AFRICA is the world's second-largest and second-most-populous
continent (the first being
Asia ). At about 30.3 million km2 (11.7
million square miles) including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of
Earth\'s total surface area and 20.4% of its total land area. With
1.2 billion people as of 2016, it accounts for about 16% of the
world's human population . The continent is surrounded by the
Mediterranean Sea to the north, both the
Suez Canal and the Red Sea
Sinai Peninsula to the northeast, the
Indian Ocean to the
southeast and the
Atlantic Ocean to the west. The continent includes
Madagascar and various archipelagos . It contains 54 fully recognised
sovereign states (countries ), nine territories and two _de facto _
independent states with limited or no recognition .
Africa's average population is the youngest amongst all the
continents; the median age in 2012 was 19.7, when the worldwide
median age was 30.4.
Algeria is Africa's largest country by area, and
Nigeria is its largest by population. Africa, particularly central
Eastern Africa , is widely accepted as the place of origin of humans
Hominidae clade (great apes ), as evidenced by the discovery
of the earliest hominids and their ancestors, as well as later ones
that have been dated to around seven million years ago, including
Sahelanthropus tchadensis _, _
Australopithecus africanus _, _A.
afarensis _, _
Homo erectus _, _H. habilis _ and _H. ergaster _—with
the earliest _
Homo sapiens _ (modern human) found in
dated to circa 200,000 years ago.
Africa straddles the equator and
encompasses numerous climate areas; it is the only continent to
stretch from the northern temperate to southern temperate zones.
Africa hosts a large diversity of ethnicities , cultures and
languages . In the late 19th century European countries colonised
almost all of
Africa also varies greatly with regard to
environments, economics, historical ties and government systems.
However, most present states in
Africa originate from a process of
decolonisation in the 20th century. African nations have attempted to
cooperate through the establishment of the
African Union , which is
Addis Ababa .
* 1 Etymology
* 2 History
* 2.1 Prehistory
* 2.2 Early civilizations
* 2.3 Ninth to eighteenth centuries
* 2.4 Height of slave trade
Colonialism and the "Scramble for Africa"
* 2.7 Independence struggles
* 2.8 Post-colonial
* 3 Geography
* 3.1 Climate
* 3.2 Fauna
* 3.3 Ecology and biodiversity
* 4 Politics
* 4.1 The
* 5 Economy
* 6 Demographics
* 7 Languages
* 8 Culture
* 8.1 Visual art and architecture
* 8.2 Music and dance
* 8.3 Sports
* 9 Religion
* 10 Territories and regions
* 11 See also
* 12 References
* 13 Further reading
* 14 External links
Palazzo Ferreria , in
Afri _ was a
Latin name used to refer to the inhabitants of Africa,
which in its widest sense referred to all lands south of the
Ancient Libya ). This name seems to have originally
referred to a native Libyan tribe; see Terence for discussion. The
name is usually connected with Hebrew or Phoenician _ʿafar_ 'dust',
but a 1981 hypothesis has asserted that it stems from the Berber
_ifri_ (plural _ifran_) "cave", in reference to cave dwellers. The
same word may be found in the name of the
Banu Ifran from
Tripolitania , a Berber tribe originally from
Yafran (also known as
_Ifrane_) in northwestern Libya.
Under Roman rule,
Carthage became the capital of the province of
Africa Proconsularis , which also included the coastal part of modern
Libya . The
Latin suffix _-ica_ can sometimes be used to denote a
land (e.g., in _Celtica _ from _Celtae _, as used by
Julius Caesar ).
Muslim kingdom of
Ifriqiya , located in modern-day Tunisia,
also preserved a form of the name.
According to the Romans,
Africa lay to the west of Egypt, while
"Asia" was used to refer to
Anatolia and lands to the east. A definite
line was drawn between the two continents by the geographer Ptolemy
(85–165 AD), indicating
Alexandria along the
Prime Meridian and
making the isthmus of Suez and the
Red Sea the boundary between Asia
and Africa. As Europeans came to understand the real extent of the
continent, the idea of "Africa" expanded with their knowledge.
Other etymological hypotheses have been postulated for the ancient
* The 1st-century Jewish historian
Flavius Josephus (_Ant. 1.15_)
asserted that it was named for
Epher , grandson of
to Gen. 25:4, whose descendants, he claimed, had invaded Libya.
Isidore of Seville in _
Etymologiae _ XIV.5.2. suggests "Africa
comes from the
Latin _aprica_, meaning "sunny".
* Massey, in 1881, stated that
Africa is derived from the Egyptian
_af-rui-ka_, meaning "to turn toward the opening of the Ka." The Ka is
the energetic double of every person and the "opening of the Ka"
refers to a womb or birthplace.
Africa would be, for the Egyptians,
* Michèle Fruyt proposed linking the
Latin word with _africus_
"south wind", which would be of Umbrian origin and mean originally
* Robert R. Stieglitz of
Rutgers University proposed: "The name
Africa, derived from the
Latin *Aphir-ic-a, is cognate to Hebrew Ophir
History of Africa Further information: History of
North Africa ,
History of West Africa ,
History of Central Africa ,
History of East Africa , and
History of Southern Africa
Recent African origin of modern humans _ Lucy , an
Australopithecus afarensis _ skeleton discovered 24 November 1974 in
Awash Valley of
Africa is considered by most paleoanthropologists to be the oldest
inhabited territory on
Earth , with the human species originating from
the continent. During the mid-20th century, anthropologists
discovered many fossils and evidence of human occupation perhaps as
early as 7 million years ago (BP=before present).
