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Sub-Saharan Africa (commonly called Black Africa) is, geographically, the area of the continent of
Africa Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven regions are ...

Africa
that lies south of the
Sahara The Sahara (, ; ar, الصحراء الكبرى, ', 'the Greatest Desert') is a desert on the African continent Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent, after Asia in both cases. At about 30.3 million k ...

Sahara
. According to the
United Nations The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization that aims to maintain international peace and international security, security, develop friendly relations among nations, achieve international cooperation, and be a centre for har ...

United Nations
, it consists of all African countries and territories that are fully or partially south of the Sahara. While the
United Nations geoscheme for Africa The following is an alphabetical list of subregions in the United Nations geoscheme for Africa Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent, after Asia in both cases. At about 30.3 million km2 (11.7 million squar ...

United Nations geoscheme for Africa
excludes Sudan from its definition of sub-Saharan Africa,
the African Union's definition
the African Union's definition
includes Sudan but instead excludes
Mauritania Mauritania (; ar, موريتانيا, ', french: Mauritanie; Berber languages, Berber: ''Agawej'' or ''Cengit''; Pulaar language, Pulaar: ''Moritani''; Wolof language, Wolof: ''Gànnaar''; Soninke language, Soninke: ''Murutaane''), officially ...

Mauritania
. It contrasts with
North Africa North Africa is a region encompassing the northern portion of the African continent. There is no singularly accepted scope for the region, and it is sometimes defined as stretching from the Atlantic shores of Mauritania in the west, to Egypt's ...

North Africa
, which is frequently grouped within the
MENA MENA is an English-language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading language of interna ...

MENA
("
Middle East The Middle East ( ar, الشرق الأوسط, ISO 233 The international standard are technical standards developed by international organizations (intergovernmental organizations), such as Codex Alimentarius in food, the World Health Organi ...

Middle East
and North Africa") region, and most of whose states are
members Member may refer to: * Military jury, referred to as "Members" in military jargon * Element (mathematics), an object that belongs to a mathematical set * In object-oriented programming, a member of a class ** Field (computer science), entries in a ...
of the
Arab League The Arab League ( ar, الجامعة العربية, '), formally the League of Arab States ( ar, جامعة الدول العربية, '), is a regional organization and Turkey Turkey ( tr, Türkiye ), officially the Republic of Turk ...
(largely overlapping with the term "
Arab world The Arab world ( ar, العالم العربي '), formally the Arab homeland ( '), also known as the Arab nation ( '), the Arabsphere, or the Arab states, consists of the 22 Member states of the Arab League, Arab countries which are members of ...
"). The states of
Somalia Somalia,, Osmanya script: 𐒈𐒝𐒑𐒛𐒐𐒘𐒕𐒖; ar, الصومال, aṣ-Ṣūmāl officially the Federal Republic of SomaliaThe ''Federal Republic of Somalia'' is the country's name per Article 1 of thProvisional Constitutio ...

Somalia
,
Djibouti Djibouti, ar, جيبوتي ', french: link=no, Djibouti, so, Jabuuti officially the Republic of Djibouti, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Somaliland in the south, Ethiopia in the southwest, Eritrea in the no ...
,
Comoros The Comoros,; ar, جزر القمر, ' officially the Union of the Comoros,Comorian languages, Comorian: ''Udzima wa Komori,'' french: Union des Comores, ar, الاتحاد القمري ' is an island country in the Indian Ocean, at the nor ...
, and the
Arab The Arabs (singular Arab ; singular ar, عَرَبِيٌّ, ISO 233 The international standard are technical standards developed by international organizations (intergovernmental organizations), such as Codex Alimentarius in food, the World Hea ...
-majority
Mauritania Mauritania (; ar, موريتانيا, ', french: Mauritanie; Berber languages, Berber: ''Agawej'' or ''Cengit''; Pulaar language, Pulaar: ''Moritani''; Wolof language, Wolof: ''Gànnaar''; Soninke language, Soninke: ''Murutaane''), officially ...

Mauritania
(and sometimes
Sudan Sudan (; ar, السودان, as-Sūdān), officially the Republic of the Sudan ( ar, جمهورية السودان, link=no, Jumhūriyyat as-Sūdān), is a country in Northeast Africa. It is bordered by Egypt to the Egypt–Sudan border, nort ...

Sudan
) are, however, geographically considered part of sub-Saharan Africa, although they are members of the Arab League as well. The
United Nations Development Program The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (french: Programme des Nations unies pour le développement, PNUD) is the global development network of the United Nations The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization tha ...
lists 46 of Africa's 54 countries as "sub-Saharan", excluding
Algeria ) , image_map = Algeria (centered orthographic projection).svg , map_caption = , image_map2 = , capital = Algiers , coordinates = , largest_city = capital , religion = , official_languages = , languages_type = Othe ...
,
Djibouti Djibouti, ar, جيبوتي ', french: link=no, Djibouti, so, Jabuuti officially the Republic of Djibouti, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Somaliland in the south, Ethiopia in the southwest, Eritrea in the no ...
, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Somalia, Sudan and Tunisia. Since probably
3500 BCE
3500 BCE
, the Saharan and sub-Saharan regions of Africa have been separated by the extremely harsh climate of the sparsely populated Sahara, forming an effective barrier interrupted by only the
Nile The Nile ( ar, النيل, an-Nīl, , Bohairic , lg, Kiira , Nobiin: Áman Dawū) is a major north-flowing river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In som ...

