Timbuktu

Timbuktu

Located near the NIGER RIVER in northern MALI, the town of Timbuktu rose to greatness as a center of trade in the 1300s. It was a stop on the caravan routes that crossed the SAHARA DESERT, and river traffic linked it with regions to the southeast and southwest. Culturally, Timbuktu was a point of connection between Islamic North Africa […]

Thuku, Harry

Thuku, Harry

1895–1970 Kenyan political leader Harry Thuku led a nationalist group in KENYA that opposed the land and labor policies of the British colonial government. Born into a poor family in northern Kenya, he attended a missionary school. At the age of 16, he traveled to NAIROBI, where he worked as a messenger before being jailed on minor charges. After […]

Africa : Theater

Theater

Theater in Africa takes many different forms and comes from diverse roots. Indigenous customs, such as storytelling, ritual, dance, and masquerades, are the oldest types of theater on the continent. In North Africa and other areas dominated by Islamic culture, theater often includes reciting popular tales and acting out religious stories, such as the deaths of the grandsons of the […]

Téwodros

Téwodros

ca. 1820–1868 Emperor of Ethiopia Considered the first modern ruler of ETHIOPIA, Téwodros set out to reunite his country, then a cluster of warring states. Born to noble parents and originally named Kasa, he was educated at Christian monasteries. He became a bandit in the early 1840s, and in 1852 he launched a military campaign against feudal chiefs throughout […]

United Republic of Tanzania

United Republic of Tanzania

POPULATION: 51.82 million (2014) AREA: 364,928 sq. mi. (945,166 sq. km) LANGUAGES: Swahili and English (both official); Chagga, Gogo, Ha, Haya, Luo, Maasai, others NATIONAL CURRENCY: Tanzanian shilling PRINCIPAL RELIGIONS: Christian 45%, Muslim 35%, Traditional 20% CITIES: Dar es Salaam (capital), 2,347,000 (2001 est.); Dodoma (to be new capital) 1,238,000 (1999 est.); Zanzibar City, Tanga, Mwanza, Arusha, Morogoro ANNUAL RAINFALL: 30–100 in. (770–2,570 mm), […]

Tafawa Balewa, Abubakar

Tafawa Balewa, Abubakar

1912–1966 Prime Minister of Nigeria The first prime minister of NIGERIA, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa helped keep a newly independent Nigeria united in the early 1960s despite serious ethnic and regional differences. A HAUSA born in northern Nigeria, Abubakar became a schoolmaster in 1933 and published a prizewinning novel the next year. However, politics was his true calling. In 1946 Abubakar […]

Taboo and Sin

Sin and taboo are two ways of regulating behavior that are used by African religions and African social systems. A sin is a wicked act that breaks the laws of a deity or deities. It is also a deliberate act—the sinner knows that he or she is committing a sin. Taboo is a type of social rule that must […]

Kingdom of Swaziland

Kingdom of Swaziland

POPULATION: 1.269 million (2014) AREA: 6,704 sq. mi. (17,364 sq. km) LANGUAGES: siSwati and English (both official); Zulu, Afrikaans NATIONAL CURRENCY: Lilangeni (plural: Emalangeni) PRINCIPAL RELIGIONS: Christian 60%, Traditional 40% CITIES: Mbabane (administrative capital), 47,000 (1990 est.); Lobamba (legislative capital), 30,000 (1988); Manzini, Mhlambanyati, Tshaneni, Bunya, Goedgegun ANNUAL RAINFALL: 35–90 in. (900–2,300 mm) throughout most of country ECONOMY: GDP $4.413 billion (2014) PRINCIPAL […]

Swahili

Swahili

The Swahili people live in towns and villages along a 1,000-mile stretch of the East African coastline, from SOMALIA to MOZAMBIQUE. Many also live on ZANZIBAR, Pemba, and the COMORO ISLANDS off the coast. The name Swahili, an Arabic term meaning “people of the coast,” was given to them by Arabs who conquered the region in the early 1700s. However, […]

Susenyos

Susenyos

ca. 1580–ca. 1632 Emperor of Ethiopia One of the most powerful emperors of ETHIOPIA, Susenyos attempted to change the Ethiopian Church. Soon after taking the throne in 1607, Susenyos decided that, for political and religious reasons, Ethiopia should accept the authority of the Catholic Church in Rome rather than the Coptic Church in ALEXANDRIA in Egypt. A Jesuit missionary, Pedro […]

Sunni Ali

Sunni Ali

1464–1492 Ruler of Songhai Sunni Ali was a member of the Sunni Muslim dynasty that ruled the Songhai Empire of western Africa in the 1300s and 1400s. Known for his immense energy and leadership skills, he expanded the borders of the empire. By the time Sunni Ali came to power, the Songhai kingdom had lost much of its influence […]

