Western op-eds about the economic state of Africa are often pretty grim. Not this one. In the Financial Times, Goldman Sachs chief economist Jim O'Neill outlines "how Africa can become the next Bric." O'Neill, it turns out, is the coiner of the BRIC acronym, which refers to emerging economic giants Brazil, Russia, India, and China. He suggests a different way of looking at the African economic situation--namely, considering the countries as a bloc:

If you were to think about Africa collectively, and consider it in the same framework that informs our 2050 scenarios for the Bric, next 11 and other major economies, you would see an economy as big as some of the Brics. If you then look at the potential of the 11 largest African economies for the next 40 years (by studying their likely demographics, the resulting changes in their working population and their productivity) their combined GDP by 2050 would reach more than $13,000bn, making them bigger than either Brazil or Russia, although not China or India.
Most of the economic might would come from Egypt and Nigeria, he admits. Meanwhile, "South Africa has a critical role to play as it is more developed than the others, and also somewhat of a gateway to southern Africa." But the takeaway is that Africa becoming a "Bric ... should not be as hard as it is often made out." Though many African countries' Growth Economic Scores are fairly low on the 0 to 10 scale, the average Bric score is "only 4.9," which puts the African 3.5 average into perspective.

The key, O'Neill concludes: major countries must not continue to move towards repression (he points to a proposal in South Africa to "[muzzle] media coverage"). "Transparency and helping to foster an environment conducive to business are what Mr Zuma and other African leaders should be concentrating on. Otherwise the dream of an African Bric will remain just that – a dream."