Nile
in Sudan, though navigation on the Nile was blocked by the river's
cataracts A cataract is a cloudy area in the lens A lens is a transmissive optical Optics is the branch of physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowledge of nature, from ''phýsis'' 'natur ...
. The Sahara pump theory explains how
flora Flora is all the plant life present in a particular region or time, generally the naturally occurring (indigenous (ecology), indigenous) native plants. The corresponding term for animal life is ''fauna''. Flora, fauna, and other forms of kingdom ...
and
fauna Fauna is all of the animal life present in a particular region or time. The corresponding term for plants is ''flora''. Flora, fauna and other forms of life such as fungi are collectively referred to as ''Biota (ecology), biota''. Zoologists and ...

fauna
(including ''
Homo sapiens Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most abundant and widespread species of primate, characterized by bipedalism Bipedalism is a form of terrestrial locomotion where an organism moves by means of its two rear limbs or legs. An animal ...
'') left Africa to penetrate the
Middle East The Middle East ( ar, الشرق الأوسط, ISO 233 The international standard are technical standards developed by international organizations (intergovernmental organizations), such as Codex Alimentarius in food, the World Health Organi ...

Middle East
and beyond. African
pluvial In geology and climatology, a pluvial is either a modern climate characterized by relatively high precipitation, or an interval of time of variable length – decades to thousands of years – during which a climate is characterized by either rela ...
periods are associated with a Wet Sahara phase, during which larger lakes and more rivers existed.


Nomenclature

The ancient Greeks sometimes referred to sub-Saharan Africa as ''
Aethiopia Ancient Aethiopia, ( gr, Αἰθιοπία, translit=Aithiopia; also known as Ethiopia) first appears as a geographical term in classical documents in reference to the upper Nile region, as well as certain areas south of the Sahara desert. Its ...
'', but sometimes also applied this name more specifically to a state, originally applied to the
Kingdom of Kush The Kingdom of Kush (; Egyptian: 𓎡𓄿𓈙 𓈉 ''kꜣš'', Assyrian: ''Ku-u-si'', in LXX grc, Κυς and Κυσι; cop, ; he, כּוּשׁ, '' Oromiffa'': Kush) was an ancient kingdom in Nubia, centered along the Nile Valley in what ...
and the
Sudan Sudan (; ar, السودان, as-Sūdān), officially the Republic of the Sudan ( ar, جمهورية السودان, link=no, Jumhūriyyat as-Sūdān), is a country in Northeast Africa. It is bordered by Egypt to the Egypt–Sudan border, nort ...

Sudan
area, but then usurped by
Axum Aksum or Axum (; ti, ኣኽሱም; gez, አኵስም ''Ak̠ʷsəm''; am, አክሱም ''Ak̠sum''), is a historical town in Tigray Region The Tigray Region (, ; , ''kilil Tigrāy''; official name: , ''Bəh̩erawi Kəllelawi Mä ...
in the 4th century which led to the name being designated to the nation of
Ethiopia Ethiopia, officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a landlocked country in the Horn of Africa. It shares borders with Eritrea and Djibouti to the north, Somaliland to the northeast, Somalia to the east, Kenya to the south ...

Ethiopia
Geographers historically divided the region into several distinct
ethnographic Ethnography (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 ...

ethnographic
sections based on each area's respective inhabitants. Commentators in Arabic in the
medieval period In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of past events and affairs of the people of Europe since the beginning of w ...
used the general term ''bilâd as-sûdân'' ("Land of the Blacks") for the vast
Sudan region Sudan is the geographic region to the south of the Sahara The Sahara (, ; ar, الصحراء الكبرى, ', 'the Greatest Desert') is a desert on the African continent. With an area of , it is the largest hot desert in the world and the ...
(an expression denoting
West 250px, A compass rose with west highlighted in black West or Occident is one of the four cardinal directions or points of the compass The points of the compass are the vectors by which planet-based directions are conventionally defined. A co ...

West
and
Central Africa Central Africa is a subregion of the African continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven regions are commonly regarded ...

Central Africa
), or sometimes extending from the coast of West Africa to Western Sudan.
Nehemia Levtzion Nehemia Levtzion ( he, נחמיה לבציון; November 24, 1935 — August 15, 2003) was an Israeli scholar of African history, Near East, Islamic, and African studies, and the President of the Open University of Israel from 1987 to 1992 and the ...

Nehemia Levtzion
, Randall Lee Pouwels, The History of Islam in Africa, (Ohio University Press, 2000), p. 255.
Its equivalent in
Southeast Africa Southeast Africa or Southeastern Africa is an African region that is intermediate between East Africa and Southern Africa. It comprises the countries Botswana, Burundi, Eswatini, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, South Africa, Uganda, Z ...
was ''
Zanj Zanj ( ar, زَنْج, adj. , ''Zanjī''; fa, زنگی, Zangi; tr, Zencî) was a name used by medieval Muslim geographers to refer to both a certain portion of Southeast Africa Southeast Africa or Southeastern Africa is an African region that i ...
'' ("Country of the Blacks"), which was situated in the vicinity of the
Great Lakes upright=1.3, Location in North America The Great Lakes also called the Great Lakes of North America or the Laurentian Great Lakes, is a series of large interconnected freshwater lake A lake is an area filled with water, localized in a ...

