The Destiny of Bad Geography

>Letters: The destiny of bad geography – Salon

A good opportunity to discuss the Geography of Africa.

By all measures, the slave trade had an enormous impact on Africa. To place the responsibility of Africa’s lack of economic development solely on the slave trade greatly oversimplifies the forces at work on the continent, however.

Several cultures existed for thousands of years prior to European involvement. Humans, by some accounts, evolved on the continent and migrated elsewhere. The Cradle of Humanity, Africa is sometimes referred to. The question really should be: for as long as humans have occupied the space of Africa, why is it not more developed?

We must examine the climate, for it plays a great part. Seasonal rainfall, drought, hours of daylight, seasonality are all parts of the calculus in deteriming climates role. Climate plays a part in disease, and disease is another variable in our equation. The tropics are notorious for their infections, and not just Africa. We can look to our own hemisphere, in Middle and South America for examples.

The role of culture is another input into our equation. As expressed in combat in Somalia, the mentality seems to be “me against my brother, we against our family, our family against our tribe, our tribe against your tribe, our tribes against the foreigner.” That mentality does not necessarily breed cooperation.

The Europeans were not the Great Benefactors that perhaps they thought. While introducing railroads and bureaucracy, they also played different factions against each other. They had already reduced the populations in Middle and South America, through smallpox, and needed a new labor force. Europeans focused what development took place towards the coast in order to move not just future slaves but also gold, silver, and timber to the coast.

I look forward to reading the actual paper. Here is the link to the source, and more of Diego Puga’s interesting work.

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