George Lucas searched the world looking for a place to film Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. It was the late 1970’s and he ended up filming a portion of the film in North Africa, which has become one of the most referenced movie scenes of all time.
In the movie, it’s called “Chalmun’s Cantina,” but we all think of it as the ‘Star Wars bar.’
In real life, we’ve all been to one of these places. It’s where the clientele is extremely diverse, there are strange smells, the bar tender is anything but friendly, and there is a sense of danger in the air.
These ‘Star Wars bars’ are often the originating point for interesting new friendships, exciting stories, and new business deals (on both sides of the law). It’s where the adventurous, curious, and questionable hang out.
Fast forward more than 40 years later and Africa is still a place where you can feel like you’re in a Star Wars bar.
Specifically, I’m talking about the Addis Ababa airport in Ethiopia that handles nearly 350 flights per day, which allows you to fly to nearly every single major city in the world.
And get this… Passengers traveling through Addis Ababa International Airport have DOUBLED in only the past five years.
The airport literally cannot grow fast enough and has had to redesign expansion plans multiple times to accommodate the growing number of travelers.
(By the way, who do you think is financing a lot of that growth? China, of course.)
Walking through the airport is a sensory overload. The mix of languages, smells, and interesting looking people is enough to surprise even experienced travelers.
You feel like you’re in Chalmun’s Cantina, but without the lightsabers.
Now, I’m not about to tell you about some incredible investment opportunity I found in Ethiopia. The truth is that the country still has a long way to go. Property rights pretty much don’t exist, the rule of law is subjective on who it applies to, and there are atrocious human rights violations still happening today.
And at the same time, because those negative things are happening, there is even more opportunity for those who are willing to come take a look.
One particularly interesting aspect is the demographics of the region. In most developed parts of the world, we are seeing upside-down demographic pyramids. Meaning that we have more old people than young people… or rather, less people entering the work force with more leaving it.
In this part of the world, there is the opposite situation.
Ethiopia’s average age is 17.9 years old. Compare the US at 38.1, or Japan at 47.3, and you can start to speculate on where these economies are headed… more on that later this week.