Gross corruption, constant wars, and irrational economics long made Africa a poor, troubled continent where natural-resource companies were almost the only multinationals that dared or cared to do business. But in the 1990s, the picture improved. The wars started subsiding. Many governments balanced their budgets and created a better, safer environment for companies, both foreign and domestic. And the African consumer began to stir. Now 80 million households earn at least the equivalent of $5,000 annually, the point where discretionary spending commences—an increase of 80 percent in eight years. Meanwhile, the continent’s GDP has been rising steadily, at around 5 percent a year, for the past decade, reaching $1.6 trillion in 2008. Last year, Africa was one of just two regions (the other was Asia) where GDP rose.
Is all this good news sustainable? At the 2010 Fortune Global Forum, in Cape Town, South Africa, Publishing’s Rik Kirkland spoke with Absa’s Maria Ramos, Coca-Cola’s Bill Egbe, and’s Norbert Dörr to find the answer.
A panel of regional business leaders discusses its prospects.