Great Lakes
region. The geographers drew an explicit ethnographic distinction between the Sudan region and its analogue Zanj, from the area to their extreme east on the
Red Sea The Red Sea ( ar, البحر الأحمر ''Al Baḥr al aḥmar''; Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regar ...

Red Sea
coast in the
Horn of Africa The Horn of Africa (HoA), also known as the Somali Peninsula, is a large peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from ' "almost" and ' "island") is a landform surrounded by water on most of its border while being connected to a mainland fro ...

Horn of Africa
. In modern-day
Ethiopia Ethiopia, officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a landlocked country in the Horn of Africa. It shares borders with Eritrea and Djibouti to the north, Somaliland to the northeast, Somalia to the east, Kenya to the south ...

Ethiopia
and
Eritrea Eritrea ( ), officially the State of Eritrea, is a country in the Horn of Africa The Horn of Africa (HoA) om, Gaafa Afrikaa, am, የአፍሪካ ቀንድ, yäafrika qänd, so, Geeska Afrika 𐒌𐒜𐒈𐒏𐒖 𐒖𐒍𐒇𐒘𐒏𐒖 ...

Eritrea
was ''
Al-Habash Al-Habash was an ancient region in the Horn of Africa The Horn of Africa (HoA) om, Gaafa Afrikaa, am, የአፍሪካ ቀንድ, yäafrika qänd, so, Geeska Afrika 𐒌𐒜𐒈𐒏𐒖 𐒖𐒍𐒇𐒘𐒏𐒖, ti, ቀርኒ ኣፍሪቃ, q’ ...
'' or Abyssinia,Sven Rubenson, The survival of Ethiopian independence, (Tsehai, 2003), p. 30. which was inhabited by the ''Habash'' or Abyssinians, who were the forebears of the
Habesha am, ሐበሻ, አበሻ, translit=Häbäša, 'äbäša ti, ሓበሻ, translit=Ḥabäša , regions = National Origin: , languages = Languages of Ethiopia The languages of Ethiopia include the official languages of Ethiopia ...
.Jonah Blank, Mullahs on the mainframe: Islam and modernity among the Daudi Bohras, (University of Chicago Press, 2001), p. 163. In northern Somalia was ''
Barbara Barbara may refer to: People * Barbara (given name) * Saint Barbara, early Christian saint and martyr * Barbara (singer) (1930–1997), French singer * Barbara Popović (born 2000), also known mononymously as Barbara, Macedonian singer * Barbara ( ...
'' or the ''Bilad al-Barbar'' ("Land of the
Berbers Berbers or ''Imazighen'' ( ber, translit=Imaziɣen, ⵉⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵏ, ⵎⵣⵗⵏ; singular: , ) are an ethnic group mostly concentrated in North Africa, specifically Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, the Canary Islands, and to a lesser ...
"), which was inhabited by the Eastern ''Baribah'' or ''Barbaroi'', as the ancestors of the
Somalis The Somalis ( so, Soomaalida 𐒈𐒝𐒑𐒛𐒐𐒘𐒆𐒖, ar, صوماليون) are an Cushitic peoples, East Cushitic ethnic group native to the Horn of Africa who share a common ancestry, culture and history. The Somali language is the ...
were referred to by medieval Arab and ancient
Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of 2018; Athens is ...

Greek
geographers, respectively.F.R.C. Bagley et al., ''The Last Great Muslim Empires'', (Brill: 1997), p. 174 Bethwell A. Ogot, ''Zamani: A Survey of East African History'', (East African Publishing House: 1974), p. 104James Hastings, ''Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics Part 12: V. 12'', (Kessinger Publishing, LLC: 2003), p. 490 In the 19th and 20th centuries, the populations south of the Sahara were divided into three broad ancestral groups:
Hamites File:Josephustable3.jpg, Geographic identifications of Flavius Josephus, c. 100 AD; Japheth's sons shown in red, Ham (son of Noah), Ham's sons in blue, Shem's sons in green. Hamites is the name formerly used for some North African peoples in th ...

Hamites
and
Semites Semites, Semitic peoples or Semitic cultures was a term for an ethnic, cultural or racial group.Afroasiatic Afroasiatic (Afro-Asiatic), also known as Afrasian or Hamito-Semitic or Semito-Hamitic, is a large language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech ( spoken language), gestures (Signed lang ...
family;
Negro In the English language, negro is a term historically used to denote persons considered to be of Black Africa Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent, after Asia in both cases. At about 30.3 million km2 (11 ...

Negro
es in most of the rest of the subcontinent (hence, the toponym ''Black Africa'' for Africa south of the Sahara), who spoke languages belonging to the Niger-Congo and
Nilo-Saharan The Nilo-Saharan languages are a proposed family of African languages spoken by some 50–60 million people, mainly in the upper parts of the Chari and Nile rivers, including historic Nubia, north of where the two tributaries of the Nile meet. Th ...
families; and
Khoisan Khoisan , or (), according to the contemporary Khoekhoegowab orthography, is a catch-all term for those Indigenous peoples of Africa, indigenous peoples of Southern Africa who do not speak one of the Bantu languages, combining the (formerly "K ...