Sundjata Keïta

Sundjata Keïta

ca. 1205–1255 Founder of the Empire of Mali Abrilliant military leader and skilled administrator, Sundjata Keïta founded the empire of MALI, one of the great SUDANIC EMPIRES OF WESTERN AFRICA. Under his rule Mali adopted various laws and customs that are still followed by the people of the region. Born in the west African city of Dakajala, Sundjata was […]

Sufism

Sufism

Sufism, the mystical tradition of Islam, has had a profound influence on the beliefs and practices of Muslims in Africa. Arabs from the Arabian Peninsula first brought Islam to Africa in the A.D. 600s. By the early 1200s various orders, or schools, of sufism had emerged in North Africa, based on the teachings of influential religious leaders. Sufism reached […]

Suez Canal

Suez Canal

The Suez Canal is an artificial waterway in EGYPT that links the Mediterranean and the Red Seas. Cut across the Isthmus of Suez, a strip of land connecting Africa and western Asia, the canal made it possible for ships to travel from Europe to Asia and back without sailing all the way around Africa. The Suez Canal was not […]

Sudanic Empires of Western Africa

Sudanic Empires of Western Africa

The Sudanic empires of Western Africa were a group of powerful states that developed south of the SAHARA DESERT between the A.D 700s and 1500s. The most prominent of these states were GHANA, MALI, and Songhai. The Arabs called the whole stretch of land south of the desert bilad al-sudan (“the land of the blacks”). Thus the term “Sudan” came […]

Republic of the Sudan

Republic of the Sudan

POPULATION: 39.35 million (2014) AREA: 967,244 sq. mi. (2,505,813 sq. km) LANGUAGES: Arabic (official); Nubian, Ta Bedawie, English, dialects of Sudanic and Nilotic languages NATIONAL CURRENCY: Sudanese pound PRINCIPAL RELIGIONS: Sunni Muslim 70%, Animist 25%, Christian 5% CITIES: Khartoum (capital), 2,731,000 (2001 est.); Port Sudan, Wad Medani, El Obeid, Atbara, Juba, Malakal, Renk ANNUAL RAINFALL: From 5 in. (130 mm) in the central […]

Stanley, Henry Morton

Stanley, Henry Morton

1841–1904 British explorer and author Henry Morton Stanley made several extensive journeys in Africa in the second half of the 1900s. The books he wrote about his adventures were widely read. Stanley was born John Rowlands in Wales, where he grew up in an orphanage. In 1859 he traveled to the United States and changed his name to that […]

Sports and Recreation

Sports and Recreation

Sraditional African cultures valued play and recreation. Africans enjoyed board games and took part in organized activities such as wrestling, dancing, and canoe racing. When Europeans introduced Western sports during the colonial era, Africans found aspects of those sports familiar. Since then Africans have incorporated Western sports into their cultures, won prizes in international sports competitions, and continued to enjoy traditional […]

Spirit Possession

Spirit Possession

In spirit possession, nonhuman forces or entities are believed to enter a person’s body and affect his or her actions. Western cultures usually view possession as a sign of madness or evil. But in Africa, spirit possession is considered a form of communication between people and spirits that has important religious, social, and political meaning. Although it is believed that […]

Soyinka, Wole

Soyinka, Wole

1934– Nigerian writer Wole Soyinka is a noted Nigerian writer and political activist. He was born in Ijebu-Isara in western NIGERIA, the son of a schoolteacher. After studying at a university in the city of Ibadan, he traveled to England, where he attended the University of Leeds and earned a degree in English literature. In 1957 Soyinka moved to […]

Southern Africa, History

Southern Africa, History

The arrival of Europeans in southern Africa in the 1600s set in motion a long period of upheaval that transformed the region. A series of violent conflicts pitted Dutch settlers against indigenous peoples, the Dutch against the British, the British against indigenous peoples, and various African groups against each other. After white settlers discovered gold and diamonds in the 1800s, […]

Republic of South Africa

Republic of South Africa

POPULATION: 54.00 million (2014) AREA: 471,008 sq. mi. (1,219,912 sq. km) LANGUAGES: English, Afrikaans, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, and Zulu (all are official) NATIONAL CURRENCY: Rand PRINCIPAL RELIGIONS: Christian 68%, Traditional and animistic 28.5%, Muslim 2%, Hindu 1.5% CITIES: Pretoria (administrative capital), 1,508,000 (2001 est.); Cape Town (legislative capital), 2,993,000 (2001 est.); Bloemfontein (judicial capital), 300,150 (1991 est.); Johannesburg ANNUAL RAINFALL: Varies […]

The Somali Democratic Republic

The Somali Democratic Republic

POPULATION: 10.52 million (2014) AREA: 246,000 sq. mi. (637,660 sq. km) LANGUAGES: Somali (official); Arabic, Italian, English NATIONAL CURRENCY: Somali shilling PRINCIPAL RELIGIONS: Sunni Muslim CITIES: Mogadishu (capital), 1,219,000 (2001 est.); Hargeisa, Kismayu Merca, Berbera, Boosaaso, Borama, Giamama ANNUAL RAINFALL: Less than 3 in. (77 mm) overall, but up to 20 in. (550 mm) on high ground ECONOMY: GDP $5.707 billion (2014) PRINCIPAL […]

