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African security to relatively improve in 2004

afrol News, 11 November - While the risks of terror attacks increase in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, Africa is slowly emerging as a more stable region, according to the 2004 forecast of the Control Risk Group. African governments' desperate search for investors heavily contributes to this stabilisation.

Being "aware of their marginal position within an increasingly competitive global environment for attracting investment," ever more African governments would now be "prompted to implement business-friendly economic and institutional reforms," the 2004 annual RiskMap Report says.

This perception of Africa's marginal position was however "not helped by the region's sporadic crisis-points," Jake Stratton, research leader of the group, who also edited this analysis, notes.

Nonetheless, 2004 was "set to be a challenging year for investors hoping for fairer elections, improved governance and a more concerted effort to improve the business environment." Mr Stratton however concluded that investors in Africa's most popular markets could remain clam.

- The elections in 2004 in established emerging investment hotspots such as Ghana, South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique and Cameroon are all likely to pass off largely without incident, the RiskMap Report foresees.

While emerging economies were consolidating their political and economic gains, other African countries were increasingly copying the successful mix of democracy, transparency and market economy. Thus, Africa was now laying the ground work for enhanced stability.

These positive developments in Africa were strongly contrasted by negative trends in other world regions. Europe, struggling with economic and political reforms, was rather destabilising and London was now emerging a more probable location for terrorism attacks than New York. In the Middle East and Asia, the terrorism threat was increasing and setbacks in democracy further contributed to divestments.

Neither in Africa, were trends purely positive. The development of "sporadic crisis-points" that did so much to ruin the entire continent's reputation, were still to be expected in 2004. The most probable herds of instability were Côte d'Ivoire, Ethiopia and Eritrea. Further, the AIDS pandemic now turned into a security risk in Southern Africa.

- UN demarcation of the Ethiopian/Eritrean border in 2004 will continue to provoke tensions and isolated skirmishes in the border region will continue to pose a security threat, the 2004 RiskMap Report concluded. The Ethiopian and Eritrean governments have turned to harsher language and methods during the last year, raising concerns of renewed military action.

Also in Côte d'Ivoire - a former investment haven - the crisis is far from over, the group concludes. The country was tottering "even more precariously on the edge of anarchy, with prospects for ethnic and social reconciliation seemingly even more distant."

The HIV-AIDS pandemic is the only disease entering the group's report. The reason is that the epidemic now was "poised to enter its 'mass mortality' phase, with a cataclysmic impact on workplace health, education and family cohesion across large swathes of the continent, despite growing government awareness and mobilisation."

While the trends in Southern Africa on the short run seem positive - democratic and economic reform lead to investments and stabilisation - the long term trends thus are overshadowed by the socio-economic risks of the HIV-AIDS pandemic.

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