1. Mobile technologies: the region is much less dependent on land lines. In Nigeria, 19 out of 20 phones are mobile. Africans are years ahead of America in widespread texting and reading by phone. And, like much of the world, the bill is often much cheaper than in the United States.

2. Banking: years ahead of the United States, Kenya's M-Pesa network has been used by millions to pay bills, wire funds and buy food and other goods by phone.

3. Female leaders: unlike the United States, the region has elected female heads of state. Liberia and Malawi currently are led by women. Liberia's Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the continent's first democratically elected female leader, was also co-winner of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize

4. Long-distance running: got a marathon to run? Is it prestigious? You'd better invite the Ethiopians and Kenyans, who have dominated the international scene for decades.

5. Faster economic growth: eight African nations have among the world's 20 highest-growth rates by real gross national product, according to the CIA Handbook. They are: Libya, Sierra Leone, Niger, Liberia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Botswana and Rwanda. The United States ranks No. 133 on this list.

Source: Washington Post