Africa Rising: Sub-Saharan Africa Set for 2012 Boom

Article excerpt

Rising demand for natural resources is a boon for countries such as Sierra Leone, Niger, and Angola. But high consumer prices still pinch Africa's middle class.

If you want to hear some sunny economic forecasts for 2012, it's best not to go looking in the United States - where GDP will grow by a lackluster 2 percent - or the eurozone, where the economy will actually get smaller this year.

No, if you're looking for good news you'd be better off turning to the world's poorest region, sub-Saharan Africa, where the economy is set to grow by nearly 6 percent in 2012.

And that growth won't be limited to regional powerhouses like Nigeria and South Africa: One third of sub-Saharan Africa's poorest countries, which have weathered the global economic downturn relatively unscathed, are expected to beat the region's average growth rate.

Leading the pack is Sierra Leone, a South Carolina-sized West African nation with a population of 6 million. The country's GDP is set to swell by a mammoth 51.4 percent in 2012, according to the IMF. That's largely thanks to a single company: the junior mining firm African Minerals, which is mining iron ore in the middle of the country.

African Minerals has already raised $1.4 billion for its Tonkolili iron ore project, which includes a refurbished deep-water port and a 120-mile railway line. That's very big money in Sierra Leone, where the value of the entire economy was just $1.9 billion in 2010.

Mining investment is also bringing big gains to Niger, a poor West African nation that ranked second from the bottom on the most recent UN Human Development Index. With new uranium mines coming online, Niger is set to become the world's second-biggest uranium producer by 2014. Thanks to those projects as well as a new oil rig, Niger's economy will grow by more than 12 percent this year, the IMF predicts. …