In 2000, The Economist ran a cover story about Africa with the headline, â€œThe Hopeless Continent?â€ This week, Business Weekâ€™s cover asks, â€œCan Greed Save Africa?â€ Both headlines are silly–to say that a continent of more than 50 countries and 900 million people is hopeless is, at best, a gross generalization and, at worst, patronizing. As for greed, itâ€™s not going to save anyone, let alone save an entire continent. But capitalism and democracyâ€”those forces do seem to be having a positive impact in much of Africa, more so than the billions of dollars of aid that has poured into Africa for decades. That turns out to be the argument made by Roben Farzad whose BW story is worth reading.
Africaâ€™s been on my mind this week. On Tuesday, I went to a conference in New York convened by IBM called Africa: Open for Business. Thatâ€™s the topic of todayâ€™s CNNMoney column. On Wednesday, I met with executives of a private equity fund called Emerging Capital Partners that invests exclusively in Africa and has done very well. (Iâ€™ll write about them later.) I also spent some time with Paul Faeth of the Global Water Challenge, a NGO that is working on water and sanitation issues in Africa, and heard about how a market-driven approach to providing clean water is making some headway. I came away feeling optimistic. There are a lot of exciting things happening in Africa, few of which make their way into the mainstream media.
Hereâ€™s how todayâ€™s column begins:
Stereotypical images of Africa, as a global backwater plagued by poverty, disease, conflict and corruption, hide some encouraging realities. Democracy has taken root across the continent. The African economy is expanding briskly. So, too, are opportunities for businesses.
That’s why IBM announced this week that it’s expanding its stake in sub-Saharan Africa. The $91-billion-a-year technology giant will open a research and innovation center in Johannesburg for its biggest business customers. It will donate what it says is by far the most powerful supercomputer in Africa to a nonprofit computing center in Cape Town. Working with the poverty-fighting organization CARE, IBM will roll out a technology platform to reduce the costs of microfinance.
Finally, it will expand a mentoring program at 20 African universities, working with other multinationals, including Cisco and FedEx. Altogether, IBM said it would increase its investment in its African operations by about $120 million over the next two years.
You can read the rest here.