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Should America Focus More on Africa for Economic Growth?

African EconomyWith sequester in our faces, unemployment near 8 percent, flatlined economic growth — gross domestic product rose 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter — Americans may be forgiven for their near-constant focus on domestic issues. But on the edge of our sightline, Africa rises.

Africa rises in the news because of the insurgency in Mali, unrest in Algeria, the disastrous death of a U.S. diplomat last year in Libya and recent elections in Kenya, which gave cause for concern because of thousands of deaths in tribal war after Kenya’s last election and the fact that the leading presidential candidate in Kenya has been indicted by the International Criminal Court.

Africa is certainly capturing more attention from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.

Recently elevated to ranking minority member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Corker saw Africa up close in February, visiting North and West Africa. Corker’s trip was security related, taking him to talk to the prime ministers of Algeria and Tunisia and the president of Senegal as well as commanders of French and African forces, who are fighting al-Qaida and other terrorists groups in Mali.

“It goes without saying that the security situation in North Africa has substantially deteriorated in recent months,” Corker said on his return. “The flow of weapons from Libya has armed terrorists in the region and destabilized at least one government. An increasingly dangerous spread of weapons and fighters across the region is also empowering al-Qaida to take advantage of impoverished and disenfranchised populations in ungoverned territories.”

The Obama administration last month responded to the rise of Islamist-backed terrorism and training by deploying U.S. troops and drones to Niger. But more is going on in Africa than the spread of extremism in the north and potentially unsettling electoral outcomes south of the Sahara.

Africa is rising economically. According to reports last year, seven of the 10 fastest-growing economies on the planet were in Africa. The birth rate in Africa is booming. And, as happened here in America during and after the Industrial Revolution, farmers are becoming factory workers, creating a heretofore unheard-of “middle class” on a continent that is home to one billion people.

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