Fossil remains of
several species of early apelike humans thought to have evolved into
modern man, such as _
Australopithecus afarensis _ (radiometrically
dated to approximately 3.9–3.0 million years BP, _Paranthropus
boisei _ (c. 2.3–1.4 million years BP) and _
Homo ergaster _ (c. 1.9
million–600,000 years BP) have been discovered.
After the evolution of _
Homo sapiens sapiens _ approximately 150,000
to 100,000 years BP in Africa, the continent was mainly populated by
groups of hunter-gatherers . These first modern humans left Africa
and populated the rest of the globe during the Out of
migration dated to approximately 50,000 years BP, exiting the
continent either across
Bab-el-Mandeb over the
Red Sea , the Strait
of Gibraltar in Morocco, or the
Isthmus of Suez in Egypt.
Other migrations of modern humans within the African continent have
been dated to that time, with evidence of early human settlement found
Southern Africa ,
Southeast Africa ,
North Africa , and the Sahara
The size of the
Sahara has historically been extremely variable, with
its area rapidly fluctuating and at times disappearing depending on
global climatic conditions. At the end of the Ice ages , estimated to
have been around 10,500 BC, the
Sahara had again become a green
fertile valley, and its African populations returned from the interior
and coastal highlands in
Sub-Saharan Africa , with rock art paintings
depicting a fertile
Sahara and large populations discovered in Tassili
n\'Ajjer dating back perhaps 10 millennia. However, the warming and
drying climate meant that by 5000 BC, the
Sahara region was becoming
increasingly dry and hostile. Around 3500 BC, due to a tilt in the
earth's orbit, the
Sahara experienced a period of rapid
desertification. The population trekked out of the
Nile Valley below the Second Cataract where they made
permanent or semi-permanent settlements. A major climatic recession
occurred, lessening the heavy and persistent rains in Central and
Eastern Africa . Since this time, dry conditions have prevailed in
Eastern Africa and, increasingly during the last 200 years, in
The domestication of cattle in
Africa preceded agriculture and seems
to have existed alongside hunter-gatherer cultures. It is speculated
that by 6000 BC, cattle were domesticated in North Africa. In the
Sahara-Nile complex, people domesticated many animals, including the
donkey and a small screw-horned goat which was common from
Around 4000 BC, the Saharan climate started to become drier at an
exceedingly fast pace. This climate change caused lakes and rivers to
shrink significantly and caused increasing desertification . This, in
turn, decreased the amount of land conducive to settlements and helped
to cause migrations of farming communities to the more tropical
West Africa .
By the first millennium BC, ironworking had been introduced in
Northern Africa and quickly spread across the
Sahara into the northern
parts of sub-Saharan Africa, and by 500 BC, metalworking began to
become commonplace in West Africa. Ironworking was fully established
by roughly 500 BC in many areas of East and West Africa, although
other regions didn't begin ironworking until the early centuries AD.
Copper objects from
Egypt , North Africa, Nubia, and
from around 500 BC have been excavated in West Africa, suggesting that
Trans-Saharan trade networks had been established by this date.
Ancient African history Colossal statues of
Ramesses II at
Abu Simbel , Egypt, date from around 1400 BC.
The origins and spread of the
Bantu languages c. 1000 BC to c. 500 AD
At about 3300 BC, the historical record opens in
Northern Africa with
the rise of literacy in the Pharaonic civilization of Ancient
One of the world's earliest and longest-lasting civilizations, the
Egyptian state continued, with varying levels of influence over other
areas, until 343 BC. Egyptian influence reached deep into modern-day
Nubia , and, according to Martin Bernal, as far north as
An independent centre of civilization with trading links to Phoenicia
was established by Phoenicians from Tyre on the north-west African
European exploration of Africa began with
Ancient Greeks and Romans .
In 332 BC,
Alexander the Great was welcomed as a liberator in
Egypt . He founded
Alexandria in Egypt, which would
become the prosperous capital of the
Ptolemaic dynasty after his
Following the conquest of North Africa's Mediterranean coastline by
Roman Empire , the area was integrated economically and culturally
into the Roman system. Roman settlement occurred in modern
elsewhere along the coast. The first
Roman emperor native to North
Septimius Severus , born in
Leptis Magna in present-day
Libya—his mother was Italian Roman and his father was Punic .
Christianity spread across these areas at an early date, from Judaea
Egypt and beyond the borders of the Roman world into Nubia; by AD
340 at the latest, it had become the state religion of the Aksumite
Empire . Syro-Greek missionaries , who arrived by way of the Red Sea,
were responsible for this theological development.
In the early 7th century, the newly formed Arabian Islamic Caliphate
expanded into Egypt, and then into North Africa. In a short while, the
local Berber elite had been integrated into
Arab tribes. When
the Umayyad capital Damascus fell in the 8th century, the Islamic
centre of the Mediterranean shifted from Syria to
Qayrawan in North
North Africa had become diverse, and a hub for
mystics, scholars, jurists, and philosophers. During the
Islam spread to sub-Saharan Africa, mainly
through trade routes and migration.
NINTH TO EIGHTEENTH CENTURIES
African horseman of Baguirmi in full padded armour suit
The intricate 9th-century bronzes from
Igbo-Ukwu , in Nigeria
displayed a level of technical accomplishment that was notably more
advanced than European bronze casting of the same period.
Africa possessed perhaps as many as 10,000 different
states and polities characterized by many different sorts of
political organization and rule. These included small family groups of
hunter-gatherers such as the
San people of southern Africa; larger,
more structured groups such as the family clan groupings of the
Bantu-speaking peoples of central, southern, and eastern Africa;
heavily structured clan groups in the
Horn of Africa ; the large
Sahelian kingdoms ; and autonomous city-states and kingdoms such as
those of the Akan ; Edo , Yoruba , and
Igbo people in
West Africa ;
and the Swahili coastal trading towns of
Southeast Africa .
