The next Pope could be black if the bookmakers' odds are to be believed, with a Nigerian and a Ghanaian among the frontrunners.
Cardinal Francis Arinze is at 11/2 and Cardinal Peter Turkson is at 3/1 to become the next Pontiff.
The favourite is Canadian Marc Ouellet, who is currently 3/1, according to Sky Bet , as of February 11. Previous second favourite but still in the running is Italian Archbishop of Milan Cardinal Angelo Scola.
The bookmakers also believe the conclave could vote in the first South American Pope with Argentian Cardinal Leonardo Sandri at 6/1.
Having the support of the bookmakers early on is no guarantee of success, however.
In 2005, when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI, he had originally started out at only 12/1. His odds shortened to 3/1 by the time the Cardinals started their conclave.
Cardinal Ouellet is seen as a good bet as he is well-placed to unite the reformist and more conservative wings of the Roman Catholic Church.
While he has been vocal in his opposition to abortion, he has written to newspapers in his native Quebec publicly apologising for 'past errors' of the church including anti-Semitism, racism and discrimination against women and homosexual people.
Though some in Quebec have criticised his record on dealing with sexual abuse in the church, he has not found himself at the forefront of major controversy.
He would take the job reluctantly though.
He has stated in the past that being Pope "would be a nightmare" as, having seen Pope Benedict's workload at close range, the papacy was "not very enviable".
"It is a crushing responsibility," he said. "It's the kind of thing you don't campaign for."
Cardinal Angelo Scola, Archbishop of Milan, at 5/1, was moved by Benedict from another high-profile post, Archbishop of Venice, in 2011.
Milan is the biggest diocese in Europe and Milan and Venice between them have produced five Popes in the last century.
He is a top scholar on Islam and Christian-Muslim dialogue and could be seen as well-placed to deal with the changing nature of religion in the modern world.
The Cardinal once said: "Our job now has to be to help people to remember God. People suffer from a kind of amnesia about God and we have to remind them to reawaken God in their hearts and in their minds."
One of the advantages of having an African pope would be that the Catholic Church would have someone at its head who knows a population that is expanding more quickly than on any other continent.
No stranger to controversy, Cardinal Arinze will be seen as being likely to carry on the work done by his predecessors.
He was an aide to Pope John Paul II at the point he was advising strongly against the use of condoms as the Aids epidemic began taking a hold.
Cardinal Turkson has age on his side - he is 63 - but is not known as a staunch conservative.
Instead, he is seen as being more of a pragmatist having dismissed the purpose of engaging in theological debate with Muslims, focusing instead on encouraging Muslim governments to respect the rights of minorities.
Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, at 6/1, is said to be top of many lists if the most serious need was for a 'safe pair of hands'.
Other serious contenders are Rome-based Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi (7/1), said to be a master communicator and very clever; multi-lingual Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco (11/1), Archbishop of Genoa, who won fans by last year ripping into then Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi; Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga (9/1), a central American archbishop who spoke on behalf of the Vatican on economics and Third World Debt; Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone (16/1), the current camerlengo (administrator) of the Roman Catholic Church; and Cardinal Odilo Scherer (18/1), the head of the church in Brazil.