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Analysis: Africa Engages with Open Eyes

Council on Foreign Relations

December 21, 2007
Author: Stephanie Hanson

The crises afflicting Darfur, Somalia, and Zimbabwe frequently appear in international headlines. But three other African countries—Equatorial Guinea, Angola, and Mauritania—scarcely make the news. Yet these countries are among the ten fastest growing economies in the world, and they stand at the forefront of a wave of economic growth that is sweeping the African continent. Over the past decade, World Bank data shows African nations posted an average growth rate of 5.4 percent, well outstripping recent economic growth in major developed countries, including the United States. This strong growth, in turn, has enabled African states much greater leeway to negotiate contracts for direct foreign investment, and many drive a harder bargain than they once did.

A flood of new investment interest in Africa, particularly from the United States, China, and Europe, has been directed mainly at the continent’s commodities. Some of the world’s largest deposits of natural resources reside in Africa, and much attention has been directed at China’s pursuit of both oil and minerals on the continent. Yet Yang Guang, the director of the Institute of West Asian and African Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, notes in an interview that U.S. investments in Africa have greatly eclipsed China’s. In 2006, Yang says, Chinese investment in Africa was roughly $11.7 billion, but U.S. trade with the continent was nearly $71.3 billion. Since the inception of the African Growth and Opportunity Act of 2000, U.S.-Africa trade has grown 143 percent.

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Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on with specific permission from the Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to

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