The economy of Africa consists of the trade, industry, and resources of the people of Africa. As of July 2005[update], approximately 887 million people were living in 54 different states. Africa is the world's poorest inhabited continent. Though parts of the continent have made significant gains over the last few years, of the 175 countries reviewed in the United Nations' Human Development Report 2003, 25 African nations ranked lowest amongst the nations of the world. This is partly due to its turbulent history. The decolonization of Africa was fraught with instability aggravated by cold war conflict. Since mid-20th century the Cold War and increased corruption and despotism have also contributed to Africa's poor economy.
Africa is the least industrialized continent; only South Africa, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia in general have substantial manufacturing sectors. Despite readily available cheap labour, nearly all of the continent's natural resources are exported for secondary refining and manufacturing. According to the AFDB, about 15% of workers are employed in the industrial sector.
The multinational corporations that control most of the world's major industries and their financiers require political stability before erecting an expensive factory and risk losing that investment through nationalization. An educated populace, good infrastructure and a stable source of electricity are essential to investments. These factors are rare in Africa. Other developing regions of the world such as India and China have been more attractive to companies looking to build a new factory or invest in a local enterprise.
Many African states used to limit foreign investment to ensure local majority ownership. Close governmental control over industry further discouraged international investment. Attempts to foster local industry have been hampered by insufficient technology, training, and investment money. The paucity of local markets and the difficulty of transporting goods from major African centres to world markets contribute to the lack of manufacturing outside of South Africa and Egypt.