Sobhuza I

Sobhuza I and II

Kings of Swaziland Sobhuza I (ca. 1780–1839) founded the Swazi kingdom of southwest Africa by uniting various Nguni-speaking clans in southern SWAZILAND. To accomplish this, he used techniques of persuasion that included arranging alliances through marriage and granting titles and choice lands to neighboring chiefs. Sobhuza then moved his people into central Swaziland, defeating rival clans and expanding his holdings […]

Smuts, Jan Christiaan

Smuts, Jan Christiaan

1870–1950 Prime Minister of South Africa Jan Christiaan Smuts spent most of his life trying to unify SOUTH AFRICA, first as a soldier and later as a politician. The son of Afrikaners, South Africans of Dutch ancestry, Smuts lived in Cape Colony before studying law at Cambridge University. After returning to South Africa, he fought on the side of the […]

Slavery

Slavery

Slavery involves treating human beings as property that people can own. In the past, when slavery was legal or customary in many places, some slaves were granted certain rights and privileges. However, no slave ever had true liberty or freedom, and the institution of slavery rested on force or the threat of force that could be used against the enslaved. […]

Slave Trade

Slave Trade

Throughout history SLAVERY has been a feature of many societies in all parts of the world, including Africa. Some Africans were enslaved within their own homelands. Far more, however, were carried off as slaves to other parts of Africa or around the world through the slave trade. The slave trade was a type of commerce in which enslaved humans were […]

Republic of Sierra Leone

Republic of Sierra Leone

POPULATION: 6.316 million (2014) AREA: 27,699 sq. mi. (71,740 sq. km) LANGUAGES: English (official); Krio, Temne, Mende, Limba NATIONAL CURRENCY: Leone PRINCIPAL RELIGIONS: Muslim 60%, Traditional 30%, Christian 10% CITIES: Freetown (capital), 669,000 (1990 est.); Bo, Koindu, Kenema, Makeni ANNUAL RAINFALL: Varies from 200 in. (5,000 mm) on the coast to 85 in. (2,160 mm) in the north. ECONOMY: GDP $4.838 billion (2014) […]

Shona

Shona

The Shona are a cluster of peoples who have lived for about 2,000 years in the Zimbabwean Plateau, a region of southern Africa that includes most of ZIMBABWE and part of MOZAMBIQUE. The Shona divide themselves into clans that are associated with particular chiefdoms and areas. Although most Shona identify with a clan rather than with the Shona group as […]

Shembe, Isaiah

Shembe, Isaiah

1870–1935 South African church leader Isaiah Shembe was a ZULU prophet who founded his own church in the early 1900s. As a young man Shembe experienced a dramatic conversion that led him to give up worldly things and become a wandering preacher and healer. He joined the African Baptist Church in 1906 and eventually became an ordained minister. However, […]

Shaka Zulu

Shaka Zulu

ca. 1790–1828 Ruler of the Zulu Shaka Zulu founded the Zulu kingdom, which once controlled sections of present-day South Africa. In 1816 Shaka succeeded his father as ruler of the Zulu, a small ethnic group in southern Africa. Shaka soon expanded his chiefdom. He created a fierce army, providing his troops with long-bladed spears that were ideal for stabbing […]

Shaaban Robert

Shaaban Robert

1909–1962 Tanzanian poet and writer Sheikh Shaaban Robert is regarded as one of the greatest poets and writers in the SWAHILI language. He developed a new style of Swahili writing that combined traditional storytelling with the techniques of modern poems and novels. He also introduced the essay into Swahili literature. Born near the port city of Tanga in Tanganyika […]

Seychelles

Republic of Seychelles

POPULATION: 91,530 (2014) AREA: 175 sq. mi. (454 sq. km) LANGUAGES: English and French (both official); creole NATIONAL CURRENCY: Seychelles rupee PRINCIPAL RELIGIONS: Roman Catholic 90%, Anglican 8%, other 2% CAPITAL CITY: Victoria, 25,000 (1993 est.); Main islands: Mahé, Praslin, La Digue ANNUAL RAINFALL: On Mahé varies from 90 in. (2,300 mm) at sea level to 140 in. (3,560 mm) on mountain slopes. […]

Senghor, Léopold Sédar

Senghor, Léopold Sédar

1906–2001 President of Senegal Léopold Sédar Senghor was both a successful poet and a major political figure. Born in French West Africa (now SENEGAL), Senghor studied to become a Catholic priest. However, he was forced to leave the seminary because he protested against racism. In 1928 he traveled to France to study. He hoped to become recognized as a […]

