Islam in Africa

Islam in Africa

The religion of Islam arose in the Arabian city of Mecca around A.D. 610 through the work of its prophet Muhammad. After Muhammad died in 632, his teachings were carried into Africa by Arab traders, settlers, and soldiers. By conversion and conquest, Islam spread across North Africa, into the eastern Horn of Africa, and even over the SAHARA DESERT into […]

Africa: Irrigation and Flood Control

Irrigation and Flood Control

For thousands of years, Africans have sought to manage the flow of water through their landscape. The continent’s unreliable rainfall and frequent droughts make irrigation an essential tool for agriculture. In addition, various rivers flood frequently, and many people live in the floodplains surrounding them. Farmers and engineers have devised a variety of irrigation and flood control systems to make […]

Africa: Initiation Rites

Initiation Rites

Initiation rites are ceremonies performed when people take on a new role in life. In various parts of Africa, such rites may usher individuals into adulthood, secret societies, or positions of leadership. They are one of several types of rites of passage—the ceremonies that mark a person’s progress through the stages of life. Initiation rites vary from one society […]

Africa: Indian Comunities

Indian Communities

Although people from India had reached Africa many centuries ago, large groups of Indians did not settle there until the second half of the 1800s. At that time Britain ruled India as well as a number of colonies in Africa. The British presence in both regions made it possible for many Indians to migrate to eastern, central, and southern […]

Independence Movements

Between 1957 and 1993 nearly 50 African states achieved independence from colonial rule. The first sparks of resistance to foreign control took shape much earlier, though, in some cases hundreds of years earlier. Independence movements developed throughout Africa in the mid-1900s. Although they followed different paths, they shared a common beginning: resistance to domination by foreign powers. Unfortunately, once in control, […]

Igbo

Igbo

The Igbo (or Ibo) are one of the three principal ethnic groups in NIGERIA. Their homeland, Igboland, straddles the NIGER RIVER and covers a territory of some 16,000 square miles. But the Igbo, who number about 20 million, can be found throughout Nigeria, not just around the Niger River. They form one of the largest ethnic groups in Nigeria’s Delta […]

Ibn Battuta

Ibn Battuta

1304–ca. 1369 Arab traveler Born in Tangier in Morocco, Abu Abdallah Muhammad ibn Battuta was one of the most widely traveled individuals of the Middle Ages. Trained as a religious lawyer, he set out at the age of 21 on a pilgrimage to the Muslim holy city of Mecca. Before he died he had visited almost the entire Islamic […]

Ibadan

Ibadan

Ibadan, the second largest city in NIGERIA, is located on a group of seven hills in the southwestern part of the country. The city began as a military camp about 1829, and it grew into the most powerful town of the YORUBA people. Unlike other Yoruba settlements, Ibadan had an open society where advancement depended on talent rather than […]

Africa: Hunting and Gathering

Hunting and Gathering

Hunting and gathering refers to a system of securing food through the hunting of wild game and the gathering of roots or wild plants. Hunting may be an individual or group effort. One person may hunt using a bow and arrow or a simple trap, or a group of people may cooperate by chasing prey into a pit or […]

Hunger and Famine

One of the most enduring modern images of Africa is that of a land plagued by hunger and famine. Pictures of Africans starving during droughts and of hungry REFUGEES fleeing civil war appear in the news media every few years. While hunger and famine are ongoing problems for many Africans, their severity, causes, and solutions are often misunderstood or misrepresented. […]

Africa: Humans, Early

Humans, Early

In 1871 Charles Darwin, the man who gained fame with his theory of evolution, discussed the origins of humans in a book called Descent of Man. Darwin noted that chimpanzees and gorillas—humans’ closest animal relatives—are found only in Africa and suggested that Africa was also the birthplace of the human species. Modern paleoanthropologists—the scientists who study early humans and […]

Africa: Human Rights

Human Rights

At the end of the colonial era, each new African nation became responsible for ensuring the human rights of its citizens. Unfortunately, the continent’s record since then has been very poor, with widespread abuses ranging from censorship of the press to genocide. By the early 2000s, many international organizations had become involved in promoting human rights in Africa and conditions […]

Houses and Housing

Houses and housing issues in Africa vary dramatically between rural and urban areas. People in most rural areas build houses using long-established methods that suit traditional ways of life. The situation is quite different in the continent’s rapidly growing cities. Increases in population density, government regulations, and the diverse lifestyles of city dwellers have combined to create a housing crisis […]

Houphouët-Boigny, Félix

Houphouët-Boigny, Félix

1905–1993 President of Ivory Coast Félix Houphouët-Boigny, who served as president of IVORY COAST for 33 years, was one of the most powerful and influential politicians in Africa. The son of a wealthy Baule chief, he attended French colonial schools and received a degree as an African physician, the highest medical degree an African could obtain under French colonial […]

