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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A is for Africa


Here's one of my pet peeves: people referring to Africa as a country. It's a CONTINENT with over 50 countries. It's the second largest continent in size with 20.6% of the earth's land mass compared with 21.4% for Asia and 15.8% for Europe, 14.7% for North America, 12% for South America and 9.7% for Antarctica. It's also second, albeit a distant second, in population with slightly under a billion people (14.5%), compared with Asia's over four billion (60.4%), with 10.9% for Europe, 7.9% for North America and 5.8% for South America. (The remainder is Australia and Oceania, which includes New Zealand.)

Yet I do understand the disconnect. It is a place that had largely been dominated by forces outside its borders for about a century. The map from circa 1914 (above) shows only two independent countries on the whole continent, Ethiopia in the east and Liberia on the western horn. In the 1930s, Ethiopia had been "annexed" by Italy, until after World War II.

I well remember this map of Africa in my classroom. The time period we talked (very little) about Africa was probably c. 1965, but the map must have been c. 1960 or even earlier, because it looked a whole lot like the top map, except that Egypt was independent, and the areas once controlled by the Germans were in British or Belgian hands. Here's a list of the year when each country became independent. But those independent countries carved up sometimes arbitrarily have led to a great deal of internal clashes and even civil wars.

Still, there are situations that are endemic to Africa or at least to sub-Saharan Africa. Everything from the need for potable water to the necessity of economic development. For instance, the growth in Internet connectivity has been tremendous on the continent, but still lags far behind the rest of the world. And, of course, HIV/AIDS continues to be a massive problem.

Arthur at AmeriNZ has noted another issue, one that has barely made a dent in the news, at least in the United States. 38 out of 53 African countries are engaging in a rampant homophobia that, in Uganda, for instance, looks like "kill the gays" legislation. (And because I think someone might bring it up, I'll note that the vast majority of HIV transmissions in Africa occur during unprotected heterosexual sex.)

Still, there is much beauty in the cultures of Africa. The presentation of the honorific kente cloth, for instance, is a custom that my church participates in.

Africa is large, diverse place, and it may be dangerous to make too many generalizations.



ROG

37 comments:

Nydia said...

Africa, our cradle, so forgotten and in such desperate situation. Thank you for the great A post.

Kisses from Nydia.

RuneE said...

It is always dangerous to make to many generalizations, and they are easiest to make in the "downward" direction...

As Nydia said - we came came all out of Africa. Probably again and again.

Sylvia K said...

Interesting post as always, Roger. I do have to agree with Rune in regards to generalizations in the downward direction. Hope you have a great week!

Sylvia

Rinkly Rimes said...

Having spent many years in Africa I was fascinated by all your statistics. But I agree that the Colonialists have a lot to answer for when it comes to tension.

photowannabe said...

I remember those maps in my classroom too. So many changes as possessions changed. I loved my trip to one tiny country in the vast continent of Africa.

Spiderdama said...

Interesting and great A post!:-) I`v never been there, but I wish!
Have a nice evening!

Tumblewords: said...

Interesting, as always. There's surely a disconnect between truth and opinion in our daily roundup of information search. Thankfully, there are thinkers, like you, who write and post!

Manang Kim said...

Very informative post Roger thanks for sharing!

ABC Wednesday:Autograph

anthonynorth said...

As always, a fascinating read.
I think the real tragedy of Africa is seen in those borders - so many straight lines, drawn by colonisers, splitting and mixing natural tribal areas. It's taken away their soul and left them with divided populations. Everything follows from this.

Vicki ~ FL said...

Interesting read and of course, alot of it was unknown to me and I'm sure many others.

Stan Ski said...

I've been watching the African Cup of Nations, so had some idea of the number of countries in the continent. The names seem to change so regularly though, it's hard to keep up with who is who.

Amy said...

A very informative post Roger. That old map brings back memories - aren't maps grand?

Joy said...

Peters versus Mercator projection maps for the accurate size, take your pick. A fascinating continent with some great music but too much tragedy.

Willa said...

I know about the Africa being the continent and I really do want to visit any of the country there in the future. :)

冷淡 said...

Every why has a wherefore.........................................

Reader Wil said...

Africa is extremely complicated and also interesting as the cradle of humanity, which spread out from that continent all over the rest of the world.

Marie said...

A very good choice. I absolutely love Africa and African people and I do hope it will overcome all its ordeals. It is such a difficult question.

lv2scpbk said...

Interesting post. I've never been to Africa but would love to go.

I'm now part of ABC Wednesday Team.

Kate said...

You sound as though you love Africa! It is a vastly interesting continent with both sad and glorious history. Have you been there? I've been very lucky to have visited South Africa twice and am most impressed with the people there. Mandela is my hero! Your comments and observations are spot on!

Rose said...

An excellent post, Roger! I need to study up on African geography. Many, many years ago, in elementary school I remember studying all the countries of Africa, and at that time I could have found most of them on the map and told you their capitals. I never studied geography again, and as countries became independent and changed names, I didn't always keep up. There's no excuse for that--I should study your map to learn them all.

Beverley Baird said...

A very informative post about Africa. There is such diversity there and so much turmoil.
Thanks for all the info.

Janie said...

Thanks for these facts on a continent that definitely gets too little attention from the world community.

Monika said...

that was quite some info on africa roger... good post :)

Maria said...

Generalizations can be dangerous and those who talk back on those native to Africa propably missed there history lessons, if I´m not wrongly informed Lucy were found in Africa. Thanks for stopping by.

jay said...

Impossible to generalise about such a vast and diverse place, indeed. Thanks for the history and geography lessons. Africa is a continent I know very little about.

The page on Kente cloth is fascinating.

Strawberry Jam Anne said...

I found this very interesting. Great choice for A.

Jama said...

Informative post, as always!

Troy said...

Im never sure whether to be happy, or unhappy, when I set out to be entertained, and instead get educated.

Much of this was atuff I learned in school, way back when... but the years have taken their toll on my mind.

Thanks for the refresher, and thanks for visiting my blog.

Troy

magiceye said...

wonderful take on the theme...
congratulations on being an integral part of the ABC team!

Lily Hydrangea said...

fascinating post on Africa-an intriguing continent!
Thanks for your help in keeping ABC Wednesday around too.
: )

angelcel said...

A fascinating continent, filled with so much potential.

Paula Scott said...

I love your 'ramblings' as you call them. I never know what you will be examining, but it is always a good read!

kat said...

You have an interesting article. Thanks for the info about Africa.

Thanks for the visit and comment too.

Have a great day.

Roger Owen Green said...

No, I've never been to Africa, but have a feel to go someday. I have this good friend from Liberia, and that could be a place I would travel to.

ChrisJ said...

Great and very interesting post, Roger. (My youngest son's name is Owen). Thanks for the offer of help. I think I've figured it out. It wasn't so hard. I always over-think things.

Grace and Bradley said...

I always fascinate with Africa. My daughter now work on public health issues on Africa in a consulting firm. I gave her a gift of African map, which was printed on 1897, when she graduated with MPH. It traced all the routes by the white explorers.

Sheila said...

To some extent I was brought up in Africa, in Malawi to be precise, the warm heart of Africa. I'm so saddened to hear that a gay couple has been arrested for performing a marriage ceremony there.

Thank you for your visit to my blog earlier.