Senegal

Republic of Senegal

POPULATION: 14.67 million (2014) AREA: 75,749 sq. mi. (196,190 sq. km) LANGUAGES: French (official); Wolof, Malinke, Fulani, Pulaar NATIONAL CURRENCY: CFA Franc PRINCIPAL RELIGIONS: Muslim 92%, Traditional 6%, Christian 2% CITIES: Dakar (capital), 2,079,000 (2001 est.); Kaolack, Thiès, Saint-Louis, Zinguinchor ANNUAL RAINFALL: Varies from 12–20 in. (300–500 mm) in north to 40–60 in. (1,000–1,500 mm) in south. ECONOMY: GDP $15.66 billion (2014) […]

Sembène, Ousmane

Sembène, Ousmane

1923–2007 Senegalese author and film director Ousmane Sembène is widely regarded as the father of African CINEMA. Born in SENEGAL, Sembène served in the French army during World War II. He returned to his homeland briefly and took part in a railway strike in 1947–1948. He went back to France and, over the next several years, traveled to Denmark, Russia, […]

Secret Societies

Secret Societies

The English term “secret societies” refers to a wide range of traditional cults in Africa. Members of these groups possess secret knowledge gained through participation in rituals. Belonging to a secret society gives its members power in the community. During the colonial era, Europeans in Africa viewed secret societies with alarm. They felt threatened by the involvement of these […]

Schreiner, Olive

Schreiner, Olive

1855–1920 South African writer Olive Schreiner wrote various works of social criticism and fiction, including South Africa’s first important novel, The Story of an African Farm (1883). Her books combine vivid descriptions of life in South Africa, criticism of British colonialism, and support for women’s rights and racial equality. Schreiner was born in Wittebergen, SOUTH AFRICA, where her German father […]

Sarbah, John Mensah

Sarbah, John Mensah

1864–1910 Ghanaian politician John Mensah Sarbah was the leading African politician in the Gold Coast (modern-day GHANA) in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Born into a wealthy family, Sarbah went to England to study law. At the age of 23, he returned to the Gold Coast to set up a legal practice. He became known for defending the […]

Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe

Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe

POPULATION: 186,300 (2014) AREA: 372 sq. mi. (964 sq. km) LANGUAGES: Portuguese (official); Fang, Kriolu NATIONAL CURRENCY: Dobra PRINCIPAL RELIGIONS: Roman Catholic (89.5%), Evangelical Protestant, Seventh-Day Adventist CITIES: São Tomé (capital), 43,000 (1993 est.); Trindade, Santana, Neves, Porto Alegre, Santo Antonio ANNUAL RAINFALL: Varies from 40 in. (1,000 mm) in northern lowlands to 150–200 in. (3,800–5,000 mm) in highlands. ECONOMY: GDP $337.4 million (2014) […]

Samba, Chéri

Samba, Chéri

1956– Congolese painter Chéri Samba is one of the first modern African painters to receiveinternational recognition for his work. His paintings explore how relations between Africans and Europeans have influenced the way Africans view themselves. Samba has described himself as an explorer of modern Africa and the West. According to some art critics, the main subject of his paintings […]

Saint Helena

Saint Helena

The British colonial territory of Saint Helena consists of three small volcanic islands in the southern Atlantic Ocean—Saint Helena, Tristan da Cunha, and Ascension. Saint Helena, the largest of the three, lies 1,150 miles west of ANGOLA. Tristan da Cunha is about 2,500 miles to the southwest, and Ascension is 700 miles northwest of Saint Helena. Jamestown, a small port […]

Sa’id ibn Sultan

Sa’id ibn Sultan

1791–1856 Sultan of Zanzibar Sa’id ibn Sultan reigned as sultan of Oman and Muscat in the Middle East for some 50 years. During this time he extended his sultanate from Arabia to the east coast of Africa, establishing one of the great trading empires in the region. Sa’id was the son of the lord of Muscat, who was […]

Sahel

Sahel

The Sahel is a narrow semi-desert region of western Africa. Its name comes from the Arabic word for “shore” or “border,” and it is the southern border of the SAHARA DESERT. The Sahel forms a zone of transition between the desert, which extends across the northern part of the continent, and the forests and grasslands of sub-Saharan Africa. Its […]

Sahara Desert

Sahara Desert

Stretching across northern Africa from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Red Sea in the east, the Sahara is the world’s largest desert. It forms a natural barrier between two very different geographic and cultural regions: NORTH AFRICA, with its Arab-influenced Mediterranean culture; and sub-Saharan Africa, where indigenous African culture is dominant. Yet for centuries people have […]

Sadat, Anwar

Sadat, Anwar

1918–1981 Egyptian president The presidency of Anwar al-Sadat was shaped largely by the way he conducted Egypt’s relationship with Israel. Sadat won the admiration of Arabs for his war against Israel and then earned international praise for making peace with Israel. Born in an Egyptian village, Sadat attended school in CAIRO and then joined the army. Dedicated to the […]

