Africa, South of the Sahara

Why study the area south of the Sahara Desert as a separate realm? Several reasons are behind this.

First, the area has been influenced by European colonization in ways different than those countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. Africa is home to 1,000 cultures, and each culture has its own language. The cultures differ in many ways, from the Arab-dominated North, to the African ethnic groups in the South. Islam has a strong foothold in the North, while Islam, Christianity, and a multitude of indigenous beliefs persist in the South.

Sub-Saharan Africa was, and most would argue still is, affected by legacies of colonial. Africa’s political boundaries of today were not created by the mutual consent of African people. European countries met in 1884 in Berlin, Germany and hashed out where those boundaries would fall. Those political boundaries did not concern themselves with the people that lived in areas crossed by those lines. Cultures were split, languages were split; people that could not get along were grouped together. Those same countries would then create their own governments within those boundaries, elevate some cultures to superior roles, and encourage bigotry towards others cultures. These practices instituted 175 years ago and fostered over the years persist even today.

Governments in Africa tend to be distrustful. Indigenous groups can be seen as threats, as they try to voice opinions, and are subsequently attacked. External states (countries) are not necessarily trusted. The history of exploitation within Africa by other countries have made governments wary. An abundance of mineral wealth, gold, silver, platinum, and diamonds, plus agricultural commodities provide some countries with wealth. That wealth proves too attractive to some, and individuals make themselves rich at the expense of the population.

Governments find themselves at the mercy, and debt, of global lending institutions, like the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. After having national incomes squandered by dictators and corrupt governments, countries need loans to get back on their feet. Once that loan rolls in, however, governments have found themselves either victimized by militant groups or bad climate. They then find themselves in a position of being unable to repay their debt.

African countries, as a result of historically poor or corrupt government practices, armed conflict, and climate have not been able to satisfy the basic needs of their populations. Population health suffers, education suffers, thereby contributing to the poorest living conditions anywhere on earth.

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