By the ninth century AD, a string of dynastic states, including the
earliest Hausa states, stretched across the sub-Saharan savannah from
the western regions to central Sudan. The most powerful of these
Gao , and the Kanem-Bornu Empire .
in the eleventh century, but was succeeded by the
Mali Empire which
consolidated much of western
Sudan in the thirteenth century. Kanem
Islam in the eleventh century.
In the forested regions of the West African coast, independent
kingdoms grew with little influence from the
Muslim north. The Kingdom
of Nri was established around the ninth century and was one of the
first. It is also one of the oldest kingdoms in present-day Nigeria
and was ruled by the
Eze Nri . The Nri kingdom is famous for its
elaborate bronzes , found at the town of
Igbo-Ukwu . The bronzes have
been dated from as far back as the ninth century. Ashanti yam
ceremony, nineteenth century by Thomas E. Bowdich
The Kingdom of
Ife , historically the first of these Yoruba
city-states or kingdoms, established government under a priestly oba
('king' or 'ruler' in the
Yoruba language ), called the _Ooni of Ife_.
Ife was noted as a major religious and cultural centre in West Africa,
and for its unique naturalistic tradition of bronze sculpture. The Ife
model of government was adapted at the
Oyo Empire , where its obas or
kings, called the _Alaafins of Oyo_, once controlled a large number of
other Yoruba and non-Yoruba city-states and kingdoms; the Fon _Kingdom
Dahomey _ was one of the non-Yoruba domains under Oyo control.
The Almoravids were a Berber dynasty from the
Sahara that spread over
a wide area of northwestern
Africa and the Iberian peninsula during
the eleventh century. The
Banu Hilal and Banu Ma\'qil were a
Bedouin tribes from the
Arabian Peninsula who
migrated westwards via
Egypt between the eleventh and thirteenth
centuries. Their migration resulted in the fusion of the Arabs and
Berbers, where the locals were Arabized , and
Arab culture absorbed
elements of the local culture, under the unifying framework of Islam.
Great Zimbabwe (eleventh to fifteenth centuries)
Following the breakup of Mali, a local leader named Sonni Ali
(1464–1492) founded the
Songhai Empire in the region of middle Niger
and the western
Sudan and took control of the trans-Saharan trade.
Sonni Ali seized
Timbuktu in 1468 and Jenne in 1473, building his
regime on trade revenues and the cooperation of
Muslim merchants. His
Askia Mohammad I (1493–1528) made
Islam the official
religion, built mosques, and brought to
Muslim scholars, including
al-Maghili (d.1504), the founder of an important tradition of Sudanic
Muslim scholarship. By the eleventh century, some Hausa
states – such as
Kano , jigawa ,
Katsina , and
Gobir – had
developed into walled towns engaging in trade, servicing caravans ,
and the manufacture of goods. Until the fifteenth century, these small
states were on the periphery of the major Sudanic empires of the era,
paying tribute to Songhai to the west and Kanem-Borno to the east.
Cedid Atlas , showing the
Africa from the perspective of the
Ottoman Empire . The Ottomans controlled much of Northern Africa
between the 14th and 19th centuries, and had vassal arrangements with
a number of Saharan states.
HEIGHT OF SLAVE TRADE
Arab slave trade and
Atlantic slave trade
Arab–Swahili slave traders and their captives along the Ruvuma River
Tanzania and Mozambique) as witnessed by David Livingstone
Slavery had long been practised in Africa. Between the 7th and 20th
Arab slave trade (also known as slavery in the East) took
18 million slaves from
Africa via trans-Saharan and Indian Ocean
routes. Between the 15th and the 19th centuries (500 years), the
Atlantic slave trade took an estimated 7–12 million slaves to the
New World. More than 1 million Europeans were captured by Barbary
pirates and sold as slaves in
North Africa between the 16th and 19th
West Africa , the decline of the
Atlantic slave trade in the 1820s
caused dramatic economic shifts in local polities. The gradual decline
of slave-trading, prompted by a lack of demand for slaves in the New
World , increasing anti-slavery legislation in
Europe and America, and
the British Royal Navy\'s increasing presence off the West African
coast, obliged African states to adopt new economies. Between 1808 and
1860, the British
West Africa Squadron seized approximately 1,600
slave ships and freed 150,000 Africans who were aboard. _ Slave
being inspected, from Captain Canot; or, Twenty Years of an African
Action was also taken against African leaders who refused to agree to
British treaties to outlaw the trade, for example against "the
usurping King of
Lagos ", deposed in 1851. Anti-slavery treaties were
signed with over 50 African rulers. The largest powers of West Africa
Asante Confederacy , the Kingdom of
Dahomey , and the Oyo Empire
) adopted different ways of adapting to the shift. Asante and Dahomey
concentrated on the development of "legitimate commerce" in the form
of palm oil , cocoa , timber and gold , forming the bedrock of West
Africa's modern export trade. The Oyo Empire, unable to adapt,
collapsed into civil wars.
COLONIALISM AND THE "SCRAMBLE FOR AFRICA"
Colonization of Africa Further information: Scramble
Mahdist War was a colonial war fought between the
Mahdist Sudanese and the British forces. Areas of
the sovereignty or influence of the colonial powers in 1913, along
with modern borders. Belgium
In the late 19th century, the European imperial powers engaged in a
major territorial scramble and occupied most of the continent,
creating many colonial territories, and leaving only two fully
Ethiopia (known to Europeans as "Abyssinia"), and
Sudan were never formally incorporated into any
European colonial empire; however, after the British occupation of
Egypt was effectively under British administration until 1922 .