Republic of Rwanda

Republic of Rwanda

POPULATION: 11.34 million (2014) AREA: 10,169 sq. mi. (26,338 sq. km) LANGUAGES: French, Kinyarwanda, English (all official); Kiswahili NATIONAL CURRENCY: Rwanda franc PRINCIPAL RELIGIONS: Roman Catholic 65%, Traditional 25%, Protestant 9%, Muslim 1% CITIES: Kigali (capital), 234,500 (1993 est.); Butare, Gikongoro, Gisenyi, Bitarama, Nyanza, Ruamagana ANNUAL RAINFALL: 70 in. (1,770 mm) in the west, 30 in. (760 mm) in the northeast and east ECONOMY: […]

Roman Africa

Roman Africa

For centuries North Africa was part of the ancient Roman Empire, linked to Rome by conquest, colonization, and trade. Remains of Roman glory can still be seen at numerous archaeological sites from MAURITANIA in the west to EGYPT in the east. Rome gained a foothold in Africa in 146 B.C., when it conquered the Phoenician colony of CARTHAGE in […]

Africa: Rock Art

Rock Art

Many thousands of years ago, the ancestors of modern Africans created rock art—pictures on boulders, cliffs, and the walls of rock shelters. Carved rock art images are known as petroglyphs, while painted ones are pictographs. These rock pictures offer haunting glimpses of the lives of people long vanished. Some images also show an ancient environment very different from that of […]

Rhodes, Cecil John

Rhodes, Cecil John

1853–1902 British colonial leader Cecil John Rhodes rose to a position of great wealth and power in Britain’s Cape Colony in southern Africa. He developed the region’s diamond mines and was responsible for British expansion northward into the land that is now ZAMBIA and ZIMBABWE. The son of a clergyman in Bishop’s Stortford, England, Rhodes left home at 17 to […]

Réunion

Réunion

Réunion, a small island lying about 500 miles east of MADAGASCAR, is ruled as an overseas territory of France. Along with the islands of MAURITIUS and Rodrigues, it forms a region of great natural beauty known as the Mascarene Archipelago. Land and Peoples Despite its small size, Réunion has a diverse geography. Three peaks of over 9,000 feet form […]

Africa: Religion and Ritual

Religion and Ritual

Religious beliefs and rituals play a central role in the everyday lives of most Africans. Few African societies make a rigid distinction between religious behavior and other forms of social conduct. In fact, most African languages lack a word that could be translated as “religion,” and many of the words associated with the idea have a meaning closer to “custom” […]

Refugees

Refugees

Refugees are forced migrants, people driven from their homelands by violence, fear, or other conditions that make it impossible for them to remain. Throughout the history of Africa, famine, disease, war, environmental disasters, and competition for resources have created refugees by causing people to flee from troubled areas. In the past, most refugees eventually settled in the regions to which […]

Rawlings, Jerry

Rawlings, Jerry

1947– President of Ghana Jerry Rawlings, an air force officer, ruled the nation of Ghana from 1981 to 2000. Originally named Jerry Rawlings John, he was the child of a Ghanaian mother and a Scottish father. After attending the respected Achimota Secondary School, he joined the Ghanaian air force in 1967. During his years as a fighter pilot, he […]

Ranavalona, Mada

Ranavalona, Mada

1788–1861 Queen of Madagascar Mada Ranavalona was the wife of MADAGASCAR’s King RADAMA I, who unified most of the island under the rule of the Merina clan. When Radama died in 1828 without naming an heir, Ranavalona assumed power. She secured her position by negotiating with Merina nobles and military leaders, and by executing all potential rivals. A fierce […]

Radio and Television

Radio and Television

Radio and television can communicate information, arouse strong emotions, and inspire action. African governments, both the European-run colonial administrations and the independent nations that followed them, have been sharply aware of the power of these broadcast media. Governments have generally owned and controlled most national broadcast stations and have used them to promote their views, often censoring programs that opposed those […]

Radama I

Radama I

ca. 1793–1828 King of Merina Radama I became king of the Merina kingdom in MADAGASCAR in 1810. He succeeded his father, who had founded the kingdom. In 1816 Radama negotiated an agreement with the British government that provided military and administrative support to Merina. Radama went on to conquer most of Madagascar. Under the terms of the agreement, the […]

Africa: Queens and Queen Mothers

Queens and Queen Mothers

African monarchies have always been dominated by men. Their authority over kingdoms is patterned on the role of male heads of households and families. However, royal women have held and still hold considerable power. A few have reigned as queens in their own right, but more often the power, influence, and responsibility of royal women lies in their relationship to […]

Quaque, Philip

1741–1816 Ghanaian missionary and educator Philip Quaque was a missionary, an educator, and the first African to become a priest in the Church of England. Although he failed in his efforts to spread Christianity and education in the Gold Coast (present-day Ghana), his writings are a valuable source of information about the struggle for control of western Africa in the […]

Qaddafi, Muammar al-

Qaddafi, Muammar al-

1942–2011 Libyan military and political leader Muammar al-Qaddafi (also spelled Khadafy or Gadhafi) has been the head of the government of LIBYA since 1969. He was born in northern Libya into a family of Bedouin, nomadic desert-dwelling Arabs. After attending a local Muslim school, he entered the Libyan Military Academy and began rising through the ranks of the Libyan army. Qaddafi […]