Khoisan
in
Southern Africa Southern Africa is the south South is one of the cardinal directions or compass points. South is the opposite of north and is perpendicular to the east and west. Etymology The word ''south'' comes from Old English ''sūþ'', from earlier Pro ...
, who spoke languages belonging to the
Khoisan Khoisan , or (), according to the contemporary Khoekhoegowab orthography, is a catch-all term for those Indigenous peoples of Africa, indigenous peoples of Southern Africa who do not speak one of the Bantu languages, combining the (formerly "K ...

Khoisan
family. The term "sub-Saharan" has been criticized by late Professor Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe, on Pambazuka as being a
racist Racism is the belief that groups of humans possess different behavioral traits corresponding to physical appearance and can be divided based on the Supremacism, superiority of one Race (human categorization), race over another.
word because it refers to the area south of the Sahara by
geographical Geography (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10. ...
conventions (as opposed to
North Africa North Africa is a region encompassing the northern portion of the African continent. There is no singularly accepted scope for the region, and it is sometimes defined as stretching from the Atlantic shores of Mauritania in the west, to Egypt's ...

North Africa
, which refers to a
cardinal direction The four cardinal directions, or cardinal points, are the directions north, east, south, and west, commonly denoted by their initials N, E, S, and W. East and west are perpendicular (at right angles) to north and south, with east being in the cl ...
). Critics such as Professor Ekwe-Ekwe consider the term to imply a linguistic connotation of inferiority through its use of the
prefix A prefix is an affix which is placed before the Word stem, stem of a word. Adding it to the beginning of one word changes it into another word. For example, when the prefix ''un-'' is added to the word ''happy'', it creates the word ''unhappy'' ...
'' sub-'' (
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became the ...

Latin
for "under" or "below"; cf.
sub-arctic The sub-Arctic zone is a region in the Northern Hemisphere The Northern Hemisphere is the half of the Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbor life. About 29% of Earth's surface ...
), which they see as a linguistic vestige of European
colonialism Colonialism is a practice or policy of control by one people or power over other people or areas, often by establishing colony, colonies and generally with the aim of economic dominance. In the process of colonisation, colonisers may impose thei ...

colonialism
.


Climate zones and ecoregions

Sub-Saharan Africa has a wide variety of
climate zone 350px, Leslie Holdridge's Life Zone Classification system is essentially a climate classification scheme. Climate classification is a way of categorizing the world's climate Climate is the long-term average of weather, typically averaged over a ...

climate zone
s or
biome A biome is a collection of plants Plants are mainly multicellular organisms, predominantly photosynthetic Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to Energy transformation, convert light energy into chemical en ...
s.
South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. With over Demographics of South Africa, 59 million people, it is the world's List of countries by population, 23rd-most populous nation a ...

South Africa
and the
Democratic Republic of the Congo The Democratic Republic of the Congo ( french: République démocratique du Congo (RDC) ), also known as Congo-Kinshasa, DR Congo, the DRC, the DROC, or the Congo, and formerly Zaire Zaire (), officially the Republic of Zaire (french: ...

Democratic Republic of the Congo
in particular are considered
Megadiverse countries The term megadiverse country refers to any one of a group of nations that harbor the majority of Earth's species and high numbers of endemic species Endemism is the state of a species being native to a single defined geographic location, such ...

Megadiverse countries
. It has a dry winter season and a wet summer season. * The
Sahel The Sahel (; ar, ساحل ' , "coast, shore") is the ecoclimatic and biogeographic realm A biogeographic realm or ecozone is the broadest biogeographic division of Earth's land surface, based on distributional patterns of terrestrial orga ...

Sahel
extends across all of Africa at a latitude of about 10° to 15° N. Countries that include parts of the Sahara Desert proper in their northern territories and parts of the Sahel in their southern region include
Mauritania Mauritania (; ar, موريتانيا, ', french: Mauritanie; Berber languages, Berber: ''Agawej'' or ''Cengit''; Pulaar language, Pulaar: ''Moritani''; Wolof language, Wolof: ''Gànnaar''; Soninke language, Soninke: ''Murutaane''), officially ...

Mauritania
,
Mali Mali (; ), officially the Republic of Mali (french: République du Mali; bm, ߡߊߟߌ ߞߊ ߝߊߛߏߖߊߡߊߣߊ, Mali ka Fasojamana, ff, 𞤈𞤫𞤲𞥆𞤣𞤢𞥄𞤲𞤣𞤭 𞤃𞤢𞥄𞤤𞤭, Renndaandi Maali), is a landlocked country ...

Mali
,
Niger ) , official_languages = French language, French , languages_type = National languages
,
Chad Chad (; ar, تشاد , ; french: Tchad, ), officially known as the Republic of Chad ( ar, جمهورية تْشَاد, link=no '; ), is a Landlocked country, landlocked country at the crossroads of North Africa, north-central Africa. Ch ...