Horton, James Africanus

Horton, James Africanus

1835–1883 Sierra Leonean physician James Africanus Beale Horton, an IGBO from West Africa, became a physician and served for 20 years as a medical officer and administrator. He also wrote books on medicine and on the political situation in the region. Born in SIERRA LEONE to a father who had been rescued from a slave ship, Horton grew up […]

History of Africa

Tracing the history of Africa has presented a challenge to historians because of the lack of written records for much of the continent’s past. Until recently most information had come from reports of foreign visitors, traders, and invaders over the last several hundred years. Historians of Asia and Europe, by contrast, have been able to use ancient records to construct […]

Herero

Herero

The Herero are a Bantu-speaking people of southern ANGOLA, NAMIBIA, and BOTSWANA. Their traditional herding society consisted of clans that traced their descent from both female and male ancestors. In the 1840s the Namibian Herero formed alliances with local chiefs, traders, and German missionaries. With the help of their allies, the Herero acquired firearms and increased their power. Eventually, three Herero […]

Africa: Health Care

Health Care

The state of health and health care in Africa is influenced in a dramatic way by the continent’s poverty. Hospitals, clinics, trained medical personnel, and needed medicines are all in short supply, and available resources are often too far away or too expensive for the average African. These realities have shaped the organization and functioning of health care systems in […]

Healing and Medicine

African ideas of healing and medicine have been shaped by both indigenous and imported traditions. For thousands of years, African peoples have practiced forms of healing and medicine that involve both natural and supernatural explanations and remedies. The ancient Egyptians developed medical practices that influenced neighboring civilizations, including Greece and Rome. Then Greek and Roman ideas about health and sickness had […]

Head, Bessie

Head, Bessie

1937–1986 Botswanan writer Bessie Head is the author of several novels and short stories about the political and social conditions of African society. She was the illegitimate daughter of a white South African woman and a black stable hand. Head spent most of her childhood in the home of a mixedrace foster family in SOUTH AFRICA. At age 13, […]

Hausa

Hausa

The Hausa are the largest ethnic group in West Africa. Since ancient times their people have lived in the region between Lake Chad and the Niger River. Hausa kings ruled their states from large, walled cities and established successful trading networks. Today, the largest group of Hausa lives in NIGERIA, but NIGER, CHAD, and GHANA also have Hausa populations. Originally, […]

Hassan II

Hassan II

1929–1999 King of Morocco Hassan II, king of MOROCCO from 1961 until his death, was credited with preserving the Moroccan monarchy. During his reign he introduced a number of democratic reforms and tried to build closer ties with the United States and other Western countries. Educated in both Arabic and French, Hassan studied law at the University of Bordeaux […]

Harare

Harare

Harare is the capital and largest city in ZIMBABWE. Founded in 1890 by British colonists, it was originally called Salisbury. After independence in 1980, the city was renamed Harare for Neharare, an important local chieftain who had lived in the area. Situated in a highland region at an elevation of 4,865 feet, Harare has a mild climate. It is […]

Haile Selassie I

Haile Selassie I

1892–1975 Emperor of Ethiopia The emperor of ETHIOPIA from 1930 to 1974, Haile Selassie I sought to transform Ethiopia into a modern nation. He also hoped that Ethiopia would take a leading role in Africa. Born Lij Tafari Makonnen, Selassie was the son of an adviser to Emperor MENILEK II. The emperor recognized Selassie’s abilities and promoted him to […]

Republic of Guinea-Bissau

Republic of Guinea-Bissau

POPULATION: 1.801 million (2014) AREA: 13,948 sq. mi. (36,125 sq. km) LANGUAGES: Portuguese (official); Crioulo, Balante, Fula, Malinke NATIONAL CURRENCY: Guinea peso PRINCIPAL RELIGIONS: Traditional 50%, Muslim 45%, Christian 5% CITIES: Bissau (capital), 233,000 (1995 est.); Bafatá, Bissorã, Bolama, Cacheu, Teixeira Pinto, Farim, Gabu, Mansôa ANNUAL RAINFALL: Varies from 49 in. (1,250 mm) in the northeast to 108 in. (2,750 mm) along the […]

Republic of Guinea

Republic of Guinea

POPULATION: 12.28 million (2014) AREA: 94,925 sq. mi. (245,856 sq. km) LANGUAGES: French (official); many indigenous languages NATIONAL CURRENCY: Guinean franc PRINCIPAL RELIGIONS: Muslim 85%, Christian 8%, Traditional 7% CITIES: Conakry (capital), 1,558,000 (1999 est.); Kankan, Siguiri, Labé, Kindia ANNUAL RAINFALL: Varies from 170 in. (4,300 mm) at the coast to 80 in. (2,000 mm) 125 miles (200 km) inland. ECONOMY: GDP $6.624 […]

Africa: Government and Political Systems

Government and Political Systems

The political systems of most African nations are based on forms of government put in place by colonial authorities during the era of European rule. Because these governmental institutions reject the indigenous political systems on which African society was built, they have generally failed to bring political stability. Many local and regional governments borrow from indigenous systems, but national political structures […]