Pyramids

Pyramids

Although many cultures have constructed pyramids, those of Egypt are among the most famous structures in the world. The ancient Egyptians erected huge pyramids as burial monuments for their kings, the PHARAOHS. Around 2650 B.C. an Egyptian architect named Imhotep built the oldest known pyramid for his king, Djoser. It was the first royal tomb in Egypt to be made […]

Pygmies

Pygmies

The term Pygmies refers to a number of peoples in central Africa who share two characteristics. Most of them are quite short, and they live by HUNTING AND GATHERING in forests. Since ancient times, both Africans and outsiders have recognized Pygmies as distinct from other people on the continent. Anthropologists do not know whether the peoples called Pygmies are a […]

Africa: Publishing

Publishing

Writing and LITERATURE have a long history in Africa, beginning in ancient EGYPT with the picture-writing called hieroglyphics. Publishing traces its roots to the rise of Islam on the continent, and printed works in Arabic appeared in major cities and trading centers by the 1600s. However, it was through the work of European missionaries and colonial governments in the 1800s […]

Africa: Proverbs and Riddles

Proverbs and Riddles

In most African societies, proverbs and riddles are forms of art. They are simple and elegant ways to communicate a lot of meaning in few words. Proverbs and riddles play an important role in the traditions of African speech and conversation. African proverbs are sayings that express the shared wisdom of a culture. Based on close observation of life […]

Africa: Prophetic Movements

Prophetic Movements

Prophets and prophetic movements have flourished in Africa since the mid-1800s. Prophets—religious leaders with messages about divine judgment or moral law who often make predictions about the future—usually arise in groups facing major social upheaval. By addressing such crises and offering radical solutions, they tend to inspire followers who respond with fervor to their message. Prophetic movements in Africa have […]

Prempeh, Agyeman

Prempeh, Agyeman

ca. 1871–1931 Asante king Agyeman Prempeh was king of the ASANTE (Ashanti), a people who once controlled much of present-day GHANA and IVORY COAST. Prempeh took power in 1888 after defeating rivals for the Asante throne. As king of a confederacy of Asante chiefdoms, he tried to unite his people by ending fighting in the central region and conquering rebels […]

Africa: Population

Population

Africa’s population is growing at a faster rate than that of any other region of the world. According to the International Data Base of the U.S. Bureau of the Census, the estimated population of the continent in 2001 was 823.2 million people. The same organization projects that by the year 2050 Africa will have 1.8 billion people—perhaps 20 percent of […]

Popular Culture

Popular culture includes all forms of social and personal expression that are widely available and highly visible. Related to the world of ordinary middle-class, working-class, and poor people, this “mass culture” differs significantly from the more formal “high” culture of  privileged and well-educated people. Often mass produced and current, popular culture includes forms of music, theater, and the other […]

Plants: Varieties and Uses

Plants: Varieties and Uses

The enormous array of plants native to Africa have always been a valuable resource for the continent’s inhabitants. Africans use plants for food, medicine, fuel, paper, construction materials, and many other purposes. Some plants have been domesticated for agriculture; others are gathered in the wild. Africans have also adopted plants from other parts of the world, and a number of […]

Africa: Plantation Systems

Plantation Systems

In Africa, plantations are large farms that specialize in one or two crops grown for export. They produce many of the continent’s most important export crops such as coffee, cocoa, tea, sugarcane, tobacco, rubber, and bananas. Plantations also handle at least some processing of the crops, and typically maintain a large unskilled labor force. Nevertheless, the plantation system does not […]

Plaatje, Sol

Plaatje, Sol

1876–1923 South African writer An accomplished writer and a founder of the African National Congress, Sol Plaatje worked for political and cultural causes in SOUTH AFRICA. He was born in Boshof in what was then the Orange Free State of South Africa, one of the AFRIKANER REPUBLICS founded by Dutch colonists. He spoke the Setswana (or Tswana) language and […]

Photography

People have been taking photographs in Africa almost since the invention of photography. Early images taken by foreign travelers reflect European views of Africa, while photos taken by Africans shed light on African ideas of beauty, identity, and art. History In the mid-1800s, Europeans who had mastered the complex technique of early photography documented their journeys to Africa. A member […]

Pharaohs

Pharaohs

Although today the kings of ancient Egypt are referred to as pharaohs, that term was never part of their official titles. The word pharaoh developed from an Egyptian phrase meaning “great house” and was first used to describe the royal palace. Around 1500 B.C. Egyptians began using the word to refer to their king, and by 730 B.C. pharaoh […]

Pests and Pest Control

Pests and Pest Control

African farmers generally face a tougher battle with pests than do farmers in temperate regions. The warm temperatures and abundant rainfall of the continent’s tropical regions create an environment in which pests flourish. To make matters worse, chemical pesticides developed in Western nations are of limited use in Africa. Insects and rodents do the most damage to African crops. […]