Chad
and
Sudan Sudan (; ar, السودان, as-Sūdān), officially the Republic of the Sudan ( ar, جمهورية السودان, link=no, Jumhūriyyat as-Sūdān), is a country in Northeast Africa. It is bordered by Egypt to the Egypt–Sudan border, nort ...

Sudan
. The Sahel has a
hot semi-arid climate A semi-arid climate, semi-desert climate, or steppe climate is the climate of a region that receives precipitation below potential evapotranspiration, but not as low as a desert climate. There are different kinds of semi-arid climates, depending ...
. * South of the Sahel, a belt of
savanna A savanna or savannah is a mixed woodland A woodland () is, in the broad sense, land covered with trees, or in a narrow sense, synonymous with wood (or in the U.S., the '' plurale tantum'' woods), a low-density forest A forest is an ...

savanna
(the
West 250px, A compass rose with west highlighted in black West or Occident is one of the four cardinal directions or points of the compass The points of the compass are the vectors by which planet-based directions are conventionally defined. A co ...
and
East Sudanian savanna The East Sudanian Savanna is a hot, dry, tropical savanna ecoregion An ecoregion (ecological region) or ecozone (ecological zone) is an ecology, ecologically and geographically defined area that is smaller than a bioregion, which in turn is sm ...
s) stretch from the Atlantic Ocean to the
Ethiopian Highlands The Ethiopian Highlands is a rugged mass of mountain A mountain is an elevated portion of the Earth's crust, generally with steep sides that show significant exposed bedrock. A mountain differs from a plateau in having a limited summit are ...
. The more humid
Guinean Guinea (), officially the Republic of Guinea (french: link=no, République de Guinée), is a coastal country in West Africa. Formerly known as French Guinea (french: link=no, Guinée française), the modern country is sometimes referred to as ...
and Northern Congolian forest–savanna mosaic lie between the savannas and the equatorial forests. * The
Horn of Africa The Horn of Africa (HoA), also known as the Somali Peninsula, is a large peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from ' "almost" and ' "island") is a landform surrounded by water on most of its border while being connected to a mainland fro ...

Horn of Africa
includes
hot desert climate The desert climate or arid climate (in the Köppen climate classification ''BWh'' and ''BWk''), is a climate which there is an excess of evaporation over precipitation. The typically bald, rocky, or sandy surfaces in desert climates hold little ...
along the coast but a
hot semi-arid climate A semi-arid climate, semi-desert climate, or steppe climate is the climate of a region that receives precipitation below potential evapotranspiration, but not as low as a desert climate. There are different kinds of semi-arid climates, depending ...
can be found much more in the interior, contrasting with savanna and moist broadleaf forests in the
Ethiopian Highlands The Ethiopian Highlands is a rugged mass of mountain A mountain is an elevated portion of the Earth's crust, generally with steep sides that show significant exposed bedrock. A mountain differs from a plateau in having a limited summit are ...
. *
Tropical Africa Although tropical Africa is mostly familiar to the West for its rainforests, this biogeographic realm of Africa Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent, after Asia in both cases. At about 30.3 million km2 ...
encompasses
tropical rainforest File:Koppen-Geiger Map Af present.svg, upright=1.8, Tropical rainforest climate zones (Af). Tropical rainforests are rainforests that occur in areas of tropical rainforest climate in which there is no dry season – all months have an average p ...

tropical rainforest
stretching along the southern coast of West Africa and across most of Central Africa (the ) west of the
African Great Lakes The African Great Lakes ( sw, Maziwa Makuu) are a series of lakes constituting the part of the Rift Valley lakes in and around the East African Rift. They include Lake Victoria, the List of lakes by area, second-largest fresh water lake in the wo ...

African Great Lakes
. * In eastern Africa, woodlands, savannas, and grasslands are found in the equatorial zone, including the
Serengeti The Serengeti ( ) ecosystem is a geographical region in Africa, spanning northern Tanzania Tanzania (;This approximates the Kiswahili pronunciation. However, is also heard in English. ), officially the United Republic of Tanzania ( sw, ...

Serengeti
ecosystem in Tanzania and Kenya. * Distinctive
Afromontane The Afromontane regions are subregions of the Afrotropical realm, one of the Earth's eight biogeographic realms, covering the plant and animal species found in the mountains of Africa and the southern Arabian Peninsula. The Afromontane regions of ...
forests, grasslands, and shrublands are found in the high mountains and mountain ranges of eastern Africa, from the Ethiopian Highlands to South Africa. * South of the equatorial forests, the
Western Western may refer to: Places *Western, Nebraska, a village in the US *Western, New York, a town in the US *Western Creek, Tasmania, a locality in Australia *Western Junction, Tasmania, a locality in Australia *Western world, countries that ide ...
and Southern Congolian forest–savanna mosaic are transition zones between the tropical forests and the
miombo woodland The Miombo woodland is a tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome (in the World Wide Fund for Nature The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is an international non-governmental organization founded in 1961 that works ...
belt that spans the continent from
Angola , national_anthem = "Angola Avante"() , image_map = , map_caption = , capital = Luanda , religion = , religion_year = 2015 , religion_ref = , coordinates = , largest_city = capital , o ...

