Nigeria has overtaken South Africa to become Africa’s largest economy after the government released updated figures that raised the country’s gross domestic product by 89 per cent to $509bn.

The re-calculation rightly put most Nigerian officials in celebratory mood. But Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the country’s finance minister (pictured), offered also a cautious note: the new figures do highlight some acute problems. Continue reading »

Africa’s impressive economic growth over the last decade has so far failed to reduce poverty, according to one of the largest surveys ever carried across the continent.

The Afrobarometer survey, which polled more than 50,000 people in 34 African countries over three years, is a reminder that the “Africa rising” narrative of strong economic growth, which has become a popular theme among international investors over the last two years, is so far only benefiting a small minority at the top. Continue reading »

Commodities bosses have spent the last two years trying to put as much rhetorical distance as possible between their companies and South Africa.

Not Ivan Glasenberg (pictured), chief executive of Glencore Xtrata and a South African himself. Undeterred by a negative perception of his mother country caused by crippling strikes, rising costs and often unreliable government policies, he has just announced an even closer relationship with South Africa. Continue reading »

Mozambique has joined the debt spree in sub-Saharan Africa with a state-backed agency tapping investors’ appetite for high yields and frontier markets with the country’s first ever US dollar-denominated bond. Continue reading »

When the world was hit by a food crisis in 2007-08, one factor made it different from previous episodes: rising demand. Today that trend is as important as ever – and it frames a series of posts that beyondbrics will publish over the next two weeks exploring the production and consumption of food in emerging markets. Continue reading »

A Chinese shopper checks the prices of UHT milk at a supermarket in HefeiRice or hamburgers? As the global economic crisis unfolded, that was the question that many food executives were asking themselves about the future of emerging countries’ eating habits. Over the last ten decades, the diets in nations from China to India have become more similar to those in western countries, paving the way for a large increase in the profitability of global food companies. But in previous crisis, diets have reverted to traditional staples – the fear was a repetition of history.

No one has a better watchtower over global food and agriculture than Cargill, the big US agribusiness. And Gregory Page, its chief executive, told the Financial Times in a rare interview that the appetite of emerging markets for processed food, meat and dairy products has confounded fears of a big drop in demand in the wake of the financial crisis. Continue reading »

While the financial storm rages in Europe and elsewhere, emerging countries in Asia are set for some good weather. Literally. The 2009-10 episode of El Niño, the weather-altering Pacific warming which triggered droughts in some regions and pushed up food prices, has officially ended.

The closely-watched Australian Bureau of Meteorology said on today the recurring phenomenon – caused by a rise in the water temperature in the tropical Pacific that affects weather patterns – had dissipated.

The ending is good news for consumers in Asia, who paid higher food prices over the last months due to crop failures linked to some of the worst droughts in decades in the region. But it may be bad news for oil companies and others in the Gulf of Mexico, where the end of El Niño could bring more hurricanes. Continue reading »