Pereira, Aristides Maria

Pereira, Aristides Maria

1924–2011 President of Cape Verde Aristides Maria Pereira helped transform CAPE VERDE from an island colony into a modern nation. He fought for independence and then, as president, guided the new country through its first 15 years. Pereira was born in Boa Vista in the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of West Africa. The islands were then a […]

Peasantry and Land Settlement

Peasantry and Land Settlement

In Africa, despite increasing urbanization a majority of the population can still be classified as peasants. Peasants are people such as farmers and livestock herders who make their living off the land, generally using only manual labor and nonmechanized technology. Africa’s climate and the poor quality of much of its soil have long presented challenges to peasants. These factors have […]

Paton, Alan

Paton, Alan

1903–1988 South African writer Alan Paton was a white South African novelist and a dedicated political activist. Through his writing and his political efforts, he protested against racial injustice and apartheid. Born and educated in Pietermaritzburg in the Natal province of South Africa, Paton worked as a schoolteacher. Then he served as the head of a reform school for […]

Osei Tutu

ca. 1636–1717 Asante king Osei Tutu, the first king of the ASANTE people of western Africa, united the people in campaigns of military conquest and expansion. In about 1685 Osei Tutu succeeded his uncle as ruler of Kumasi, one of many Asante states. He continued the wars of expansion that his uncle had begun and brought the various Asante […]

Organization of African Unity

Organization of African Unity

The Organization of African Unity (OAU) is an organization founded to promote harmony between African governments. It seeks to coordinate and increase cooperation among African nations, to defend their independence, and to eliminate all forms of colonialism from Africa. The OAU also promotes international cooperation in keeping with the charter of the UNITED NATIONS and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. […]

Africa: Oral Tradition

Oral Tradition

Every society passes information about its history, myths, and customs along to new generations. In many African societies such material has been transmitted orally, through the spoken word. This method of passing along literature and history is oral tradition. African oral tradition involves both the material that is spoken—the oral art—and the setting in which it is spoken. Although very […]

Olympio, Sylvanus Epiphanio

Olympio, Sylvanus Epiphanio

1902–1963 President of Togo The first president of TOGO, Sylvanus Olympio was also the first leader of an independent African country to be overthrown by a military coup. Olympio was born into a wealthy family and studied in Europe before embarking on a career with a multinational company operating in Togo. He rose high in the company but was […]

Obote, Milton

Obote, Milton

1924–2005 President of Uganda Milton Obote sought to end British colonial rule in East Africa and twice served as president of UGANDA. Expelled from Makerere University in Uganda for political activity, he moved to KENYA where he joined a number of African political groups. When he returned to Uganda several years later, he was elected to the newly formed Legislative […]

Nyerere, Julius Kambarage

Nyerere, Julius Kambarage

1922–1999 President of Tanzania Julius Nyerere led the fight to end British rule in Tanganyika (now TANZANIA) and served as the country’s president from 1962 to 1979. He also played a key role in Africa’s struggle for freedom and social justice, and African independence movements found refuge in his country. The son of a chief, Nyerere was educated in […]

Nwapa, Flora

Nwapa, Flora

1931–1993 Nigerian writer One of Africa’s leading female authors, Flora Nwapa used her work to promote the role of women in society. She was the first black African woman to have a novel published, and she founded Tana Press in 1977 to bring the works of African women to the public. Born at Oguta in eastern Nigeria, Nwapa […]

Number Systems

The peoples of Africa employ a wide variety of systems for counting objects or representing numbers. Many of these are verbal systems, others involve gestures, and some use pictures or other counting devices. Verbal number systems use words to express quantities. Most are founded on the numerical bases of 5, 10, and 20. For example, the Makhwa of MOZAMBIQUE use […]

Nujoma, Samuel Shafiishuna

Nujoma, Samuel Shafiishuna

1929– President of Namibia Sam Nujoma was a political organizer in colonial NAMIBIA (then known as South West Africa), who became the country’s first president. As a young man, Nujoma worked for the railway but was fired from his job for attempting to organize a union. In 1958 he founded and became president of the Ovamboland People’s Organization. His […]

Nubia

Nubia

Nubia, a region along the NILE RIVER, is now divided between southern EGYPT and northern SUDAN. The region takes its name from the Nubians, a distinctive ethnic group who speak languages of the Nubian family. Although there has never been a nation called Nubia, the region has been home to a number of empires and states. Around 2,000 years […]

North Africa: History and Cultures

North Africa: History and Cultures

Separated from the rest of Africa by the SAHARA DESERT, the peoples of North Africa share a language and many cultural, political, and economic traditions. The term North Africa refers to the modern states of EGYPT, LIBYA, TUNISIA, ALGERIA, and MOROCCO, as well as the territory of WESTERN SAHARA. In ancient times the lands north of the Sahara and […]

