Publication: The Day
Lome, Togo - Twenty-four miles northwest of Accra in Ghana, Anthony Botchway rips a pineapple plant from the ground with his bare hands. Wearing dirty boots, a short-sleeved shirt and jeans, he looks like any other farm worker, in a region where the daily minimum wage is less than $2.
The difference is that Botchway owns 7.2 million of the pulpy, yellow fruits. He rose from poverty to become managing director of Bomarts Farms Ltd., which owns and cultivates 3,000 acres of land, partly because he got financial help.
Ecobank Transnational Inc., which operates in more African countries than any other bank, provided an initial loan of $50,000 in 2002. Since then, Botchway has gone from peddling goods on village streets to exporting his extra-sweet pineapples to Europe and the Middle East.
"Any time I request a loan from Ecobank, I get something," the sinewy Botchway, 53, says with a smile at his farm in Nsuobiri. "Though I may not get everything, it frees funds for growth that would otherwise have been used to pay salaries and bills." He plans to double production to 14 million pineapples in the next few years.
In Africa, a continent that has been synonymous with poverty, corruption and lagging development, an increasing number of people like Botchway are improving their economic standing. Sub-Saharan Africa will be the fastest-growing region in the world, after developing Asia, this year and in 2012, according to the International Monetary Fund.
Six of the 20 projected fastest-growing countries this year are in Africa. Among them are Ghana, at 13.7 percent; Ethiopia, at 8.5 percent; Angola, at 7.8 percent; and Mozambique, at 7.5 percent, the IMF says.
A move toward freer economies helped ignite the boom. In the past decade, leaders in Nigeria, Ghana and Rwanda have sold state-owned industries, cut inflation and budgeted more cautiously. Those shifts encouraged the Group of Eight nations to agree in 2005 to let the World Bank, the IMF and the African Development Bank cancel the debts of some poor countries provided they met certain economic goal.