Mauritius

Mauritius

The small island nation of Mauritius lies about 500 miles east of MADAGASCAR in the Indian Ocean. It consists of Mauritius and several small islands off to the north and east. Once heavily dependent on the production of sugar, Mauritius has developed a strong economy that includes a variety of manufacturing industries. Of volcanic origin, the island of Mauritius […]

The Islamic Republic of Mauritania

The Islamic Republic of Mauritania

POPULATION: 3.970 million (2014) AREA: 397,953 sq. mi. (1,030,700 sq. km) LANGUAGES: Hasaniya Arabic, French (both official); Wolof, Pular, Soninke NATIONAL CURRENCY: Ouguiya PRINCIPAL RELIGIONS: Muslim, nearly 100% CITIES: Nouakchott (capital), 735,000 (1995 est.); Atar, Zouerate, Kaedi, Nouadhibou ANNUAL RAINFALL: Varies from less than 20 in. (500 mm) in the south to less than 4 in. (100 mm) in the northern desert region […]

Mau Mau

Mau Mau

Mau Mau began as a movement by Africans against British rule in KENYA in the 1950s. Eventually the movement became a guerrilla war. With complex political, economic, and social roots, Mau Mau has been interpreted in various ways. To the fighters and their supporters, Mau Mau was a struggle for liberation. To European settlers and British officials, it was […]

Africa: Masks and Masquerades

Masks and Masquerades

Many African societies have a rich tradition of masquerades, which are plays, ceremonies, or dances by masked performers. Masquerades provide entertainment, define social roles, and communicate religious meaning. The masks used in such performances may be treasured as works of art. They are also important symbols of ancestors, spirits, or even the history and culture of whole peoples. Masks Masks […]

Africa : Marriage Systems

Marriage Systems

Marriage takes many forms in Africa. Throughout the continent, the diversity of systems reflects the traditions, religions, and economic circumstances of a wide variety of distinct cultures. Islamic laws and customs have shaped the institution of marriage in North Africa and in some nations of western and eastern Africa. In recent years, modern life, industry, and cities have brought changes […]

Africa: Markets

Markets

The open-air market is an important feature of African life in both rural and urban areas. As centers of commerce where cash and barter transactions take place, they play a key role in the economy. Most African agricultural products and craft goods enter the system of exchange at local markets, alongside imported products. Tailors, barbers, carpenters, and other tradesmen come […]

Maranke, John

Maranke, John

1912–1963 African religious leader John Maranke was the founder of a successful independent church called the Apostolic Church of John Maranke. Today the church claims over 500,000 members in Africa, and many European converts outside the continent. Maranke was born Muchabaya Ngomberume in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). His mother was the daughter of the Shona chief Maranke, whose clan name […]

Africa: Maps and Mapmaking

Maps and Mapmaking

If Africans had a mapmaking tradition before the coming of Europeans, no traces of it survived. The mapping of Africa was carried out largely by Europeans until independent African nations began producing their own maps in the late 1900s. The Greeks created the earliest maps of Africa, and they dealt mainly with the northern and eastern coastlines of the […]

Mansur, al-

Mansur, al-

1549–1603 Ruler of Morocco Mulai al-Mansur was the sixth, and perhaps greatest, ruler of the Sa'di dynasty of MOROCCO. During his reign (1578–1603) Morocco enjoyed a long period of peace and prosperity, highlighted by its conquest of the ancient city of TIMBUKTU, now part of present-day MALI. A master of diplomacy, al-Mansur managed to balance relations with many competing foreign […]

Mansa Musa

Mansa Musa

Early 1300s Emperor of Mali Mansa Musa was the most famous ruler of the ancient West African empire of MALI. During his reign the Mali empire reached its greatest size, extending hundreds of miles from north to south and from east to west. However, Mansa Musa is best remembered for his pilgrimage to Mecca, the holy city of Islam, […]

Mandela, Nelson

Mandela, Nelson

1918–2013 President of South Africa Nelson Mandela is one of the best-known and most influential political leaders in Africa. Imprisoned for many years because of his activities against apartheid, he later became the first black president of SOUTH AFRICA. For many South Africans, Mandela symbolized the hope for black equality. Born in the Transkei region of South Africa, Mandela […]