Angola
to
Mozambique Mozambique (), officially the Republic of Mozambique ( pt, Moçambique or , ; ny, Mozambiki; sw, Msumbiji; ts, Muzambhiki), is a country located in Southeastern Africa bordered by the Indian Ocean to the east, Tanzania to the north, Malaw ...

Mozambique
and
Tanzania Tanzania (;This approximates the Kiswahili pronunciation. However, is also heard in English. ), officially the United Republic of Tanzania ( sw, Jamhuri ya Muungano wa Tanzania), is a country in East Africa within the African Great Lakes regi ...

Tanzania
. * The
Namib The Namib (; pt, Namibe) is a coastal desert upright=1.5, alt=see caption, Sand dunes in the Rub' al Khali ("Empty quarter") in the United Arab Emirates">Rub'_al_Khali.html" ;"title="Sand dunes in the Rub' al Khali">Sand dunes in the ...

Namib
and
Kalahari Desert The Kalahari Desert is a large semi-arid sandy savannah A savanna or savannah is a mixed woodland-grassland ecosystem characterised by the trees being sufficiently widely spaced so that the Canopy (forest), canopy does not close. The ope ...
s lie in south-western Africa, and are surrounded by semi-deserts including the
Karoo The Karoo ( ; from the South Khoekhoe Khoe languages, !Orakobab or Khoemana word ''ǃ’Aukarob'' "Hardveld") is a semi-desert natural region of South Africa. No exact definition of what constitutes the Karoo is available, so its extent is also n ...

Karoo
western South Africa. The
Bushveld The Bushveld (from af, bosveld, af, bos 'bush' and af, veld) is a sub-tropical woodland ecoregion An ecoregion (ecological region) or ecozone (ecological zone) is an ecology, ecologically and geographically defined area that is smaller ...

Bushveld
grasslands lie to the east of the deserts. * The
Cape Floristic Region The Cape Floristic Region is a floristic region located near the southern tip of South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. With over Demographics of South Africa, 59 ...
is at Africa's southern tip, and is home to diverse subtropical and temperate forests, woodlands, grasslands, and shrublands.


History


Prehistory

According to
paleontology Paleontology (), also spelled palaeontology or palæontology, is the scientific study of life that existed prior to, and sometimes including, the start of the Holocene epoch (geology), epoch (roughly 11,700 years before present). It includes th ...
, early hominid skull anatomy was similar to that of their close cousins, the great African forest
apes Apes (Hominoidea ) are a branch of Old World The "Old World" is a retronym A retronym is a newer name for an existing thing that differentiates the original form/version from a more recent one. It is thus a word or phrase created to a ...
,
gorilla Gorillas are herbivorous File:Land_Snail_radula_tracks.jpg#, 250px, Tracks made by terrestrial gastropods with their radulas, scraping green algae from a surface inside a greenhouse A herbivore is an animal anatomically and physiologica ...

gorilla
and
chimpanzee The chimpanzee (''Pan troglodytes''), also known simply as chimp, is a species of Hominidae, great ape native to the forest and savannah of tropical Africa. It has four confirmed subspecies and a fifth proposed subspecies. The chimpanzee and t ...
. However, they had adopted a
biped Bipedalism is a form of terrestrial locomotion – an erect-stanced unguligrade quadruped – with a galloping gait. A 2006 animation of 1887 photos by Eadweard Muybridge Terrestrial locomotion has evolution, evolved as animal A ...

biped
al locomotion and freed hands, giving them a crucial advantage enabling them to live in both forested areas and on the open
savanna A savanna or savannah is a mixed woodland A woodland () is, in the broad sense, land covered with trees, or in a narrow sense, synonymous with wood (or in the U.S., the '' plurale tantum'' woods), a low-density forest A forest is an ...

savanna
at a time when Africa was drying up, with savanna encroaching on forested areas. This occurred 10 million to 5 million years ago.Shillington, Kevin(2005). History of Africa, Rev. 2nd Ed. New York:
Palgrave Macmillan#REDIRECT Palgrave Macmillan Palgrave Macmillan is a British academic and trade publishing company headquartered in the London Borough of Camden. Its programme includes textbooks, journals, monographs, professional and reference works in print and ...
, p. 2, .
By 3 million years ago several
australopithecine Australopithecina or Hominina is a subtribe in the tribe Hominini. The members of the subtribe are generally '' Australopithecus'' ( cladistically including the genus, genera ''Homo'', ''Paranthropus'', and ''Kenyanthropus''), and it typically ...

australopithecine
hominid The Hominidae (), whose members are known as great apes or hominids (), are a taxonomic family In human society, family (from la, familia) is a group of people related either by consanguinity (by recognized birth) or affinity (by marri ...
species had developed throughout
southern The name Southern may refer to: * South South is one of the cardinal directions or compass points. South is the opposite of north and is perpendicular to the east and west. Etymology The word ''south'' comes from Old English ''sūþ'', from earl ...
,
eastern Eastern may refer to: Transportation *China Eastern Airlines, a current Chinese airline based in Shanghai *Eastern Air, former name of Zambia Skyways *Eastern Air Lines, a defunct American airline that operated from 1926 to 1991 *Eastern Air Lin ...
and
central Africa Central Africa is a subregion of the Africa, African continent comprising various countries according to different definitions. Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic ...