Gordon, Charles George

Gordon, Charles George

1833–1885 British general in Sudan General Charles George Gordon fought for Britain in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Killed defending the city of KHARTOUM in SUDAN, he was regarded by the British as a hero and a martyr. Born in Woolwich, near London, Gordon entered the military in 1852. He fought Britain’s wars in various parts of the world, earning […]

Gordimer, Nadine

Gordimer, Nadine

1923–2014 South African writer Nadine Gordimer, a prizewinning author, has written extensively about life in SOUTH AFRICA under APARTHEID—a policy of racial segregation followed from 1948 to 1994. Born in a white family in South Africa, Gordimer left school at the age of 10 for medical reasons. She was educated at home and in her local library. By the […]

Global Politics and Africa

Global Politics and Africa

Global politics, or geopolitics, refers to the relationships and interactions among nations as they compete for power, influence, and economic resources. Since the 1600s the global politics of Africa have been marked by dependence on others. To a large extent, Africans have been under the control of outsiders from the time of the transatlantic SLAVE TRADE, to European colonial rule, […]

Gikuyu

Gikuyu

Numbering well over 4 million people, the Gikuyu (also known as the Kikuyu) are the largest ethnic group in KENYA. They live in the high, fertile region between Mount Kenya and the capital city of NAIROBI. Their language, also called Gikuyu, is one of the Bantu languages. Traditionally, Gikuyu societies were based on farming, particularly millet and root crops, and […]

Republic of Ghana

Republic of Ghana

POPULATION: 26.44 million (2014) AREA: 92,098 sq. mi. (238,534 sq. km) LANGUAGES: English (official); Dagbani, Ewe, Fante, Ga, Moshi-Dagomba NATIONAL CURRENCY: Cedi PRINCIPAL RELIGIONS: Traditional 38%, Muslim 30%, Christian 24%, Other 8% CITIES: Accra (capital), 1,673,000 (1999 est.); Kumasi, Tamale, Takoradi, Cape Coast, Tema, Sekondi ANNUAL RAINFALL: Varies from 29–39 in. (750–1,000 mm) in the southeast coastal savanna to 59–82 in. (1,500–2,100 mm) […]

Africa: Genocide and Violence

Genocide and Violence

Genocide refers to the deliberate and systematic killing of an ethnic, racial, or religious group. In recent years Africa has had a tragic history of genocide and violence. Millions of lives have been lost in civil wars and other conflicts, while tens of millions of Africans have had to flee their homelands and live as refugees. The increase of […]

Africa: Gender Roles and Sexuality

Gender Roles and Sexuality

Gender roles are the activities, responsibilities, and rights that a society considers normal and appropriate for men and women. There is no single model of gender roles in Africa. The continent’s diverse cultures have many different ideas about male and female roles, although in general women have been subordinate to men in both public and family life. Like gender roles, […]

Garvey, Marcus Mosiah

Garvey, Marcus Mosiah

1887–1940 Pan-African leader Marcus Mosiah Garvey played an important role in Pan-Africanism, a movement aimed at unifying blacks throughout the world in protest against racism and colonialism. At the time, most of Africa was controlled by European colonial powers. One of Garvey’s greatest contributions was making the world aware of the problems that blacks in Africa faced under their rule. […]

Republic of the Gambia

Republic of the Gambia

POPULATION: 1.909 million (2014) AREA: 4,361 sq. mi. (11,295 sq. km) LANGUAGES: English (official); Mandinka, Wolof, Fula NATIONAL CURRENCY: Dalasi PRINCIPAL RELIGIONS: Muslim 90%, Christian 9%, Traditional 1% CITIES: Banjul (capital), 42,407 (1993 est.); Brikama, Basse, Bakua, Farafenni, Serekunda, Kuntaur, Bansang ANNUAL RAINFALL: 40 in. (1,016 mm) ECONOMY: GDP $807.1 million (2014) PRINCIPAL PRODUCTS AND EXPORTS: Agricultural: livestock, peanuts, rice, palm kernels, fish, […]

Gama, Vasco da

Gama, Vasco da

ca. 1460–1524 Portuguese navigator and discoverer Vasco da Gama discovered the route around Africa to India and changed the nature of trade between east and west. Bartolomeu Dias was the first European to sail around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope and into the Indian Ocean. In 1497 the Portuguese ruler Manuel I sent Vasco da Gama on a voyage that […]

Galawdewos

ca. 1522–1559 Emperor of Ethiopia Galawdewos took the throne of ETHIOPIA in 1540. At the time much of the country was under the control of Ahmed Grañ, leader of the Muslim kingdom of Adal. When a Portuguese expedition arrived in Ethiopia in 1541, Galawdewos formed an alliance with its leader, Cristovão da Gama, to fight the Muslims. Grañ killed […]

