Many African nations are known for their problems – extreme poverty, disease and human rights violations.
At the same time, some of these nations also are making advances that can benefit them far into the future.
These and other issues were discussed Monday in Farber Hall at the University of South Dakota as part of one of the regular International Forums.
Dr. Moses Ikiugu, a native of Kenya and a member of USD's School of Health Sciences, said that while positive changes are occurring, they do not get as much news coverage.
For example, Kenya implemented at new constitution in 2010 that was based on that of the United States.
"Already because of those improvements, we are seeing a lot of positive developments," Ikiugu said.
For example, Kenya has seen an annual 5-6 percent growth in its GDP, he said.
With the discovery of oil in places like South Sudan, some nations now find themselves drawing the attention – and business – of countries like China.
However, problems also can arise from this and other relationships, said Dr. Benno Wymar, retired economics professor of both USD and the University of Nairobi.
"In the past there were often complaints that especially Western countries would go there and take advantage of Africans by paying low wages," Wymar said. "There are some complaints on the African side that the Chinese are taking advantage of the Africans.
"The Chinese have set up their own manufacturing centers manned by Chinese. Some people say they should employ more Africans. This is a common problem worldwide," he said.
Countries like Mexico have sidestepped this issue by passing laws requiring a certain amount of Mexican-born supervisors be employed by foreign-owned companies, he said.
Wymar said these nations could take advantage of their low wages by manufacturing cheap goods for export, with room for growth in terms of product quality.
Germany did something similar with its automobile industry after World War II, he said.
"The VW bug was the cheapest car you could buy," Wymar said. "It's now exporting Mercedes-Benz, Mercedes, et cetera."
Ikiugu agreed, adding that in the 1980s Japan geared its auto industry toward the requirements of the world economy.
"They knew what people needed. People needed economical cars that were no gas-guzzlers," he said.
Along with oil, nations like Kenya are among the biggest resources of minerals such as chromium and gold.
Because the United States does not have a long-standing relationship with these nations, Ikiugu said these resources will "go to China, which will then send them to the U.S."
However, just because a country has a resource other nations need, there is no guarantee it will be.
Wymar pointed out that like Kenya, oil has been discovered in Nigeria, but because of long-time political and social problems the country sees limited benefits from it.
"It should be one of the richest countries in all Africa, but what a mess that place is," he said. "Who wants to go there? It's terrible. Most of the people live there on less than a dime a day."
The event was sponsored by the Beacom School of Business.