Africa is expected to remain one of the world's fastest-growing regions next year despite the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, according to a new World Bank report.
The organization estimates the African economy will grow 5.2 percent over the next two years, up from 4.6 percent this year. The expansion builds on two decades of continuous growth as violence declines and political stability builds across the continent. In recent years, investors hunting for higher returns amid a slowdown in other emerging markets have flocked to Africa as a new frontier.
One of the countries expected to make a star turn this year is Nigeria, the region's largest economy. The World Bank estimated the pace of growth there picked up to 6.5 percent in the second quarter. Nigeria was able to quickly contain the outbreak of Ebola there and has a more diversified economy than many other African countries. According to the World Bank, about half of its GDP is driven by the services sector and non-oil industries are predicted to drive growth in the future.
Ebola, however, remains a threat. Under the World Bank's worst-case scenario, the disease could cost the three most highly affected countries -- Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone -- more than $800 million over the next few years. That could deal a devastating blow to what are already fragile states. However, the ripple effects through the rest of continent are still unclear; the three countries together make up only 1.5 percent of Africa GDP, according to the International Monetary Fund.
Ebola is not the only risk to Africa's rise. There's still the threat of violence from terrorist groups such as Boko Haram and Al Shabaab, the World Bank points out, as well as growing fiscal deficits in many countries. In addition, demand for commodities from countries such as China is expected to weaken.
The IMF on Tuesday downgraded its forecast for the global recovery, which Managing Director Christine Lagarde has characterized as "the new mediocre." But if Africa can overcome those obstacles, it could well buck that trend.