Gabon

Gabon

POPULATION: 1.711 million (2014) AREA: 103,347 sq. mi. (267,658 sq. km) LANGUAGES: French (official); Fang, Mpongwe, Eshira NATIONAL CURRENCY: CFA franc PRINCIPAL RELIGIONS: Christian 60%, Traditional 40%, about 3,000 Muslims CITIES: Libreville (capital), 462,000 (1999 est.); Port-Gentil, Franceville, Lambaréné ANNUAL RAINFALL: 100 in. (2,540 mm) on coast, 150 in. (3,810 mm) in interior ECONOMY: GDP $17.23 billion (2014) PRINCIPAL PRODUCTS AND EXPORTS: […]

Fulani

Fulani

Today one of the largest ethnic groups in West Africa, the Fulani (or Fulbe) were first recorded as living in the Senegal River valley and western GUINEA. In about the 1100s, they expanded eastward. The Fulani are now widely scattered, with large concentrations in NIGERIA, SENEGAL, Guinea, MALI, CAMEROON, and NIGER. In French-speaking areas they are known as Peul. The […]

Fugard, Athol

Fugard, Athol

1932– South African playwright Athol Fugard is one of Africa’s best-known and most respected playwrights. His plays explore the personal suffering of individuals living under APARTHEID—the policy of racial segregation followed in SOUTH AFRICA from 1948 to 1994. Growing up in a poor white family placed Fugard in contact with the poor and oppressed black population of South Africa from […]

French West Africa

French West Africa

French West Africa was a federation of French colonies in West Africa that existed from 1895 until 1958. Created in stages, French West Africa eventually included eight colonies: SENEGAL, French Sudan (present-day MALI), GUINEA, IVORY COAST, Dahomey (present-day BÉNIN), Upper Volta (present-day BURKINA FASO), NIGER, and MAURITANIA. France established the federation to help coordinate French military efforts to dominate West Africa. […]

French Equatorial Africa

French Equatorial Africa

French Equatorial Africa was a French colony in the late 1800s and early 1900s, located in the area now occupied by the countries of CAMEROON, GABON, the CONGO (BRAZZAVILLE), the CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC, CHAD, and SUDAN. France administered the colony in a heavy-handed and inefficient manner. As a result, they did not get much benefit from their control over the […]

Freetown

Freetown

Founded in 1787 as a colony for freed slaves, Freetown is the capital of SIERRA LEONE. It is also the country’s chief port and largest city, with a population of about 500,000. Freetown’s founders were British abolitionists, merchants, and bankers. They believed that the SLAVE TRADE could be replaced by other types of commerce and that Christianity could help repair […]

Africa: Forests and Forestry

Forests and Forestry

Forests are one of Africa’s most important natural resources, both for the influence they have in the continent’s ecology and for their economic benefits. For thousands of years, the forests have provided habitats for a wide range of plants and animals. They have also served as a source of food, fuel, building materials, and trade goods for humans. Because of […]

Food and Drink

From the fish stew of Tunisia to the dried caterpillars of the Congo, African foods and eating customs vary according to the resources available. Religion and local custom have also played a role in determining diet. In many areas, traders and colonists from other continents introduced new foods and new ways of producing food. Throughout Africa the way people […]

Africa: Fishing

Fishing

In Africa fishing industries have long played a major role in commerce and in daily life. As early as the 1400s, dried, smoked, and salted fish were sold along trade routes that linked West Africa and the Sahel. By the 1500s commercial fishing was a significant industry. Fishing has also been a major source of food. Most Africans eat […]

Africa: Festivals and Carnivals

Festivals and Carnivals

Festivals and carnivals serve a multitude of social, religious, and political purposes. In Africa such events have been documented in travel books, museum displays, and studies of ethnic culture. Traditional celebrations also have been incorporated in dance and theater performances. Both scholars and the people who participate in festivals often view them as fixed traditions, handed down unchanged from generation to […]

Fasiladas

1632–1667 Emperor of Ethiopia Fasiladas stands out among historic emperors of ETHIOPIA because of his long reign and his impact on the country’s political and religious policies. One of his first acts as emperor was to expel representatives of the Roman Catholic Church and to insist that only Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity could exist in his empire. Fasiladas founded a […]

Fanon, Frantz

Fanon, Frantz

1925–1961 Algerian psychiatrist and theorist Born in the French West Indies, Frantz Fanon is considered one of the leading theorists of revolution of his time. After attending medical school in France, he served for three years as chief psychiatrist at a hospital in Blida, Algeria. Then he joined the National Liberation Front, a movement formed to free Algeria from French […]

Africa: Family

Family

Family plays a central role in African society. It shapes such daily experiences as how and where individuals live, how they interact with the people around them, and even, in some cases, whom they marry. It can determine a person’s political identity and the way money and property are transferred. In rural areas, the family typically remains the basic unit […]

Africa: European Communities

European Communities

Millions of Europeans live in communities scattered throughout Africa. Many of these communities date from the early decades of colonialism. In general, the numbers of European settlers in Africa gradually increased during the colonial period and then fell immediately after the colonies became independent nations. The population of SOUTH AFRICA includes more than 5 million Europeans, the largest community of Europeans […]