Berlin Conference held in 1884–85 was an important event in the
political future of African ethnic groups. It was convened by King
Leopold II of Belgium , and attended by the European powers that laid
claim to African territories. It sought to end the European powers'
Scramble for Africa, by agreeing on political division and spheres of
influence. They set up the political divisions of the continent, by
spheres of interest, that exist in
Imperial rule by Europeans would continue until after the conclusion
World War II
World War II , when almost all remaining colonial territories
gradually obtained formal independence. Independence movements in
Africa gained momentum following World War II, which left the major
European powers weakened. In 1951,
Libya , a former Italian colony,
gained independence. In 1956,
Morocco won their
independence from France.
Ghana followed suit the next year (March
1957), becoming the first of the sub-Saharan colonies to be granted
independence. Most of the rest of the continent became independent
over the next decade.
Portugal's overseas presence in
Sub-Saharan Africa (most notably in
Angola , Cape Verde,
São Tomé and
Príncipe) lasted from the 16th century to 1975, after the Estado Novo
regime was overthrown in a military coup in Lisbon . Rhodesia
unilaterally declared independence from the
United Kingdom in 1965,
under the white minority government of
Ian Smith , but was not
internationally recognized as an independent state (as
until 1980, when black nationalists gained power after a bitter
guerrilla war . Although
South Africa was one of the first African
countries to gain independence, the state remained under the control
of the country's white minority through a system of racial segregation
known as apartheid until 1994.
Mobutu Sese Seko ,
Zaire 's longtime dictator, embezzled over $5
billion from his country.
Africa contains 54 sovereign countries, most of which have
borders that were drawn during the era of European colonialism. Since
colonialism, African states have frequently been hampered by
instability, corruption, violence, and authoritarianism . The vast
majority of African states are republics that operate under some form
of the presidential system of rule. However, few of them have been
able to sustain democratic governments on a permanent basis, and many
have instead cycled through a series of coups , producing military
Great instability was mainly the result of marginalization of ethnic
groups , and graft under these leaders . For political gain , many
leaders fanned ethnic conflicts, some of which had been exacerbated,
or even created, by colonial rule. In many countries, the military was
perceived as being the only group that could effectively maintain
order, and it ruled many nations in
Africa during the 1970s and early
1980s. During the period from the early 1960s to the late 1980s,
Africa had more than 70 coups and 13 presidential assassinations .
Border and territorial disputes were also common, with the
European-imposed borders of many nations being widely contested
through armed conflicts. South African paratroops on a raid in
Angola during the
South African Border War
Cold War conflicts between the United States and the
Soviet Union ,
as well as the policies of the
International Monetary Fund , also
played a role in instability. When a country became independent for
the first time, it was often expected to align with one of the two
superpowers . Many countries in
Northern Africa received Soviet
military aid, while others in Central and
Southern Africa were
supported by the United States,
France or both. The 1970s saw an
Cold War intrigues, as newly independent
Mozambique aligned themselves with the Soviet Union, and the West and
South Africa sought to contain Soviet influence by supporting friendly
regimes or insurgency movements. In
Rhodesia , Soviet and
Chinese-backed leftist guerrillas of the
Zimbabwe Patriotic Front
waged a brutal guerrilla war against the country's white government.
There was a major famine in
Ethiopia , when hundreds of thousands of
people starved. Some claimed that Marxist economic policies made the
situation worse. The most devastating military conflict in modern
Africa has been the
Second Congo War ; this conflict and
its aftermath has killed an estimated 5.5 million people. Since 2003
there has been an ongoing conflict in
Darfur which has become a
humanitarian disaster. Another notable tragic event is the 1994
Rwandan Genocide in which an estimated 800,000 people were murdered.
AIDS in post-colonial
Africa has also been a prevalent issue.
In the 21st century, however, the number of armed conflicts in Africa
has steadily declined. For instance, the civil war in
Angola came to
an end in 2002 after nearly 30 years. This has coincided with many
countries abandoning communist-style command economies and opening up
for market reforms. The improved stability and economic reforms have
led to a great increase in foreign investment into many African
nations, mainly from
China , which has spurred quick economic growth
in many countries, seemingly ending decades of stagnation and decline.
Several African economies are among the world's fastest growing as of
2016. A significant part of this growth, which is sometimes referred
Africa Rising , can also be attributed to the facilitated
diffusion of information technologies and specifically the mobile
Geography of Africa Satellite photo of Africa.
Desert in the north can be clearly seen. A composite
satellite image of
Africa (centre) with
North America (left) and
Eurasia (right), to scale
Africa is the largest of the three great southward projections from
the largest landmass of the Earth. Separated from
Europe by the
Mediterranean Sea , it is joined to
Asia at its northeast extremity by
Isthmus of Suez (transected by the
Suez Canal ), 163 km (101 mi)
wide. (Geopolitically ,
Sinai Peninsula east of the Suez
Canal is often considered part of Africa, as well.)
From the most northerly point,
Ras ben Sakka in
Tunisia (37°21' N),
to the most southerly point,
Cape Agulhas in
South Africa (34°51'15"
S), is a distance of approximately 8,000 km (5,000 mi); from Cape
Verde , 17°33'22" W, the westernmost point, to
Ras Hafun in
51°27'52" E, the most easterly projection, is a distance of
approximately 7,400 km (4,600 mi). The coastline is 26,000 km (16,000
mi) long, and the absence of deep indentations of the shore is
illustrated by the fact that Europe, which covers only 10,400,000 km2
(4,000,000 sq mi) – about a third of the surface of
Africa – has a
coastline of 32,000 km (20,000 mi).