Mami Wata

Mami Wata

Mami Wata is a female figure important to religious and social life in many parts of Africa. In some cultures she is a goddess. In others, the term Mami Wata refers to women who have the qualities of Mami Wata, including exceptional beauty and great power. Throughout western and central Africa, Mami Wata is a beautiful river goddess with long […]

The Republic of Mali

The Republic of Mali

POPULATION: 17.09 million (2014) AREA: 478,767 sq. mi. (1,240,007 sq. km) LANGUAGES: French (official); Bambara, numerous others NATIONAL CURRENCY: C.F.A. Franc PRINCIPAL RELIGIONS: Muslim 90%, Traditional 9%, Christian 1% CITIES: Bamako (capital), 919,000 (1999 est.); Mopti, Segou, Kayes, Gao, Kimparana ANNUAL RAINFALL: Varies from 20–60 in. (500–1,500 mm) in the south to 0–7 in. (0–175 mm) in the Sahara region ECONOMY: GDP $12.07 […]

The Republic of Malawi

The Republic of Malawi

POPULATION: 16.70 million (2014) AREA: 45,747 sq. mi. (118,484 sq. km) LANGUAGES: English, Chewa (both official); Tonga, Yao, Tumbuka, Lomwe NATIONAL CURRENCY: Kwacha PRINCIPAL RELIGIONS: Protestant 55%, Muslim 20%, Roman Catholic 20%, Traditional 5% CITIES: Lilongwe (capital), 395,500 (1994 est.); Blantyre, Zomba, Mzuzu ANNUAL RAINFALL: 30–40 in. (760–1,010 mm) ECONOMY: GDP $4.258 billion (2014) PRINCIPAL PRODUCTS AND EXPORTS: Agricultural: tea, tobacco, sugar, cotton, […]

Maji Maji

Maji Maji

Between 1905 and 1907 several small ethnic groups from Tanganyika (present-day TANZANIA) rebelled against German colonial authorities in an uprising known as the Maji Maji Rebellion. Although unsuccessful, the rebellion was one of the most important events in the history of East Africa. The Maji Maji Rebellion was centered in the southern highlands of German East Africa, a colonial territory […]

Mahfouz, Naguib

Mahfouz, Naguib

1911–2006 Egyptian writer Author of 40 novels and short story collections and more than 30 screenplays, Naguib Mahfouz received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1988. He was the first Arabic author to win that honor, which brought attention to his work and to modern Arabic fiction in general. During most of his writing career, Mahfouz also worked in […]

Maherero, Samuel

Maherero, Samuel

ca. 1854–1923 Chief of the Herero Samuel Maherero became chief of the HERERO people of NAMIBIA after the death of his father in 1890. Baptized and schooled by German missionaries, Maherero cooperated with German colonists who arrived in Namibia about this time. By selling land to the Germans, he obtained their support in overthrowing and conquering rival Herero chiefs. In […]

Al-Mahdi

Mahdi, al-

ca. 1840–1885 Sudanese religious leader Al-Mahdi, the founder of an Islamic religious movement, seized control of SUDAN and established an empire that lasted for nearly 20 years. Born Muhammed Ahmad ibn Sayyid Abdullah, he began religious studies at an early age and joined a religious order in the capital city of KHARTOUM. He eventually left the order and moved […]

Maghreb

Maghreb

Maghreb, or Maghrib, is an Arabic word meaning “west” or “place of sunset.” It refers to the area of North Africa west of EGYPT. Known in ancient times as Africa Minor, the Maghreb refers to MOROCCO, ALGERIA, TUNISIA, and sometimes LIBYA. The interior desert regions of these countries are not always considered part of the Maghreb. The Maghreb contains […]

