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African nations representing remarkable opportunities for local, regional, and international businesses

By 2040 Africa will have a larger workforce than China or India, speakers told a Stanford Africa Forum 2011 conference, exploring opportunities for business development in the 50-plus nations of that continent whose business opportunities are often overlooked.

Africa has an unfortunate PR problem. While new coverage of the area is often focused on political unrest, conflicts, poverty, drought — Africa is in fact doing just as well as, if not better than, other developing regions of the world.

This was the message from more than a dozen entrepreneurs, executives, and venture capitalists speaking at the Stanford Africa Forum 2011 conference, held at the Graduate School of Business in January 2011.

These natives and ex-patriots alike agreed that the 50-plus nations comprising Africa represent remarkable opportunities for local, regional, and international business enterprises to do well while doing good.

The key, said Babajide Sodipo, former advisor to Rwanda's Ministry of Trade and Industry, is to focus one’s business sights on efforts that truly meet the people's needs. "African governments don't want investment for its own sake," he said. "They want those that will create prosperity and improve people’s lives."

Africa is, in fact, ranked as "easier to do business" in than either China or India, according to Thomas Barry, founder of Zephyr Management investment firm, who delivered the opening keynote address. And it supersedes the other two countries in another factor critical for business success: renewable internal freshwater resources. Moreover, by 2040, the continent will have a larger workforce than China or India, totaling more than 1.1 billion people.

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