Africa Ethnic Groups and Identity

Ethnic Groups and Identity

Ethnic groups are populations that feel connected by a complex mix of kinship, culture, history, and geography. Together, the people in an ethnic group shape their ethnic identity—the sense of belonging to the group and sharing in its culture. Ethnic identity in Africa is as richly diverse as its people, and for most Africans it plays a central role in […]

Ethiopian Orthodox Church

Ethiopian Orthodox Church

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is the largest church in ETHIOPIA, with some 29 million members. The neighboring country of ERITREA has another 1.8 million members. This Christian church—also known by the name tewahido, meaning “unity”—separated from the Roman Catholic Church in A.D. 451 after the Council of Chalcedon. The council had declared that Jesus Christ had both a divine and […]

Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

POPULATION: 96.51 million (2014) AREA: 435,184 sq. mi. (1,127,127 sq. km) LANGUAGES: Amharic (official); Gallinya, Tigrinya, Orominga, Somali, Italian, English NATIONAL CURRENCY: Birr PRINCIPAL RELIGIONS: Christian 40% (Ethiopian Orthodox), Muslim 45%, Traditional 15% CITIES: Addis Ababa (capital), 2,431,000 (1999 est.); Dessie, Dire Dawa, Harar, Gondar, Jimma, Mekele, Nazret ANNUAL RAINFALL: Varies from 104 in. (2,640 mm) in southwest to 4 in. (100 mm) in the […]

State of Eritrea

State of Eritrea

POPULATION: 6.536 million (2014) AREA: 46,774 sq. mi. (121,144 sq. km) LANGUAGES: Tigrinya (official); Afar, Arabic, Kunama, Tigre NATIONAL CURRENCY: Ethiopian birr PRINCIPAL RELIGIONS: Muslim 50%, Christian 50% (Coptic, Roman Catholic, Protestant) CITIES: Asmara (capital), 431,000 (1995 est.); Massawa, Assab, Keren, Agordat, Teseney, Adikwala, Addi Ugri ANNUAL RAINFALL: Varies from 18–29 in. (460–740 mm) in southern highlands to 12–14 in. (310–360 mm) in eastern […]

Equiano, Olaudah

Equiano, Olaudah

ca. 1740s–1797 Abolitionist writer Olaudah Equiano, a former slave, became a forceful voice in the antislavery movement. His autobiography had considerable influence on British public opinion. Born in the kingdom of Benin to an IGBO family, Equiano was captured by slave traders at the age of ten. Later a British naval officer renamed him Gustavus Vassa and took him […]

Republic of Equatorial Guinea

Republic of Equatorial Guinea

POPULATION: 778,100 (2014) AREA: 10,800 sq. mi. (27,972 sq. km) LANGUAGES: Spanish, French (both official); Bubi, Fang, Ibo, Ndowe NATIONAL CURRENCY: CFA Franc PRINCIPAL RELIGIONS: Christian (mostly Roman Catholic) 79%; Traditional 21% CITIES: Bata (capital), 24,100; Malabo, Luba, Moca, Nietang, Evinayong ANNUAL RAINFALL: 79 in. (2,000 mm) ECONOMY: GDP $14.31 billion (2014) PRINCIPAL PRODUCTS AND EXPORTS: Agricultural: cocoa, timber, coffee, bananas, fish, sweet […]

Africa Energy and Energy Resources

Energy and Energy Resources

Africa’s resources include an abundant supply of petroleum, natural gas, and wood for fuel. The continent also has numerous rivers and waterfalls that could provide hydroelectric power. But Africans rely mostly on wood for energy. Most of the continent’s other resources are expensive, available only in small quantities, and in limited areas. For a number of reasons, the development of […]

Emin Pasha

Emin Pasha

1840–1892 Explorer and colonial governor In the late 1800s, a European known as Emin Pasha became the object of a much-publicized rescue operation in Africa. During this time, the European powers were deeply involved in Africa. Emin, a provincial governor in the Egyptian colony of SUDAN, had been stranded by a religious war. Born Eduard Schnitzer in what is now […]

Ekwensi, Cyprian

Ekwensi, Cyprian

1921–207 Nigerian writer Cyprian Ekwensi has won fame for his books about urban life in modern Africa. Born into an IGBO family in northern NIGERIA, he was educated at Ibadan University College in Nigeria and at the Chelsea School of Pharmacy in London. He spent his early career working in communications in the Nigerian civil service. Ekwensi turned to […]

Arab Republic of Egypt

Arab Republic of Egypt

POPULATION: 83.39 million (2014) AREA: 386,200 sq. mi. (1,000,258 sq. km) LANGUAGES: Arabic (official); English, French NATIONAL CURRENCY: Egyptian Pound PRINCIPAL RELIGIONS: Muslim 94%, Coptic Christian 6% CITIES: Cairo (capital), 10,552,000 (2000 est.); Alexandria, Shubra El-Khemia, Giza, Aswan ANNUAL RAINFALL: Varies from 7 in. (178 mm) along the coast to virtually rainless along the Red Sea coastal plain and Western Desert. ECONOMY: GDP […]