Madagascar

Madagascar

POPULATION: 23.57 million (2014) AREA: 226,658 sq. mi. (587,044 sq. km) LANGUAGES: Malagasy and French (both official) NATIONAL CURRENCY: Malagasy franc PRINCIPAL RELIGIONS: Traditional 52%, Christian 41%, Muslim 7% CITIES: Antananarivo (capital), 1,507,000 (2000 est.); Mahajanga, Toamasina, Fianarantsoa, Antseranana ANNUAL RAINFALL: Varies from 120–190 in. (3,000–5,000 mm) on the east coast to 20 in. (510 mm) in the southwest ECONOMY: GDP $10.59 billion […]

Machel, Samora Moises

Machel, Samora Moises

1933–1986 President of Mozambique Samora Machel was a leader of the independence struggle in MOZAMBIQUE who became the country's first president in 1975. He became politically active as a young man, joining the movement known as FRELIMO that was dedicated to Mozambique's independence. He volunteered for FRELIMO military training in ALGERIA and was later sent to Mozambique to participate in […]

Macaulay, Herbert Samuel Heelas

Macaulay, Herbert Samuel Heelas

1864–1946 Nigerian political leader Considered the founder of Nigerian nationalism, Herbert Samuel Heelas Macaulay promoted self-government in NIGERIA in the early 1900s. Born into an educated, Christian Nigerian family, Macaulay attended school in Lagos. In 1890 he won a scholarship from Nigeria's British colonial government to study abroad. After earning a degree in civil engineering in England, he returned to […]

Maasai

Maasai

The Maasai are made up of about a dozen ethnic groups who live in the Rift Valley of east Africa, primarily in KENYA and TANZANIA.These groups speak a language called Maa and share many cultural characteristics,such as the way they dress. Their social systems are based on clans and age-sets, groups of people of the […]

Lutuli, Albert

Lutuli, Albert

1898–1967 South African political leader Albert Lutuli was president of the African National Congress (ANC), a black-led political party in SOUTH AFRICA that fought for African rights. In 1960 he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his leadership in the nonviolent struggle against racism. The son of a preacher, Albert John Mavumbi Lutuli was born in Southern Rhodesia (present-day […]

Lusaka

Lusaka

Lusaka, the capital of ZAMBIA, is a sprawling city of about 1.5 million people located in an agricultural region. A financial and commercial center, the city lies at the junction of major rail lines heading to the Copper Belt, the city of Livingstone, and TANZANIA. Lusaka became the capital of the British colony of Northern Rhodesia in 1935. The […]

Luo

Luo

The Luo, an ethnic group of East Africa, inhabit a region on the eastern side of Lake Victoria. They trace their descent from people who migrated south from the Nile Valley region of southern SUDAN about 500 years ago. The majority of the Luo live in KENYA, but sizable numbers are also found in UGANDA and TANZANIA. Luo territory […]

Lumumba, Patrice Emery

Lumumba, Patrice Emery

1925–1961 Congolese political leader Patrice Emery Lumumba was the first prime minister of Zaire, the country now called CONGO (KINSHASA). Known for his fervent nationalism and his commitment to freeing Africa from colonial rule, Lumumba played a leading role in gaining independence for his country. Born in the Kasai province of the Belgian Congo, Lumumba received a basic education at […]

Lugard, Frederick John Dealtry

Lugard, Frederick John Dealtry

1858–1945 British colonial administrator Frederick John Dealtry Lugard played an important role in British colonial Africa. Lugard worked to end African slavery and slave trading. He also created the system of “indirect rule,” which gave traditional African authorities considerable control over their local affairs. Born in India of missionary parents, Lugard attended school in England and began a career in […]

Lobengula

Lobengula

ca. 1836–1894 King of Matabeleland Lobengula was the last ruler of the NDEBELE kingdom of Matabeleland in present-day ZIMBABWE. After the death of his father, MZILIKAZI, the founder of the kingdom, civil war broke out. Lobengula eventually won the war, and he took the throne in 1870. However, the kingdom remained in chaos. Lobengula spent much of his reign […]

Livingstone, David

Livingstone, David

1813–1873 British missionary and explorer David Livingstone went to Africa as a missionary in the mid-1800s and became one of the continent's leading explorers and geographers. He also played a key role in the movement to end the SLAVE TRADE. Born in Blantyre, Scotland, Livingstone began work in a cotton mill at the age of ten. Determined to become a […]

