The previous use of that phrase referred to a dash for African land by European nations at the end of the 19th Century. Colonial Africa became the bastion of white planters, hunters, miners, railway builders and bankers. Yet the continent remained essentially poor, its riches enjoyed by the foreigner but hardly by the local inhabitants.

Then came independence from foreign rule and a period of, in some countries, almost 50 years during which Africa has languished in a mire of political instability, corruption and civil wars. Only the gambler or the foolish were prepared to invest when they might have little control over the outcome.

Today, however, Africa is experiencing a second metamorphosis, this time hopefully much more to local advantage and in the long term interest of the continent. Foreign investors have woken up the realization that not only is Africa rich in commodities, it also represents a huge market of potential consumers.

The Wall Street Journal article, U.S. Companies Race to Catch Up in Africa, reminded me how much the situation has changed since I spent time working in North Africa during the 70s. The whole continent seems to have come alive with possibilities, just as in Latin America, the former "banana republics" are giving way to prosperity and development.

Now American, European and especially Chinese companies are investing to engage in massive development and natural resource projects. All the major brand names are to be found not just in South Africa but in the lesser known countries of Mozambique, Bortswana, Senegal, Ghana and Togo. GE is now running its African operations out of Kenya whereas Google has established a new office in Uganda.

Progress doesn’t come overnight but if Africa today is where India and China were 10-15 years ago then the opportunities should be vast. For executive search consultants servicing executive demand from 54 disparate African countries the challenge will be very real. For ambitious and adventurous executives Africa beckons once again.

Peter FelixPeter M. Felix is the President of the worldwide Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC) and

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