Egypt, Ancient

Egypt, Ancient

The Egyptian civilization that arose along the banks of the NILE RIVER in ancient times was one of the longest-lasting in world history. For nearly 3,000 years, Egypt dominated the northeastern corner of Africa. The ancient Egyptians interacted with the peoples of the Near East and the Mediterranean. At the same time, they traded goods and maintained relations with groups […]

Africa: Education

Education

In the modern world no country can hope to prosper and advance without an educated population. During most of the colonial period, Africa’s black population was systematically denied access to quality schooling and higher education. After gaining independence, most African states made it a priority to strengthen their educational systems. That process has not always been smooth, and serious problems remain. […]

Africa: Ecosystems

Ecosystems

An ecosystem is a closely woven web of plant and animal life within a particular type of physical environment. Africa has five main kinds of ecosystems: coastal environments, deserts and semideserts, mountain environments, savanna grasslands, and forests. Each ecosystem has its typical environment and climate, and the people who live there have adapted to its conditions and learned to use […]

Africa: Economic History

Economic History

Alack of written sources makes it difficult to trace the early economic history of much of the African continent, especially sub-Saharan Africa. What is clear is that Africans in precolonial times had basic economic activities that provided them with the things they needed to survive. At the same time, however, many factors limited the kind of intensive economic development […]

Éboué, Adolphe-Félix-Sylvestre

Éboué, Adolphe-Félix-Sylvestre

1884–1944 Colonial administrator Adolphe-Félix-Sylvestre Éboué was a Creole official who served France in a variety of colonial posts during the early 1900s. He is most famous for bringing several French colonies in Africa into World War II to fight on the side of the Allies. Born in French Guyana in South America, Éboué attended a school of colonial administration, […]

Du Bois, W.E.B.

Du Bois, W.E.B.

1868–1963 Father of Pan-Africanism William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was a leading champion of equality for blacks in the United States and elsewhere. An African American born in Massachusetts, Du Bois attended college and earned a Ph.D. degree from Harvard University. In the early 1900s, he became a black civil rights leader. Du Bois was known for his view […]

Republic of Djibouti

Republic of Djibouti

POPULATION: 886,300 (2014) AREA: 8,500 sq. mi. (22,000 sq. km) LANGUAGES: French, Arabic (both official); Afar, Somali NATIONAL CURRENCY: Djibouti Franc PRINCIPAL RELIGIONS: Muslim 94%, Christian 6% CITIES: Djibouti (capital), 383,000 (1999 est.); Ali Sabieth, Dikhil, Tadjoura, Obock ANNUAL RAINFALL: Less than 5 in. (127 mm) ECONOMY: GDP $1.582 billion (2014) PRINCIPAL PRODUCTS AND EXPORTS: Agricultural: goats, sheep, camels, cattle, coffee Manufacturing: […]

Divination and Oracles

Divination and Oracles

Throughout much of Africa people turn to divination for guidance in resolving their troubles. The act of divination involves advice, an explanation, or a prediction for the future—all of which are considered messages from the spiritual world. Many Christian and Muslim Africans do not see divination as conflicting with their faiths. Their approach to understanding life and solving its problems […]

Diseases

Diseases

Poverty and the scarcity of adequate health services have combined to make disease a particularly severe problem throughout Africa. Africans have to deal with many of the same illnesses that affect people in other parts of the world. They suffer from infectious diseases such as measles, lifestyle-related illnesses such as cancer and heart disease, and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). However, […]

Diop, Cheikh Anta

Diop, Cheikh Anta

1923–1986 African scholar and political leader Cheikh Anta Diop was an accomplished historian, physicist, archaeologist, and linguist who championed the cause of African independence and explored the roots of African culture and civilization. Born to a Muslim family in SENEGAL and educated in both Africa and France, Diop had an unusual background from which to examine Africa’s colonial experience. While doing […]

Diop, Alioune

Diop, Alioune

1910–1980 Writer and cultural leader The Senegalese writer Alioune Diop played a major role in changing the way the French-speaking world viewed Africa. Born and educated in SENEGAL, Diop worked as a professor and represented the colony in the French Senate. In 1947 he started Présence africaine, which became the most influential French-language journal on Africa. In Présence africaine, […]

Dingiswayo

Dingiswayo

1770s–1816 Chief of the Nguni confederation Dingiswayo was the last chief of the Nguni confederation of southern Africa before Europeans colonized the area. According to legend, Dingiswayo became chief by killing his brother because he believed that his brother was not the rightful ruler. After assuming power, Dingiswayo combined several related kingdoms into a unified confederation. He then appointed subchiefs from […]