Africa: Livestock Grazing

Livestock Grazing

Livestock grazing, also known as pastoralism, has been practiced in Africa for many thousands of years. Nomadic herding cultures existed throughout the continent long before the arrival of Europeans. As colonial governments seized land for agriculture and industry, many pastoral societies were forced to abandon or modify their traditional lifestyles. Nevertheless, some African peoples still depend on herding for their livelihood. […]

Literature

African literature has developed from sources and influences that originated both within and outside of the continent. One major source, Africa's rich tradition of oral stories and histories, is much older than the continent's written literature. Written scripts arose in Africa in Egyptian hieroglyphs, a complex system of picture-writing used by the ancient Egyptians. However, written scripts using alphabets and […]

Literacy

Literacy

One of the greatest challenges facing modern Africa is increasing the rate of literacy—the ability to read and write—among its population. Studies have shown that literacy leads to improvements in many areas of life. These include better health and nutrition for mothers and their children, a lower infant death rate, higher productivity in agriculture, and increased political participation. However, in […]

Libya

Libya

POPULATION: 6.259 million (2014) AREA: 679,400 sq. mi. (1,759,540 sq. km) LANGUAGES: Arabic (official); Italian, English, Berber dialects NATIONAL CURRENCY: Libyan Dinar PRINCIPAL RELIGIONS: Muslim (Sunni) 97% CITIES: Tripoli (capital), 1,822,000 (2000 est.); Benghazi, Misurata ANNUAL RAINFALL: Varies from about 4 in. (100 mm) in the steppe to less than half an inch (12.5 mm) in parts of the Sahara desert ECONOMY: […]

Liberia

Liberia

POPULATION: 4.397 million (2014) AREA: 43,000 sq. mi. (111,370 sq. km) LANGUAGES: English (official); Mande, Kru, Bassa, Vai, Kpelle, others NATIONAL CURRENCY: Liberian dollar PRINCIPAL RELIGIONS: Traditional 70%, Muslim 20%, Christian 10% CITIES: Monrovia (capital), 962,000 (1999 est.); Greenville, Buchanan, Robertsport, Harper ANNUAL RAINFALL: Ranges from 203 in. (5,210 mm) on northwestern coast, to 100 in. (2,540 mm) at southeastern tip of country, […]

The Kingdom of Lesotho

The Kingdom of Lesotho

POPULATION: 2.109 million (2014) AREA: 11,720 sq. mi. (30,555 sq. km) LANGUAGES: English, Sesotho (both official) NATIONAL CURRENCY: Maloti PRINCIPAL RELIGIONS: Christian 80%, Traditional 20% CITIES: Maseru (capital), 400,200 (1995 est.); Leribe, Mafeteng ANNUAL RAINFALL: 25 in. (635 mm) ECONOMY: GDP $2.088 billion (2014) PRINCIPAL PRODUCTS AND EXPORTS: Agricultural: livestock, mohair, corn, wheat, sorghum, peas, beans, potatoes, asparagus Manufacturing: food and beverages, […]

Leo Africanus

Leo Africanus

ca. 1485–ca. 1554 Arab geographer Leo Africanus was an Arab geographer who make numerous journeysin the northern and western regions Africa and wrote a bookabout the places he visited. Born in Spain and educated in MOROCCO, hetraveled extensively throughout North Africa and made three trips to EGYPT. South of the Sahara, he visited Gao and […]

Lenshina, Alice

Lenshina, Alice

1920–1978 Zambian religious leader and prophet Alice Lenshina was the founder of a PROPHETIC MOVEMENT that gathered tens of thousands of followers. In the 1960s she led an uprising against the colonial government in ZAMBIA. Lenshina was born in northern Zambia among the Bemba people. As a young woman, she was preparing to join the Presbyterian Church at the mission center […]