Africa's largest country is
Algeria , and its smallest country is
Seychelles , an archipelago off the east coast. The smallest nation
on the continental mainland is
The Gambia .
Africa includes the
Arabian Peninsula ; the Zagros
Mountains of Iran and the
Anatolian Plateau of Turkey mark where the
African Plate collided with Eurasia. The
Afrotropic ecozone and the
Saharo-Arabian desert to its north unite the region biogeographically,
and the Afro-Asiatic language family unites the north linguistically.
Climate of Africa
Africa map of Köppen climate
The climate of
Africa ranges from tropical to subarctic on its
highest peaks. Its northern half is primarily desert , or arid , while
its central and southern areas contain both savanna plains and dense
jungle (rainforest ) regions. In between, there is a convergence,
where vegetation patterns such as sahel and steppe dominate.
the hottest continent on earth and 60% of the entire land surface
consists of drylands and deserts. The record for the highest-ever
recorded temperature, in
Libya in 1922 (58 °C (136 °F)), was
discredited in 2013.
Fauna of Africa
Savanna at Ngorongoro
Conservation Area ,
Africa boasts perhaps the world's largest combination of density and
"range of freedom" of wild animal populations and diversity, with wild
populations of large carnivores (such as lions , hyenas , and cheetahs
) and herbivores (such as buffalo , elephants , camels , and giraffes
) ranging freely on primarily open non-private plains. It is also home
to a variety of "jungle" animals including snakes and primates and
aquatic life such as crocodiles and amphibians . In addition, Africa
has the largest number of megafauna species, as it was least affected
by the extinction of the Pleistocene megafauna .
ECOLOGY AND BIODIVERSITY
Tropical beach in
Africa has over 3,000 protected areas , with 198 marine protected
areas, 50 biosphere reserves, and 80 wetlands reserves. Significant
habitat destruction, increases in human population and poaching are
reducing Africa's biological diversity and arable land . Human
encroachment, civil unrest and the introduction of non-native species
threaten biodiversity in Africa. This has been exacerbated by
administrative problems, inadequate personnel and funding problems.
Deforestation is affecting
Africa at twice the world rate, according
United Nations Environment Programme (
UNEP ). According to the
University of Pennsylvania African Studies Center, 31% of Africa's
pasture lands and 19% of its forests and woodlands are classified as
Africa is losing over four million hectares of forest
per year, which is twice the average deforestation rate for the rest
of the world. Some sources claim that approximately 90% of the
original, virgin forests in
West Africa have been destroyed. Over 90%
Madagascar 's original forests have been destroyed since the
arrival of humans 2000 years ago. About 65% of Africa's agricultural
land suffers from soil degradation . See also:
Afrotropic ecozone and
List of political parties in Africa by country
There are clear signs of increased networking among African
organizations and states. For example, in the civil war in the
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Democratic Republic of the Congo (former
Zaire ), rather than rich,
non-African countries intervening, neighbouring African countries
became involved (see also
Second Congo War ). Since the conflict began
in 1998, the estimated death toll has reached 5 million.
THE AFRICAN UNION
Map of the
African Union with suspended states highlighted in
light green Main article:
African Union (AU) is a 55-member federation consisting of all of
Africa's states. The union was formed, with
Addis Ababa ,
as its headquarters, on 26 June 2001. The union was officially
established on 9 July 2002 as a successor to the Organisation of
African Unity (OAU). In July 2004, the African Union's Pan-African
Parliament (PAP) was relocated to
Midrand , in South Africa, but the
African Commission on
Human and Peoples\' Rights remained in Addis
Ababa. There is a policy in effect to decentralize the African
Federation's institutions so that they are shared by all the states.
The African Union, not to be confused with the AU Commission, is
formed by the Constitutive Act of the
African Union , which aims to
African Economic Community , a federated commonwealth,
into a state under established international conventions. The African
Union has a parliamentary government, known as the African Union
Government , consisting of legislative, judicial and executive organs.
It is led by the
African Union President and Head of State, who is
also the President of the
Pan-African Parliament . A person becomes AU
President by being elected to the PAP, and subsequently gaining
majority support in the PAP. The powers and authority of the President
of the African Parliament derive from the Constitutive Act and the
Protocol of the
Pan-African Parliament , as well as the inheritance of
presidential authority stipulated by African treaties and by
international treaties, including those subordinating the Secretary
General of the OAU Secretariat (AU Commission) to the PAP. The
government of the AU consists of all-union (federal), regional, state,
and municipal authorities, as well as hundreds of institutions, that
together manage the day-to-day affairs of the institution.
Political associations such as the
African Union offer hope for
greater co-operation and peace between the continent's many countries.
Extensive human rights abuses still occur in several parts of Africa,
often under the oversight of the state. Most of such violations occur
for political reasons, often as a side effect of civil war. Countries
where major human rights violations have been reported in recent times
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Democratic Republic of the Congo ,
Sierra Leone , Liberia
Zimbabwe , and Côte d\'Ivoire .