Diaspora, African

Diaspora, African

Today, Africans and their descendants are found on every inhabited continent. African traditions have influenced religion and art, and popular music the world over owes much to African rhythms and musical styles. This global presence is due largely to the African diaspora—a movement of people of African descent to areas outside their homeland. The story of the African diaspora […]

Diagne, Blaise

Diagne, Blaise

1872–1934 Senegalese politician The Senegalese politician Blaise Diagne was the first African elected as a deputy to the French National Assembly in Paris. Like all Africans born in SENEGAL during the colonial period, Diagne was an originaire—a French citizen with certain limited rights. Educated in France and at the University of Saint-Louis in Senegal, he worked in Africa […]

Development, Economic and Social

In general, development refers to a process by which countries use their natural and human resources to improve the economy and the lives of their people. Many experts also study development in terms of its outcome—the results that are achieved through economic, political, and social programs. A complex concept, development includes economic measures such as income and economic production, political measures […]

Deserts and Drought

Deserts and Drought

Africa contains two desert regions, the SAHARA DESERT in the north and the Namib-Kalahari region in the southwest. Traditionally, very few people have lived in Africa’s deserts. However, some groups inhabit the semiarid lands bordering deserts—areas that are somewhat wetter than the desert. The well-being of these people depends on rainfall, which varies greatly from year to year. With an […]

De Klerk, Frederik Willem

De Klerk, Frederik Willem

1936– South African political leader Frederik Willem De Klerk served as president of SOUTH AFRICA from 1989 to 1994. He was the driving force behind government efforts to end the country’s official system of race discrimination known as APARTHEID. De Klerk was raised in a political environment. His father was a cabinet minister who served as president of South […]

Death, Mourning, and Ancestors

People who die are not buried in a field, they are buried in the heart,” goes a saying of the central African nation of RWANDA. Death of course is more than the physical fact of a life’s end. It also brings emotional and social change to families and communities. Africans mark those changes with rituals that draw on traditional beliefs […]

Dar es Salaam

Dar es Salaam

Dar es Salaam (which means “haven of peace” in Arabic) is the capital and largest city in TANZANIA. In the late 1990s, its population was about 1.5 million. Arabs from Southern Arabia first established fishing villages in the area during the A.D. 1600s, but the city did not really grow until Sultan Sayyid Majid of ZANZIBAR built a palace […]

Africa: Dance

Dance

Through dance, African people celebrate, worship, educate, and express social organization. Styles vary greatly from culture to culture, but most African dance shares some common features. In particular, it emphasizes rhythm. Elements of traditional dance and music often blend with contemporary or foreign styles to create new kinds of African dance. Purposes of Dancing In all African cultures, dance is […]

Dakar

Dakar

Dakar, the capital and largest city in SENEGAL, is one of the most important ports of West Africa. The Portuguese landed near the site of modern Dakar in 1444, and several European powers fought over the region until the French gained control in the mid-1600s. The area was originally valued as a source for slaves. After the banning of […]

Crowther, Samuel Ajayi

Crowther, Samuel Ajayi

ca. 1806–1891 Anglican bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther was an educated traveler, translator, and missionary who was named the first African bishop in the Anglican Church. Born in what is now NIGERIA, Crowther was captured and sold into slavery at the age of 12. A British antislavery ship rescued him at sea, however, and took him to FREETOWN, SIERRA LEONE. […]

Creoles

In Africa, the term Creole refers to any people with some mix of African and non-African racial or cultural heritage. Creole populations can be found on most African islands and along many of the continent’s coasts, areas where Africans first mingled with Europeans and Arabs. From these contacts, six major Creole types emerged: Portuguese, black American, French, Dutch, British, and […]

Crafts

Crafts

For centuries Africans have produced handmade items such as cloth, baskets, and pottery to meet the practical needs of everyday life. Such handicrafts are also expressions of their makers’ skills and of personal, regional, and cultural styles. Many are produced specifically for sale or for export to markets in other countries. Basketry Both men and women make many kinds […]

Correia, Mãe Aurélia

Early 1800s Trader in Guinea-Bissau Mãe Aurélia Correia was a wealthy and powerful trader in the GUINEA-BISSAU region from the 1820s to the 1840s. Among the many women traders of African or mixed ancestry at the time, Mãe Aurélia was the most successful. Little information exists about Mãe Aurélia’s birth and family because the Portuguese colonial authorities in Guinea-Bissau […]

Copts

Copts

The Copts, a Christian sect in EGYPT, trace their history back almost 2,000 years. They follow customs and beliefs that they adopted long before Islam, the dominant religion in Egypt today, arrived in the region. According to tradition, Christianity was introduced to Egypt in the A.D. 40s. The city of ALEXANDRIA became a center of Christian scholarship, and the religion […]

Congo River

Congo River

For centuries the Congo River has played a key role in trade, travel, and exploration in equatorial Africa. The Congo and its many tributaries form the largest system of navigable waterways in Africa. For local peoples, the river is a vital highway of commerce and communication. The Congo flows for 2,900 miles in a great curve through the […]

