005. However some countries experienced much higher growth (10+%) in particular, Angola, Sudan and Equatorial Guinea, all three of which have recently begun extracting their petroleum reserves.

Zimbabwe is the only country in Africa experiencing negative economic growth.