showing the relationships between various multinational African
entities v • d • e
Map of the
African Economic Community . CEN-SAD COMESA
EAC ECCAS ECOWAS IGAD SADC UMA Satellite image
of city lights in
Africa showing the lack of modern development on the
continent (1994-1995) Main article:
Economy of Africa See also:
Economy of the
African Union and
Water in Africa
GDP (PPP, 2014)
millions of USD
GDP (nominal, 2014)
millions of USD
Although it has abundant natural resources ,
Africa remains the
world's poorest and most underdeveloped continent, the result of a
variety of causes that may include corrupt governments that have often
committed serious human rights violations , failed central planning ,
high levels of illiteracy , lack of access to foreign capital, and
frequent tribal and military conflict (ranging from guerrilla warfare
to genocide ). According to the
United Nations '
Report in 2003, the bottom 24 ranked nations (151st to 175th) were all
Poverty , illiteracy, malnutrition and inadequate water supply and
sanitation, as well as poor health, affect a large proportion of the
people who reside in the African continent. In August 2008, the World
Bank announced revised global poverty estimates based on a new
international poverty line of $1.25 per day (versus the previous
measure of $1.00). 80.5% of the
Sub-Saharan Africa population was
living on less than $2.50 (PPP) per day in 2005, compared with 85.7%
Sub-Saharan Africa is the least successful region of the world in
reducing poverty ($1.25 per day); some 50% of the population living in
poverty in 1981 (200 million people), a figure that rose to 58% in
1996 before dropping to 50% in 2005 (380 million people). The average
poor person in sub-Saharan
Africa is estimated to live on only 70
cents per day, and was poorer in 2003 than in 1973, indicating
increasing poverty in some areas. Some of it is attributed to
unsuccessful economic liberalization programmes spearheaded by foreign
companies and governments, but other studies have cited bad domestic
government policies more than external factors.
From 1995 to 2005, Africa's rate of economic growth increased,
averaging 5% in 2005. Some countries experienced still higher growth
Sudan and Equatorial
Guinea , all of which had
recently begun extracting their petroleum reserves or had expanded
their oil extraction capacity. The continent is believed to hold 90%
of the world's cobalt , 90% of its platinum , 50% of its gold , 98% of
its chromium , 70% of its tantalite , 64% of its manganese and
one-third of its uranium . The
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
has 70% of the world's coltan , a mineral used in the production of
tantalum capacitors for electronic devices such as cell phones. The
DRC also has more than 30% of the world's diamond reserves.
the world's largest exporter of bauxite . As the growth in
been driven mainly by services and not manufacturing or agriculture,
it has been growth without jobs and without reduction in poverty
levels. In fact, the food security crisis of 2008 which took place on
the heels of the global financial crisis has pushed back 100 million
people into food insecurity.
In recent years, the People\'s
China has built
increasingly stronger ties with African nations and is Africa's
largest trading partner. In 2007, Chinese companies invested a total
of US$1 billion in Africa.
A Harvard University study led by professor
Calestous Juma showed
Africa could feed itself by making the transition from importer
to self-sufficiency. "African agriculture is at the crossroads; we
have come to the end of a century of policies that favoured Africa's
export of raw materials and importation of food.
Africa is starting to
focus on agricultural innovation as its new engine for regional trade
During US President Barack Obama's visit to
Africa in July 2013, he
announced a US$ 7 billion plan to further develop infrastructure and
work more intensively with African heads of state. He also announced a
new programme named Trade Africa, designed to boost trade within the
continent as well as between
Africa and the US.
Demographics of Africa Woman from
Africa's population has rapidly increased over the last 40 years, and
consequently, it is relatively young. In some African states, more
than half the population is under 25 years of age. The total number
of people in
Africa increased from 229 million in 1950 to 630 million
in 1990. As of 2014, the population of
Africa is estimated at 1.2
billion. Africa's total population surpassing other continents is
fairly recent; African population surpassed
Europe in the 1990s, while
Americas was overtaken sometime around the year 2000; Africa's
rapid population growth is expected to overtake the only two nations
currently larger than its population, at roughly the same time - India
and China's 1.4 billion people each will swap ranking around the year
2022. San Bushman man from
Bantu languages (part of the Niger–Congo family) are
the majority in southern, central and southeast Africa. The
Bantu-speaking peoples from The
Sahel progressively expanded over most
of Sub-Saharan Africa. But there are also several
Nilotic groups in
Sudan and East Africa, the mixed
Swahili people on the Swahili
Coast , and a few remaining indigenous Khoisan ("San" or "Bushmen")
Pygmy peoples in southern and central Africa, respectively.
Bantu-speaking Africans also predominate in
Gabon and Equatorial
Guinea, and are found in parts of southern Cameroon. In the Kalahari
Desert of Southern Africa, the distinct people known as the Bushmen
(also "San", closely related to, but distinct from "Hottentots ") have
long been present. The San are physically distinct from other Africans
and are the indigenous people of southern Africa. Pygmies are the
pre-Bantu indigenous peoples of central Africa.
The peoples of
West Africa primarily speak
Niger–Congo languages ,
belonging mostly to its non-Bantu branches, though some Nilo-Saharan
and Afro-Asiatic speaking groups are also found. The
Niger–Congo-speaking Yoruba , Igbo ,
Fulani , Akan and Wolof ethnic
groups are the largest and most influential. In the central Sahara,
Mandinka or Mande groups are most significant. Chadic-speaking groups,
including the Hausa , are found in more northerly parts of the region
nearest to the Sahara, and
Nilo-Saharan communities, such as the
Songhai , Kanuri and Zarma , are found in the eastern parts of West
Central Africa .
