ARUSHA, Tanzania – News items on disease, conflict and corruption in Africa are crowding out positive stories of burgeoning economies on the continent, speakers at a global technology and design meeting said this week.
Many African economies are booming and attracting interest from people keen to invest in them despite hurdles such as bad roads, erratic power supply or insecurity, they added.
"What is one thing you remember about Africa? Corruption, war, genocide, AIDS? Enough. We’ve heard these things," said Euvin Naidoo, head of the South African Chamber of Commerce in the United States, at the week-long gathering in Tanzania.
Naidoo, a New York-based investment banker, cited high returns on stock exchanges in countries like Kenya, South Africa, Egypt and Angola in recent years, among those items that featured little in news outside the continent.
"There are fundamental changes in the movement of capital and the evolution of capital markets that are taking place on the continent," he added.
The annual Technology, Entertaining and Design conference normally meets in California, but decamped to Africa for the first time in a bid to highlight potential on the continent where average economic growth stood at 5.4 percent in 2006.
Scores of Western and Africa innovators and entrepreneurs — from the developer of battery-powered medical operating theatre to the founder of a satellite radio service — have been exchanging ideas since Monday in the Tanzanian town of Arusha.
One speaker hailed the skill of businessmen withstanding patchy infrastructure and insecurity to set up shop in Africa.
"I have never seen entrepreneurs who face the kinds of challenges African companies face, and overcome those hurdles," said Carol Pineau, a U.S. film-maker chronicling business development in Africa.
She cited the case of Alieu Conteh, Vodafone Congo’s founder, who asked local residents to collect scrap metal then welded them into a cell phone tower after providers declined to send one because rebels were closing in on Kinshasa’s airport.