Lebanese Communities

West Africa is home to many Lebanese immigrants and their descendants, most of whom are shopkeepers and small business owners. The first Lebanese arrived in the region in the late 1800s, and many of those who came later were following relatives. Lebanese immigration increased sharply between World Wars I and II. Many of the immigrants settled in SENEGAL and other […]

Africa: Leakey Family

Leakey Family

For two generations, the Leakey family of KENYA has contributed significantly to paleoanthropology—the study of early humans and their ancestors—in Africa. Fossils discovered by the Leakeys helped establish the continent as the site of human origins. Members of the family who participated in this research include Louis S.B. Leakey (1903–1972); his second wife, Mary Douglas Leakey (1913–1996); their son, Richard […]

Laws and Legal Systems

The laws and legal systems of Africa have developed from three distinct legal traditions: traditional or customary African law, Islamic law, and the legal systems of Western Europe. In many cases European or Islamic legal traditions have replaced or significantly modified traditional African ones. Even so, customary law still exerts a strong influence in some areas of African life. AFRICAN […]

Languages

With more than 1,500 different languages, Africa boasts greater linguistic variety than any other continent. The tremendous range includes major languages such as Swahili and Hausa, spoken by millions of people, and minor languages such as Hazda, which have fewer than a thousand speakers. The linguistic situation is constantly changing. While many of the continent's major languages are rapidly […]

Land Ownership

In modern Africa conflicting views about land ownership cause legal, political, and economic problems. Traditional African ideas concerning the use, inheritance, and disposal of land differ sharply from those of Western nations. During the colonial era, European powers usually imposed their own ideas about ownership on their African territories, often ignoring indigenous practices. The resulting confusion about land use and ownership […]

Lagos

Lagos

Lagos is the chief port and former capital city of NIGERIA. Founded by the YORUBA people in the 1400s, Lagos developed into a large regional trading post. By the 1790s it had become a major center of the Atlantic SLAVE TRADE. The British navy bombarded Lagos in 1851, and ten years later Britain gained control over the city through […]

Labor

Africa has a number of different labor systems that reflect an economy in the process of change. Still occupying an important role are the traditional forms of work and division of labor based on subsistence farming. Industrial capitalism has brought new forms of labor organization that have transformed Africa—without completely displacing the earlier systems. AFRICAN LABOR SYSTEMS Africa is still […]

La Guma, Alex

La Guma, Alex

1925–1985 South African writer Alex la Guma was a South African writer of mixed race. His novels portray the experiences of nonwhites living under APARTHEID, the policy of racial segregation followed in SOUTH AFRICA from 1948 to 1994. The son of a well-known trade union leader in CAPE TOWN, la Guma became politically active at an early age. When […]

Kruger, Paul

Kruger, Paul

1825–1904 South African political leader Paul Kruger led the Dutch AFRIKANER REPUBLICS in their war against British control in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Kruger was born in Cape Colony in what is now SOUTH AFRICA. When the British tried to take over the region, his family fled in what became known as the Great Trek—the migration of […]

Kourouma, Ahmadou

1927–2003 African novelist Ahmadou Kourouma, a celebrated writer, is the author of two of the most famous African novels in French. In his work he criticizes postcolonial governments and one-party political systems. He also describes the despair felt by many Africans when independence failed to fulfill their expectations. These themes have appeared in many works written by French-speaking Africans. Born […]

Kongo

Kongo was the name of a west-central African kingdom that emerged in the late 1400s and eventually became part of the Portuguese colony of ANGOLA. Kongo was initially a federation of several small states, whose people elected its king. Over time the kings concentrated power and resources in the capital at Mbanza Kongo and established a more centralized government. They […]

Kinship

Kinship

Kinship is the web of relationships woven by family and marriage. Traditional relations of kinship have affected the lives of African people and ethnic groups by determining what land they could farm, whom they could marry, and their status in their communities. Although different cultures have recognized various kinds of kinship, traditional kinship generally means much more than blood ties […]

Kinshasa

Kinshasa

Located on the CONGO RIVER, Kinshasa is the capital and largest city of the Democratic Republic of CONGO. Stone tools found in the area indicate that the site has been inhabited since the 7000s B.C. When the explorer Henry Morton STANLEY arrived in the region in the 1880s, Kinshasa was a small fishing village. Stanley signed a treaty with […]

