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Into Africa ... Chinese industrialist Jin Yi sealing deal with South African politician Noxolo Kiviet
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IT'S THE last place in the world you might expect to find green shoots, so whisper it quietly — Ethiopia is starting to BOOM. Its economy, though still small, is now growing nearly TEN times faster than our own in the UK.

And it's not just Ethiopia — seared into the West's minds by the 1985 famine which sparked Live Aid — that is being transformed.

Ghana's output, or GDP, is expected to rise by nine per cent in 2012 — almost rivalling that of China.

Zambia, whose footballers won the Africa Cup of Nations last month, is storming the economic league too.

In all, seven of the world's top ten fastest growing economies between now and 2015 will come from Africa.

The growth rates across the continent are distorted by how poor the countries have been until now.

But big business has taken note of the opportunities. Just ask Diageo, the British company behind Guinness.

In January the company bought Meta Abo, Ethiopia's biggest brewer, for nearly £150million.

Tim Ohlenburg, senior economist at the Centre for Economics and Business Research, says: "Africa has a lot of natural resources such as oil and copper at a time of high commodity prices.

"But a middle class is also beginning to emerge, with a purchasing power, so they are becoming big and attractive markets."

Nigeria has been a big player for years thanks to vast oil reserves. But previously poor countries are catching up.

Economic output across sub-Saharan Africa was just $322billion in 2000. It is now FOUR TIMES higher at $1.22trillion — half the level in the UK. China has been leading the way, investing billions of yuan in a bid to bag most of the rich resources Africa has to offer.

Four years ago China struck an eye-watering deal to give the Democratic Republic of Congo $6billion.

This included China building 2,400 miles of road, 2,000 miles of railway, 32 hospitals and 145 health centres.

In return the Chinese got to take away ten million tons of copper and 400,000 tons of cobalt.

China is also the biggest market for Ethiopia, where coffee makes up almost half of its exports.

And the superpower is also busy in the more established South Africa. Just last month, Jin Yi, vice-president of Chinese car firm FAW, met with Eastern Cape Premier Noxolo Kiviet to celebrate a deal to build a local factory.

And western multinationals are catching up.

Shell is now one of those beating a door to east Africa and Mozambique, where one of the world's biggest gas fields has been found.

Mobile phone giants such as Vodafone also see huge potential. The number of mobile phone subscribers in Africa is going up by 20 per cent every year.

Banks are also piling in. Barclays made £910million in Africa last year and has 14.5million customers there.

Richard Dowden, director of the Royal African Society, said: "Just because bad stuff is happening in places like Zimbabwe, it doesn't mean there aren't good things happening in places like Ghana."

Forecast of annual GDP growth 2011-15

1. China 9.5%

2. India 8.2%

3. Ethiopia 8.1%

4. Mozambique 7.7%

5. Tanzania 7.2%

6. Vietnam 7.2%

7. DR Congo 7%

8. Ghana 7%

9. Zambia 6.9%

10. Nigeria 6.8%
Source: thesun.co.uk

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