Africa is not the first continent that most people think of when searching for fast-growing businesses and attractive stocks. But among the continent’s 54 countries, Kenya’s stock exchange rose by 84% over the past three years…­Nigeria’s 79%…Tanzania’s 77%…and Uganda’s 71%, compared with emerging markets overall returning 5%.

Reason: Even though parts of ­Africa still are racked by crushing poverty, violence, political upheaval and the Ebola virus, several countries are benefiting from rapid economic growth. Examples: Kenya, Nigeria and Zambia have economic growth rates of 5% to 8%, which helps boost corporate profits. Millions of Africans are entering the lower middle class, with enough income to buy consumer items such as cell phones and supermarket groceries for the first time. In addition, China is making massive investments in ­Africa, building seaports, power plants, roads and other infrastructure…and more than a dozen US companies have pledged to invest $14 billion there.

Attractive stocks now…

MTN Group Ltd. (MTNOY) is a mobile phone company with more than 200 million customers in 21 African and Middle Eastern countries. Many Africans are using cell phones to transfer money and pay bills because few have traditional bank accounts.

Naspers Ltd. (NPSNY) is the dominant Internet and pay-TV operator in Africa, and it owns a valuable 35% stake in China Internet powerhouse Tencent Holdings.

Shoprite Holdings (SRGHY) is the largest retailer in Africa, with nearly 2,000 stores including supermarkets, pharmacies, and furniture and liquor stores in 15 countries.