Kingsley, Mary Henrietta

Kingsley, Mary Henrietta

1862–1900 British traveler While growing up in London, Mary Kingsley followed her father's travels around the world with great interest. His adventures and her own reading fueled her desire to explore the globe herself. After both parents died in 1892, Kingsley decided to travel. In the years between 1893 and 1895 she made two trips to Africa, visiting ANGOLA, the […]

Kings and Kingship

Kings have ruled in Africa at least since the time of the pharaohs, the early Egyptian kings who came to power about 3000 B.C. EGYPT's system of royal rule lasted for nearly 3,000 years. Other kingdoms developed in western North Africa and large areas south of the Sahara desert. Some African kings ruled up to 1 million people, as […]

Kimpa Vita

Kimpa Vita

ca. 1686–1706 African religious leader Kampa Vita was a member of the nobility in the west-central African kingdom of KONGO. For a time, she was a nganga, a person who performed certain important rituals. After recovering from an illness, she claimed to have died and returned to life possessed by the spirit of the Christian saint Anthony. Taking the […]

Kimbangu, Simon

ca. 1887–1951 Congolese religious leader Simon Kimbangu was born in the Lower Congo (now CONGO, KINSHASA) and raised as a Baptist. Although not a member of the clergy, he began to preach in British missions in 1918. He also experienced a series of spiritual dreams and visions. In an effort to escape them, he moved to the city of […]

Khoisan

Khoisan

Khoisan is a name often given to the non–BANTU-speaking peoples of southern Africa formerly called Bushmen (or San) and Kxoe (or Khoi). The Khoisan do not have a common culture or ethnic background. Instead they share a unique family of languages, which features the use of “clicks.” Khoisan peoples have inhabited southern Africa for more than 20,000 years. Rock paintings […]

Khartoum

Khartoum

Khartoum is the capital and political and industrial center of SUDAN. Its strategic location at the meeting point of two rivers, the Blue Nile and White Nile, made it a much-contested prize. In 1821 northern Sudan was conquered by the Ottoman Turks. They established an outpost at nearby Omdurman, and set up a military camp at Khartoum. Three years later […]

Kenyatta, Jomo

Kenyatta, Jomo

1888 (or 1889)–1978 President of Kenya Jomo Kenyatta, the most important African leader in colonial KENYA, served as the country's first president after independence. A member of the GIKUYU ethnic group, Kenyatta was born Kamauwa Muigai, and later baptized under the name Johnstone. After leaving the Scottish mission school he attended as a youth, he changed his name to Jomo […]

Republic of Kenya

Republic of Kenya

POPULATION: 44.86 million (2014) AREA: 224,960 sq. mi. (582, 646 sq. km) LANGUAGES: English, Swahili (official); Gikuyu, Nandi, Kamba, Luhya, Luo NATIONAL CURRENCY: Kenya shilling PRINCIPAL RELIGIONS: Protestant 38%, Roman Catholic 28%, Traditional 26%, Muslim 7%, Other 1% CITIES: Nairobi (capital), 2,000,000 (1999 est.); Mombasa, Nakuru, Kitale, Nyeri, Kisumu, Thika, Malindi, Kericho ANNUAL RAINFALL: Varies from 29 in. (750 mm) in the highlands […]

Kaunda, Kenneth

Kaunda, Kenneth

1924– President of Zambia Kenneth Kaunda served as ZAMBIA's first president and became a prominent political leader within Africa. Born in what was then Northern Rhodesia, Kaunda trained as a teacher but became active in politics in the 1950s. He organized the local branch of the African National Congress, the country's first political party, and later served as the party's […]

Kanemi, Muhammad al-Amin al-

Kanemi, Muhammad al-Amin al-

ca. 1775–ca. 1837 Scholar and ruler of Bornu Muhammad al-Kanemi was born in southwestern LIBYA and received an extensive Muslim education in both Africa and Arabia. He traveled widely, finally settling in the kingdom of BORNU in north central Africa in 1799. There he attracted a large following of scholars. Soon after his arrival, the ruler of Bornu asked for […]