central Africa
. They were tool users rather than tool manufacturers. The next major evolutionary step occurred around 2.3 million BCE, when primitive
stone tools A stone tool is, in the most general sense, any tool A tool is an object that can extend an individual's ability to modify features of the surrounding environment. Although many animals use simple tools, only human beings, whose use of sto ...
were used to scavenge the carcasses of animals killed by other predators, both for their meat and their marrow. In hunting, ''H. habilis'' was most likely not capable of competing with large predators and was more prey than hunter, although ''H. habilis'' probably did steal eggs from nests and may have been able to catch small
game with separate sliding drawer, from 1390 to 1353 BC, made of glazed faience, dimensions: 5.5 × 7.7 × 21 cm, in the Brooklyn Museum (New York City) '', 1560, Pieter Bruegel the Elder File:Paul Cézanne, 1892-95, Les joueurs de cart ...
and weakened larger prey such as cubs and older animals. The tools were classed as
Oldowan The Oldowan (or Mode I) was a widespread stone tool A stone tool is, in the most general sense, any tool made either partially or entirely out of Rock (geology), stone. Although stone tool-dependent societies and cultures still exist today, ...

Oldowan
.Shillington, Kevin(2005). History of Africa, Rev. 2nd Ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 2–3, . Roughly 1.8 million years ago, ''
Homo ergaster ''Homo ergaster'' is an extinct species In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular int ...

Homo ergaster
'' first appeared in the fossil record in Africa. From ''Homo ergaster'', ''
Homo erectus ''Homo erectus'' (meaning " upright man") is an extinct species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is ofte ...

Homo erectus
'' (upright man) evolved 1.5 million years ago. Some of the earlier representatives of this species were small-brained and used primitive
stone tools A stone tool is, in the most general sense, any tool A tool is an object that can extend an individual's ability to modify features of the surrounding environment. Although many animals use simple tools, only human beings, whose use of sto ...
, much like ''''. The brain later grew in size, and ''H. erectus'' eventually developed a more complex stone tool technology called the
Acheulean . The types shown are (clockwise from top) cordate, ficron, and ovate. in Nice, France as postulated by Henry de Lumley dated to 400 thousand years ago. Acheulean (; also Acheulian and Mode II), from the French ''acheuléen'' after the ty ...

Acheulean
. Potentially the first hominid to engage in hunting, ''H. erectus'' mastered the art of making fire. They were the first hominids to leave Africa, going on to colonize the entire
Old World The Old World consists of Africa Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any ...
, and perhaps later on giving rise to ''
Homo floresiensis ''Homo floresiensis'' ("Flores Man"; nicknamed "hobbit") is a species of small archaic human that inhabited the island of Flores, Indonesia until the arrival of modern humans about 50,000 years ago. The remains of an individual who would have ...

Homo floresiensis
''. Although some recent writers suggest that '' H. georgicus'', a ''H. habilis''
descendant Descendant(s) or descendent(s) may refer to: * Lineal descendant, a consanguinous (i.e. biological) relative directly related to a person ** Collateral descendant, a relative descended from a brother or sister of an ancestor Books * The Descendant ...
, was the first and most primitive hominid to ever live outside Africa, many scientists consider ''H. georgicus'' to be an early and primitive member of the ''H. erectus'' species. The fossil and genetic evidence shows ''
Homo sapiens Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most abundant and widespread species of primate, characterized by bipedalism Bipedalism is a form of terrestrial locomotion where an organism moves by means of its two rear limbs or legs. An animal ...

Homo sapiens
'' developed in southern and eastern Africa by around 350,000 to 260,000 years ago. and gradually migrated across the continent in waves. Between 50,000 and 60,000 years ago, their expansion
out of Africa ''Out of Africa'' is a memoir by the Danish author Karen Blixen. The book, first published in 1937, recounts events of the seventeen years when Blixen made her home in Kenya Kenya, officially the Republic of Kenya ( sw, Jamhuri ya Kenya ...
launched the colonization of the planet by modern humans. By 10,000 BCE, ''Homo sapiens'' had spread to all corners of the world. This dispersal of the human species is suggested by linguistic, cultural and genetic evidence. During the 11th millennium BP, pottery was independently invented in West Africa, with the earliest pottery there dating to about 9,400 BC from central Mali. Simon Bradley, ''A Swiss-led team of archaeologists has discovered pieces of the oldest African pottery in central Mali, dating back to at least 9,400BC''
, SWI swissinfo.ch – the international service of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC), 18 January 2007
It spread throughout the
Sahel The Sahel (; ar, ساحل ' , "coast, shore") is the ecoclimatic and biogeographic realm A biogeographic realm or ecozone is the broadest biogeographic division of Earth's land surface, based on distributional patterns of terrestrial orga ...

Sahel
and southern
Sahara The Sahara (, ; ar, الصحراء الكبرى, ', 'the Greatest Desert') is a desert on the African continent Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent, after Asia in both cases. At about 30.3 million k ...

