World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz is optimistic for the future of economic opportunities in Africa after returning from an eight-country trip through the continent.

Wolfowitz was speaking on Monday in Washington DC at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research organization, where he said a turnaround is beginning in Africa, according to a report by the U.S. Department of State.

While on his trip to Africa, he met with state leaders from Tanzania, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Benin and Sierra Leone, Ghana and Liberia.

He highlighted the problems that sub-Saharan Africans face on a daily basis. Poverty is an issue of great concern as 300 million people are living on less than the World Bank’s $1 a day Poverty Measure.

The HIV/Aids epidemic has also taken its toll. According to a UNAIDS report released in May, 24.5 million or 6.1 percent of people age 15 and older in Sub-Saharan Africa have HIV/AIDS.

However, Wolfowitz also pointed out the positive changes that have taken place in the continent. Earlier this year, the G8 donated $37 billion in a bid to ease the financial situation of the heavily indebted (HIPC) countries in Africa, and have also committed to double the funding to $50 billion per year by 2010.

“Africa last year grew at 5 percent continent wide and that’s a pretty decent number,” he said in a statement during his tour to Nigeria.

“More impressively to me, there’s some 15 African countries, in the last 10 years, that have had sustained positive growth rates of four percent or better over a 10 year period”, he added.

Wolfowitz was also impressed with Mozambique and Rwanda’s economic growth rate performance, which have grown annually at 8 and 10 percent respectively.

During his trip to Sierra Leone and Liberia, he commended the newly appointed democratic governments in the countries, adding they deserve increased financial support from the bank.