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Democratic Republic of the Congo

POPULATION: 69.36 million (2014) AREA: 905,560 sq. mi. (2,345,410 sq. km.) LANGUAGES: French (official); Kongo, Lingala, Swahili, Tshiluba, Ngwana NATIONAL CURRENCY: Congolese franc PRINCIPAL RELIGIONS: Christian 80% (Roman Catholic 50%, Protestant 20%, Kimbanguist 10%), Muslim 10%, Traditional 10% CITIES: Kinshasa (capital), 5,064,000 (2000 est.); Kisangani, Lumbumbashi, Kanaga, Likasi, Mbandaka, Mbuji-Mayi, Bukavu ANNUAL RAINFALL: Varies from 30–60 in. (800–1500 mm) in south to 80–118 in. (2,000–3,000 […]

Republic of Congo

Republic of Congo

POPULATION: 4.559 million (2014) AREA: 132,000 sq. mi. (342,000 sq. km) LANGUAGES: French (official); Kongo, Lingala, Teke, Monkutuba, other Bantu dialects NATIONAL CURRENCY: CFA franc PRINCIPAL RELIGIONS: Christian (mostly Roman Catholic) 50%, Traditional 48%, Muslim 2% CITIES: Brazzaville (capital), 1,004,000 (1999 estimated population); Pointe-Noire, Kayes, Loubomo, Ouesso, Impfondo, Fort Rousset, Djambala ANNUAL RAINFALL: Varies by region, averaging about 60 in. (1,520 mm) per year ECONOMY: […]

Conakry

Conakry

Conakry, capital of GUINEA, lies at the tip of the Kaloum Peninsula on the western coast of Africa. The surrounding land is swampy, and its climate is tropical. During the rainy season, about 144 inches of rain fall in five months. About 1 million people live in the city. In the 1200s and 1300s, Conakry was part of the […]

Federal Islamic Republic of the Comoros

Federal Islamic Republic of the Comoros

POPULATION: 752,400 (2014) AREA: 838 sq. mi. (2,170 sq. km) LANGUAGES: French, Arabic (official); Comoran (a Swahili dialect) NATIONAL CURRENCY: Comorian franc PRINCIPAL RELIGIONS: Sunni Muslim 86%, Roman Catholic 14% ISLANDS: Grand Comore (Ngazidja), Anjouan (Nzwani), Mohéli (Mwali), Mayotte (Maore); Capital: Moroni, 30,000 (1999 est.) ANNUAL RAINFALL: Varies from 43–114 in. (1,100–2,900 mm) ECONOMY: GDP $647.7 million (2014) PRINCIPAL PRODUCTS AND EXPORTS: Agricultural: vanilla, […]

Colonialism in Africa

Colonialism in Africa

Colonialism, which refers to the establishment of political and economic control by one state over another, had an enormous impact on Africa. The colonial experience began in the late 1400s, when Europeans arrived and set up trading posts in Africa. It reached a peak in the late 1800s and early 1900s, when European powers dominated many parts of the continent. […]

Colenso, John William

Colenso, John William

1814–1883 British missionary John Colenso was an outspoken critic of conventional missionary work who condemned the way colonial authorities treated Africans. Born in England, Colenso became the first bishop of the Diocese of NATAL in 1853 and established a mission station in the town of Bishopstowe. He was well-read in both Christian teaching and modern scientific thinking and discoveries. He […]

Coetzee, J. M.

Coetzee, J. M.

1940– South African novelist The South African writer and literary critic John Michael Coetzee is known for novels that explore the effects of apartheid in his homeland. Coetzee studied at the University of Cape Town and at the University of Texas, where he received a Ph.D. in literature. He then returned to SOUTH AFRICA despite his opposition to the […]

Africa Climate

Climate

The diverse climates of Africa range from scorching deserts to icy glaciers, from steamy rainforests to grassy plains. Climate is a long-term weather pattern, the sum of features such as temperature, rainfall, and wind. The amount of heat from the sun plays a major role in determining climate. The equator receives more solar heat than any other part of the […]

Cleopatra

Cleopatra

69–30 B.C. Egyptian queen Cleopatra, one of the most famous figures of ancient history, was the last ruler of EGYPT in the tradition of the pharaohs who had governed the land for several thousand years. She came to the throne in 51 B.C. as the wife of her brother, Ptolemy XIII. For several hundred years before that time, […]

Class Structure and Caste

African societies, like those in nearly all areas of the world, are divided into various groups or classes. Each class has its own distinct characteristics, roles, privileges and limitations, and relations with other groups. Only a few societies based on hunting and gathering have no formal division into classes. The class structure of African societies today is a patchwork. […]

Africa: Cities and Urbanization

Cities and Urbanization

he image of Africa as a continent of traditional villages and small towns has never been correct. Africa has always included both highly urban and rural settlements. However, its cities have grown dramatically in recent years, and some researchers who study population trends have predicted that by the early 2000s about half of all Africans will live in urban areas. […]