The southeastern part of the plateau includes the Ethiopian Plateau , the East African Plateau, and—in eastern South Africa , where the plateau edge falls downward in a scarp—the Drakensberg range. This richness is matched by a great diversity of biological resources that includes the intensely lush equatorial rainforests of Central Africa and the world-famous populations of wildlife of the eastern and southern portions of the continent. Although agriculture primarily subsistence still dominates the economies of many African countries, the exploitation of these resources became the most significant economic activity in Africa in the 20th century.
Climatic and other factors have exerted considerable influence on the patterns of human settlement in Africa. While some areas appear to have been inhabited more or less continuously since the dawn of humanity, enormous regions—notably the desert areas of northern and southwestern Africa—have been largely unoccupied for prolonged periods of time.
The greater part of the continent has long been inhabited by black peoples, but in historic times there also have occurred major immigrations from both Asia and Europe.
Of all foreign settlements in Africa, that of the Arabs has made the greatest impact. The Islamic religion, which the Arabs carried with them, spread from North Africa into many areas south of the Sahara, so that many western African peoples are now largely Islamized. This article treats the physical and human geography of Africa, followed by discussion of geographic features of special interest.
For discussion of individual countries of the continent, see such articles as Egypt , Madagascar , and Sudan. African regions are treated under the titles Central Africa , eastern Africa , North Africa , Southern Africa , and western Africa ; these articles also contain the principal treatment of African historical and cultural development.
For discussion of major cities of the continent, see such articles as Alexandria , Cairo , Cape Town , Johannesburg , and Kinshasa. Perhaps half died en route to the Americas; millions of others perished in slaving raids. The trans-Atlantic slave trade gave European powers a huge economic boost, while the loss of farmers and tradespeople, as well as the general chaos, made Africa an easy target for colonialism.
Most celebrated was missionary—explorer David Livingstone, who was famously encountered by Henry Morton Stanley on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. At the Berlin Conference of —85, most of Africa was split neatly into colonies. France and Britain got the biggest swathes, with Germany , Portugal , Italy , Spain and Belgium picking up bits and pieces.
Forced labour, heavy taxation, and swift and vengeful violence for any insurrection were all characteristics of the colonial administrations. African territories were essentially organised to extract cheap cash crops and natural resources for use by the colonial powers. To facilitate easy administration, tribal differences and rivalries were exploited to the full, and Africans who refused to assimilate to the culture of their overlords were kept out of the market economy and the education system. Young men and women went abroad to study and were inspired by the fiery speeches of communist figures and the far-reaching goals of nationalist movements from other countries.
Some realised this dream peacefully, others only after decades of bloodshed and struggle, but by the s the dream had become a reality, and a new era of independent African governments was born. Fledgling African nations became pawns in the Cold War machinations of self-serving foreign powers, and factors such as economic collapse and ethnic resentment led them to spiral down into a mire of corruption, violence and civil war. If Africa sometimes seems like a continent suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, one of the least thoroughly digested of its many traumas was the slave trade.
Part of African reality long before the white man set foot there, slavery was the fate of criminals, the indebted and prisoners of war.
However, its domestic form was more benign than what came later, when Arab slave traders sent raiding parties into the interior, kidnapping the fittest and strongest. Entire regions became depopulated as villagers fled, and the impact of the Arab tactics of divide and rule, in which one chieftain turned against another, have been insidious. The brutal trade finally ended in when Britain, its conscience pricked by the abolition movement, outlawed slavery in its colonies.
The complicity of rulers of the day may explain a reluctance to engage with the issue. This awkward fact was highlighted in May when a pressure group arranged a release ceremony for 7, slaves in Niger. Humiliated by the media coverage, the government warned those involved they faced prosecution if they admitted to being slave masters, and the ceremony was scrapped.
The history of Africa begins with the emergence of hominids, archaic humans and —at least , years ago—anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens). History of Africa, experience the modern and ancient historic past events, people and governments of Africa - Lonely Planet.
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Best in Travel. Home Africa. The Mali Empire eventually disintegrated in the 16th century, but at its peak it was one of the jewels of the African continent and was known the world over for its wealth and luxury. According to contemporary sources, Musa dished out so much gold during the visit that he caused its value to plummet in Egyptian markets for several years. Credit: Luis Dafos.
For sheer size, few states in African history can compare to the Songhai Empire. Formed in the 15th century from some of the former regions of the Mali Empire, this West African kingdom was larger than Western Europe and comprised parts of a dozen modern day nations.
The empire enjoyed a period of prosperity thanks to vigorous trade policies and a sophisticated bureaucratic system that separated its vast holdings into different provinces, each ruled by its own governor. While the Songhai Empire was once among the most powerful states in the world, it later crumbled in the late s after a period of civil war and internal strife left it open to an invasion by the Sultan of Morocco. The great enclosure courtyard, Great Zimbabwe. One of the most impressive monuments in sub-Saharan Africa is the Great Zimbabwe, an imposing collection of stacked boulders, stone towers and defensive walls assembled from cut granite blocks.
The rock citadel has long been the subject of myths and legends—it was once thought to be the residence of the Biblical Queen of Sheba—but historians now know it as the capital city of an indigenous empire that thrived in the region between the 13th and 15th centuries. This kingdom ruled over a large chunk of modern day Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
Though little is known about its history, the remains of artifacts such as Chinese pottery, Arabian glass and European textiles indicate that it was once a well-connected mercantile center. The fortress city at the Great Zimbabwe was mysteriously abandoned sometime in the 15th century after the kingdom went into decline, but in its heyday it was home to an estimated 20, people.