North Africa: Geography and Population

North Africa: Geography and Population

North Africa consists of five countries that border the Mediterranean Sea—EGYPT, LIBYA, TUNISIA, ALGERIA, and MOROCCO. The SAHARA DESERT, the dominant feature of the North African landscape, sweeps across the southern part of the region. The Sahara serves as a geographical boundary between North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, except in Egypt. It also marks a transition zone from the largely […]

Nongqawuse

Nongqawuse

ca. 1840–ca. 1900 Xhosa prophet Nongqawuse was a young woman whom the XHOSA people of SOUTH AFRICA regarded as a prophet who communicated with the spirit world. She urged them to kill their cattle—advice that proved tragic for her people and their kingdom. An orphan, Nongqawuse was raised by her uncle, a Christian convert, in South Africa’s Transkei region. […]

Nkrumah, Kwame

Nkrumah, Kwame

1909–1972 President of Ghana Francis Nwia Kofi Nkrumah, known as Kwame Nkrumah, was the prime minister and first president of GHANA. Born in the Gold Coast (present-day Ghana), Nkrumah attended Achimota College in the colony. He continued his studies in the United States, where he served as president of the African Students Association, and in England. In London he wrote […]

Nile River and Delta

Nile River and Delta

The Nile, the world’s longest river, begins in the heart of Africa and empties into the Mediterranean Sea. Snaking north through eastern Africa for more than 4,000 miles, the river passes through nine countries on its way to the sea. The Nile basin, the area drained by the river’s tributaries, covers 1.2 million square miles. For thousands of years, […]

Nigeria

Nigeria

POPULATION: 177.5 million (2014) AREA: 356,669 sq. mi. (923,774 sq. km) LANGUAGES: English (official); Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo NATIONAL CURRENCY: Naira PRINCIPAL RELIGIONS: Muslim 50%, Christian 40%, traditional 10% CITIES: Abuja (Federal Capital Territory), 378,700 (1991 est.); Lagos, Ibadan, Ogbomosho, Kano, Ilorin, Oshogbo ANNUAL RAINFALL: Highly variable, 70–170 in. (1,700–4,310 mm) from west to east along the coast; 20 in. (500 mm) in the […]

Niger River and Delta

Niger River and Delta

The Niger River flows in a great arc through West Africa. The continent’s third longest river, after the NILE RIVER and CONGO RIVER, it has carried travelers, traders, and explorers for hundreds of years. The Niger still serves as a highway for people and goods, but it also supplies water for agriculture and hydroelectric power. The delta at the […]

Republic of Niger

Republic of Niger

POPULATION: 19.11 million (2014) AREA: 489,189 sq. mi. (1,267,000 sq. km) LANGUAGES: French (official); Hausa, Dejerma, others NATIONAL CURRENCY: CFA franc PRINCIPAL RELIGIONS: Muslim 80%, Christian 10%, Traditional 10% CITIES: Niamey (capital), 420,000 (1994 est.); Zinder, Maradi, Tahoua, Dosso, Agadez, Arlit ANNUAL RAINFALL: Varies from 20 in. (500 mm) in the south, to 4 in. (100 mm) at Agadez, to almost 0 in. […]

Ngugi wa Thiong’o

Ngugi wa Thiong’o

1938– Kenyan author Writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o is known not only for his literary work but also for his political protests and his commitment to writing in African rather than European languages. Born into a peasant family of the GIKUYU people near NAIROBI, KENYA, Ngugi received an education at a colonial high school. He began to write while attending […]

Neto, Augustinho

Neto, Augustinho

1922–1979 President of Angola Augustinho Neto was a leader in the fight against colonial rule in ANGOLA and the country’s first president after independence. The son of a pastor, Neto went to Portugal to study medicine in 1947 but soon became involved in the Angolan independence movement and was also involved in communist activities. After returning to Angola in 1958, […]

Africa: Neocolonialism

Neocolonialism

After independence, some African nations declared their political allegiance to their former European rulers—such as Britain, France, and Belgium—and continued to rely on them for economic assistance. This policy became known in the 1960s as neocolonialism. Not all African nations chose to pursue neocolonial relationships. Those that had gained independence after violent struggles against European powers, such as ALGERIA, usually chose […]

Negritude

Negritude

Negritude was a black literary and cultural movement that spanned the 1930s to 1950s. The movement first took shape among French-speaking writers in Africa and the Caribbean. The leading figure in the Negritude movement was Léopold Sédar SENGHOR, a poet and philosopher who became the first president of SENEGAL when it won independence from France in 1960. The origins of […]

Ndebele

Ndebele

The Ndebele are an offshoot of a group of BANTU-speaking peoples of southern Africa known as the Nguni. The branch of the Ndebele that is centered in ZIMBABWE traces its roots to MZILIKAZI, a former lieutenant under SHAKA ZULU. The other branch, founded by the leader Musi, is located in SOUTH AFRICA. Both branches of the Ndebele at one […]