The peoples of
North Africa consist of three main indigenous groups:
Berbers in the northwest, Egyptians in the northeast, and
Nilo-Saharan-speaking peoples in the east. The Arabs who arrived in
the 7th century AD introduced the
Arabic language and
Islam to North
Africa. The Semitic Phoenicians (who founded
Carthage ) and
Alans , the Indo- European Greeks , Romans , and
Vandals settled in
North Africa as well. Significant Berber
communities remain within
Algeria in the 21st century,
while, to a lesser extent, Berber speakers are also present in some
Tunisia and Libya. The Berber-speaking Tuareg and other
often-nomadic peoples are the principal inhabitants of the Saharan
interior of North Africa. In Mauritania, there is a small but
near-extinct Berber community in the north and Niger–Congo-speaking
peoples in the south, though in both regions Arabic and
predominates. In Sudan, although Arabic and
Arab culture predominate,
it is mostly inhabited by groups that originally spoke Nilo-Saharan,
such as the Nubians, Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa, who, over the
centuries, have variously intermixed with migrants from the Arabian
peninsula. Small communities of Afro-Asiatic-speaking Beja nomads can
also be found in
Egypt and Sudan. Beja bedouins from Northeast
Horn of Africa , some Ethiopian and Eritrean groups (like the
Amhara and Tigrayans , collectively known as Habesha ) speak languages
from the Semitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family, while the
Oromo and Somali speak languages from the
Cushitic branch of
Prior to the decolonization movements of the post-
World War II
World War II era,
Europeans were represented in every part of Africa. Decolonization
during the 1960s and 1970s often resulted in the mass emigration of
white settlers – especially from
Morocco (1.6 million
_pieds-noirs _ in North Africa), Kenya, Congo, Rhodesia, Mozambique
and Angola. Between 1975 and 1977, over a million colonials returned
Portugal alone. Nevertheless, white Africans remain an important
minority in many African states, particularly
Réunion , and the
South Africa . The country with the
largest white African population is South Africa. Dutch and British
diasporas represent the largest communities of European ancestry on
the continent today.
European colonization also brought sizable groups of Asians ,
particularly from the
Indian subcontinent , to British colonies. Large
Indian communities are found in South Africa, and smaller ones are
present in Kenya, Tanzania, and some other southern and southeast
African countries. The large Indian community in
Uganda was expelled
by the dictator
Idi Amin in 1972, though many have since returned. The
islands in the
Indian Ocean are also populated primarily by people of
Asian origin, often mixed with Africans and Europeans. The Malagasy
Madagascar are an
Austronesian people , but those along the
coast are generally mixed with Bantu, Arab, Indian and European
origins. Malay and Indian ancestries are also important components in
the group of people known in
South Africa as
Cape Coloureds (people
with origins in two or more races and continents). During the 20th
century, small but economically important communities of Lebanese and
Chinese have also developed in the larger coastal cities of West and
East Africa , respectively.
Languages of Africa Map showing the traditional
language families represented in Africa: Afroasiatic
(Semitic-Hamitic) Austronesian (Malay-Polynesian) Indo-European
Khoisan Niger-Congo : Bantu Central and Eastern Sudanese
Central Bantoid Eastern Bantoid Guinean Mande Western Bantoid
Nilo-Saharan : Kanuri
By most estimates, well over a thousand languages (
estimated around two thousand) are spoken in Africa. Most are of
African origin, though some are of European or Asian origin.
the most multilingual continent in the world, and it is not rare for
individuals to fluently speak not only multiple African languages, but
one or more European ones as well. There are four major language
families indigenous to Africa:
* The _Afroasiatic_ languages are a language family of about 240
languages and 285 million people widespread throughout the Horn of
North Africa , the
Sahel , and Southwest
* The _Nilo-Saharan_ language family consists of more than a hundred
languages spoken by 30 million people.
Nilo-Saharan languages are
spoken by ethnic groups in
Uganda , and northern
* The _Niger-Congo_ language family covers much of Sub-Saharan
Africa. In terms of number of languages, it is the largest language
Africa and perhaps the largest in the world.
* The _Khoisan_ languages number about fifty and are spoken in
Southern Africa by approximately 400,000 people. Many of the Khoisan
languages are endangered . The Khoi and San peoples are considered the
original inhabitants of this part of Africa.
Following the end of colonialism , nearly all African countries
adopted official languages that originated outside the continent,
although several countries also granted legal recognition to
indigenous languages (such as Swahili , Yoruba , Igbo and Hausa ). In
numerous countries, English and French (_see
African French _) are
used for communication in the public sphere such as government,
commerce, education and the media. Arabic , Portuguese ,
Spanish are examples of languages that trace their origin to outside
of Africa, and that are used by millions of Africans today, both in
the public and private spheres. Italian is spoken by some in former
Italian colonies in Africa. German is spoken in
Namibia , as it was a
former German protectorate.
The rock-hewn Church of Saint George in
Ethiopia is a
World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site . Main article:
Culture of Africa
Some aspects of traditional African cultures have become less
practised in recent years as a result of neglect and suppression by
colonial and post-colonial regimes. For example, African customs were
discouraged, and African languages were prohibited in mission schools.
Leopold II of Belgium attempted to "civilize" Africans by
discouraging polygamy and witchcraft.
Obidoh Freeborn posits that colonialism is one element that has
created the character of modern African art. According to authors
Douglas Fraser and Herbert M. Cole, "The precipitous alterations in
the power structure wrought by colonialism were quickly followed by
drastic iconographic changes in the art." Fraser and Cole assert
that, in Igboland, some art objects "lack the vigor and careful
craftsmanship of the earlier art objects that served traditional
functions. Author Chika Okeke-Agulu states that "the racist
infrastructure of British imperial enterprise forced upon the
political and cultural guardians of empire a denial and suppression of
an emergent sovereign
Africa and modernist art." In Soweto, the West
Rand Administrative Board established a Cultural Section to collect,
read, and review scripts before performances could occur. Editors F.
Abiola Irele and Simon Gikandi comment that the current identity of
African literature had its genesis in the "traumatic encounter between
Africa and Europe." On the other hand, Mhoze Chikowero believes that
Africans deployed music, dance, spirituality, and other performative
cultures to (re)asset themselves as active agents and indigenous
intellectuals, to unmake their colonial marginalization and reshape
their own destinies."