Kalahari Desert

Kalahari Desert

The Kalahari Desert is a large, sandy plain in southern Africa with forested regions in its northern reaches. Really a semidesert or dry savanna rather than a true desert, the Kalahari measures about 1,000 miles from north to south and 600 miles from east to west at its broadest points. About 100,000 KHOISAN people and approximately 1.5 million BANTU-speaking people […]

Kagwa, Apolo

Kagwa, Apolo

ca. 1868–1927 Prime minister of Buganda Apolo Kagwa emerged as the leader of the Christian Party, one of thegroups struggling to control BUGANDA during the religious wars of the late 1800s. From 1889 to 1926, he served as katikiro (prime minister) of the semi-autonomous kingdom of Buganda under British authority. In 1897 Kagwa helped overthrow Buganda's King Mwanga […]

Kadalie, Clements

ca. 1896–1951 South African labor leader Clements Kadalie, an early African labor leader, organized a black union that challenged white rule in SOUTH AFRICA. After graduating from high school in his home country of Nyasaland (now MALAWI), Kadalie traveled through southeastern Africa. He arrived in CAPE TOWN in 1918. That year he founded the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union of […]

Kabarega

Kabarega

ca. 1850–1923 King of Bunyoro-Kitara Kabarega was ruler of the kingdom of Bunyoro-Kitara in what is now the nation of UGANDA. During his reign he expanded the empire and led a determined resistance to British colonization in East Africa. Although some historians consider Kabarega a tyrant and a murderer, others see him as a hero and an early African […]

Judaism in Africa

Judaism in Africa

Judaism in Africa is represented mainly by two separate groups of people: Jews from Europe and the Middle East and indigenous Africans who claim Jewish or Israelite descent. Jews from the Middle East arrived in Africa before A.D. 400, settling mainly in North African countries such as EGYPT and ALGERIA. Most worked as artisans, merchants, or laborers. In the […]

Johnson, Samuel

Johnson, Samuel

1846–1901 Yoruba historian Samuel Johnson was the author of the first important history of the YORUBA people. The son of a liberated slave and descendant of African kings, Johnson was born in SIERRA LEONE. At the age of 11, he and his family moved back to Yorubaland in what is now NIGERIA. Educated in schools run by the Church […]

Johannesburg

Johannesburg

Johannesburg is the largest city in SOUTH AFRICA. It was renamed Greater Johannesburg in 1994, when its boundaries were extended to include surrounding suburbs. With a population of more than 5 million people, Greater Johannesburg is growing faster than any other major city in Africa. Geography and Peoples Greater Johannesburg is located inland on the Highveld, South Africa's broad central […]

Ivory Trade

Ivory Trade

For centuries ivory—the material of elephant tusks—was one of the most sought-after luxury items from Africa. A brisk ivory trade developed in ancient times, linking hunters deep within the continent to markets around the world. By the 1980s elephants had been hunted nearly to extinction, and most nations banned the ivory trade. Egyptian records show that Africans were trading […]

Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast

POPULATION: 20.80 million (2014) AREA: 124,503 sq. mi. (322,463 sq. km) LANGUAGES: French (official); Dioula (Djula), other native languages NATIONAL CURRENCY: CFA franc PRINCIPAL RELIGIONS: Muslim 60%, Christian 22%, Traditional 18% CITIES: Yamoussoukro (political capital), 120,000 (1999 est.), Abidjan (economic capital), 2,793,000 (1999 est.); Bouake, Man, Gaghoa, Grand-Bassam, Bingerville ANNUAL RAINFALL: Varies from 50–94 in. (1,270–2,413 mm) on the coast to 50–60 in. (1,270–1,542 […]

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

Houphouet-Boigny, Felix

1905–1993 President of Ivory Coast Felix Houphouet-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.); Bafata, Bissora, Bolama, Cacheu, Teixeira Pinto, Farim, Gabu, Mansoa 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, Labe, 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, […]