Sahara
. After the Sahara became a desert, it did not present a totally impenetrable barrier for travelers between north and south because of the application of animal husbandry towards carrying water, food, and supplies across the desert. Prior to the introduction of the
camel A camel is an even-toed ungulate The even-toed ungulates (Artiodactyla , ) are ungulates—hoofed animals—which bear weight equally on two (an even number) of their five toes: the third and fourth. The other three toes are either present, ...

camel
, the use of oxen, mule, and horses for desert crossing was common, and trade routes followed chains of
oases In geography, an oasis (, plural oases, ) is a fertile land in a desert or semi-desert environment.
that were strung across the desert. The
trans-saharan trade Trans-Saharan trade requires travel across the Sahara between sub-Saharan Africa Sub-Saharan Africa is, geographically and ethnoculturally, the area of the continent of Africa that lies south of the Sahara. According to the United Nations, i ...
was in full motion by 500 BCE with
Carthage Carthage was the capital city of the ancient Ancient Carthage, Carthaginian civilization, on the eastern side of the Lake of Tunis in what is now Tunisia. Carthage was one of the most important trading hubs of the Ancient Mediterranean and one of ...

Carthage
being a major economic force for its establishment. It is thought that the camel was first brought to
Egypt Egypt ( ar, مِصر, Miṣr), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identif ...

Egypt
after the
Persian Empire The Achaemenid Empire (; peo, wikt:𐎧𐏁𐏂𐎶, 𐎧𐏁𐏂, translit=Xšāça, translation=The Empire), also called the First Persian Empire, was an ancient Iranian peoples, Iranian empire based in Western Asia founded by Cyrus the Great ...

Persian Empire
conquered Egypt in 525 BCE, although large herds did not become common enough in North Africa for camels to be the pack animal of choice for the trans-saharan trade.


West Africa

The
Bantu expansion The Bantu expansion was a major series of migrations of the original Proto-Bantu-speaking group, which spread from an original nucleus around West 250px, A compass rose with west highlighted in black West is one of the four cardinal directi ...
is a major migration movement that originated in West Central Africa (possibly around Cameroon) around 2500 BCE, reaching East and Central Africa by 1000 BCE and Southern Africa by the early centuries CE. The
Djenné-Djenno Djenné-Djenno (also Jenne-Jeno; ) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area with legal protection by an international convention administered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organiz ...
city-state flourished from 250 BCE to 900 CE and was influential to the development of the
Ghana Empire The Ghana Empire ( 300 until 1100), properly known as Wagadou (''Ghana'' being the title of its ruler), was a West African empire located in the area of present-day southeastern Mauritania ) , image_map = Mauritania (orthographic projection ...
. The
Nok culture The Nok culture (or Nok civilization) is a population whose material remains are named after the Ham people, Ham village of Nok in Kaduna State of Nigeria, where their terracotta sculptures were first discovered in 1928. The Nok Culture appeared ...
of Nigeria (lasting from 1,500 BCE to 200 CE) is known from a type of
terracotta Terracotta, terra cotta, or terra-cotta (; Italian language, Italian: "baked earth", literally "cooked earth", from the Latin ''terra cocta''), a type of earthenware, is a clay-based ceramic glaze, unglazed or glazed ceramic, where the Pottery fi ...

terracotta
figure.Breunig, Peter. 2014. Nok: African Sculpture in Archaeological Context: p. 21. There were a number of medieval empires of the southern Sahara and the Sahel, based on
trans-Saharan trade Trans-Saharan trade requires travel across the Sahara between sub-Saharan Africa Sub-Saharan Africa is, geographically and ethnoculturally, the area of the continent of Africa that lies south of the Sahara. According to the United Nations, i ...
, including the
Ghana Empire The Ghana Empire ( 300 until 1100), properly known as Wagadou (''Ghana'' being the title of its ruler), was a West African empire located in the area of present-day southeastern Mauritania ) , image_map = Mauritania (orthographic projection ...
and the
Mali Empire The Mali Empire (Manding languages, Manding: ''Mandé''Ki-Zerbo, Joseph: ''UNESCO General History of Africa, Vol. IV, Abridged Edition: Africa from the Twelfth to the Sixteenth Century'', p. 57. University of California Press, 1997. or Manden; ...
,
Songhai Empire The Songhai Empire (also transliterated as Songhay) was a state that dominated the western Sahel/Sudan in the 15th and 16th century. At its peak, it was one of the largest African empires, states in African history. The state is known by its hist ...
, the
Kanem EmpireKanem may refer to: * Kanem-Bornu Empire, existed in modern Chad and Nigeria known to Arabian geographers from the 9th century AD onward and lasted as the independent kingdom of Bornu until 1900 * Kanem Prefecture, of former prefectures of Chad * K ...
and the subsequent
Bornu EmpireBornu may refer to: * Bornu Empire, a historical state of West Africa * Borno State, Nigeria {{disambig * African diaspora * Black people * Geography of Africa


Sources


Notes


References

* ''Taking Action to Reduce Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa'', World Bank Publications (1997), .


Further reading

* Chido, Diane E
From Chaos to Cohesion: A Regional Approach to Security, Stability, and Development in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Carlisle, Pa.: Strategic Studies Institute and U.S. Army War College Press, 2013. * Wm. Roger Louis and Jean Stengers: ''E.D. Morel's History of the Congo Reform Movement'', Clarendon Press Oxford, 1968.


External links

*
African People Website



The Story of Africa – BBC World Service
{{Authority control Sub-Saharan Africa, Geography of Africa Historical regions Regions of Africa