There is now a resurgence in the attempts to rediscover and revalue
African traditional cultures, under such movements as the African
Renaissance , led by
Thabo Mbeki ,
Afrocentrism , led by a group of
Molefi Asante , as well as the increasing
recognition of traditional spiritualism through decriminalization of
Vodou and other forms of spirituality.
VISUAL ART AND ARCHITECTURE
African art and architecture reflect the diversity of African
cultures. The region's oldest known beads were made from _
shells and worn as personal ornaments 72,000 years ago. The Great
Pyramid of Giza in
Egypt was the world\'s tallest structure for 4,000
years, until the completion of
Lincoln Cathedral around the year 1300.
The stone ruins of
Great Zimbabwe are also noteworthy for their
architecture, as are the monolithic churches at
Lalibela , Ethiopia,
such as the Church of Saint George . A musician from South Africa
MUSIC AND DANCE
Music of Africa The
Namibia rugby team
Egypt has long been a cultural focus of the
Arab world , while
remembrance of the rhythms of sub-Saharan Africa, in particular West
Africa, was transmitted through the
Atlantic slave trade to modern
samba , blues , jazz , reggae , hip hop , and rock . The 1950s through
the 1970s saw a conglomeration of these various styles with the
Highlife music. Modern music of the
continent includes the highly complex choral singing of southern
Africa and the dance rhythms of the musical genre of soukous ,
dominated by the music of the Democratic
Republic of Congo .
Indigenous musical and dance traditions of
Africa are maintained by
oral traditions, and they are distinct from the music and dance styles
North Africa and
Southern Africa .
Arab influences are visible in
North African music and dance and, in Southern Africa, Western
influences are apparent due to colonization .
Fifty-four African countries have football (soccer) teams in the
Confederation of African Football .
Egypt has won the African Cup
seven times, and a record-making three times in a row. Cameroon,
Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana, and
Algeria have advanced to the knockout
stage of recent FIFA World Cups .
South Africa hosted the 2010 World
Cup tournament , becoming the first African country to do so.
Cricket is popular in some African nations.
South Africa and Zimbabwe
have Test status, while
Kenya is the leading non-test team and
previously had One-Day International cricket (ODI) status (from 10
October 1997 , until 30 January 2014 ). The three countries jointly
hosted the 2003
Cricket World Cup .
Namibia is the other African
country to have played in a World Cup.
Morocco in northern
also hosted the 2002
Morocco Cup , but the national team has never
qualified for a major tournament. Rugby is a popular sport in South
Africa, Namibia, and Zimbabwe.
Religion in Africa See also:
Africans profess a wide variety of religious beliefs, and statistics
on religious affiliation are difficult to come by since they are often
a sensitive a topic for governments with mixed religious populations.
According to the
World Book Encyclopedia ,
Islam is the largest
religion in Africa, followed by
Christianity . According to
Encyclopædia Britannica , 45% of the population are Christians , 40%
are Muslims , and 10% follow traditional religions . A small number of
Confucianist , Baha\'i , or Jewish .
There is also a minority of people in
Africa who are irreligious .
The Holy Trinity Cathedral , in
Addis Ababa ,
The Great Mosque of
Kairouan , founded in 670, is the oldest
mosque in North Africa; it is located in
Vodun altar in
National Church of
A map showing religious distribution in
TERRITORIES AND REGIONS
List of regions of Africa and List of sovereign states
and dependent territories in
Cameroon Cent Afr Rep
Morocco São Tomé
Saint Helena (UK)* Lesotho
Zimbabwe Mauritius* Réunion* *
Strait of Gibraltar
Mediterranean Sea Red
The countries in this table are categorized according to the scheme
for geographic subregions used by the United Nations, and data
included are per sources in cross-referenced articles. Where they
differ, provisos are clearly indicated.
Regions of Africa:
Physical map of
Political map of
Name of region and
territory, with flag Area
(per km²) CAPITAL
Canary Islands (Spain)
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria ,
Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Indian Ocean Territory - Chagos
(United Kingdom) 56.13
Republic of the Congo
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Democratic Republic of the Congo
São Tomé and Príncipe
Cape Town ,
Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha (United Kingdom)
* Geography portal
Index of Africa-related articles
List of African millionaires
List of highest mountain peaks of Africa
Lists of cities in Africa
Outline of Africa
Urbanization in Africa
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* ^ The Spanish
Canary Islands , of which Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Santa Cruz de Tenerife are co-capitals, are often considered part
Northern Africa due to their relative proximity to
Sahara ; population and area figures are for 2001.
* ^ The Spanish exclave of
Ceuta is surrounded on land by
Northern Africa; population and area figures are for 2001.
Egypt is generally considered a transcontinental country in
Northern Africa (UN region) and Western Asia; population and area
figures are for African portion only, west of the
Suez Canal .
* ^ The Portuguese
Madeira Islands are often considered part of
Northern Africa due to their relative proximity to Morocco; population
and area figures are for 2001.
* ^ The Spanish exclave of
Melilla is surrounded on land by Morocco
in Northern Africa; population and area figures are for 2001.
* ^ The territory of Western
Sahara is claimed by the Sahrawi Arab
Morocco . The
SADR is recognized as a
sovereign state by the
African Union .
Morocco claims the entirety of
the country as its
Southern Provinces .
Morocco administers 4/5 of the
territory while the
SADR controls 1/5. Morocco's annexation of this
territory has not been recognized internationally.
Bloemfontein is the judicial capital of South Africa, while Cape
Town is its legislative seat, and
Pretoria is the country's