Sub-Saharan Africa 2015: Success story of the millennium?

Elliot Wilson
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Optimism continues to surround Sub-Saharan Africa’s growth prospects, despite current worries linked to falling oil prices and China’s slowdown.

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MANY TALK OF this being China’s century, yet over the past 15 years Sub-Saharan Africa has run the People’s Republic close. To some, this region, once impoverished and war-torn, now one of the most optimistic places around, can even claim to be the economic success story of the new millennium. Gross domestic product across the region has grown by an average of more than 5% a year since 2000, according to data from the World Bank, buoyed by better governance, the spread of democratic principles and economic reforms. 

Democracy has gone hand in hand with deregulation and market liberalization, opening once-closed markets to unfettered enterprise. In 1989, just three regional economies were considered even partly democratic. By 2014, according to the US non-governmental organization Freedom House, that number had risen to 22. And the direction...