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Business in Africa: Booming, but trade barriers still high

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Mackson Wasamunu/Reuters

(Read caption) GOING BIG INTO AFRICA: Bharti Airtel International CEO Manoj Kohli spoke in Lusaka, Zambia in late June. India's Bharti Airtel will spend $150 million to improve its network in Zambia, as the mobile-phone operator challenges MTN Group for dominance in fast-growing Africa.

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Business in Africa is dynamic, growing, socially relevant, and historically peaking. Never in history has the sub-Saharan been home to so many diverse enterprises.

The great African independence era came during the high-water mark, globally, of state-controlled economies. In recent decades, market-oriented approaches took longer to take root in Africa than perhaps anywhere else in the world.

Now that Europe and the US are rediscovering the role of the state in the economy – and because of the financial crisis and over indebtedness – the reputation of the private-sector is declining and fewer people today view business as a solution to urgent problems than they once did.

STORY: India firm Bharti Airtel goes big into Africa cellphone market

In Africa, the state remains a central economic actor, but the global crisis hasn’t slowed the expanding role of business and the newfound passion for business profit and market expansion among Africans and foreign investors in the region.

The media, the international foreign-assistance community and the official diplomatic community remain largely blind to the exciting business developments in Africa.

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