Africa south of the sahara
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Africa: South Of the Sahara. Physical Geography. Africa as a rEGION. South of Sahara desert 9.5 million square miles Region of plateaus, “stair steps” down toward sea Edges of plateau marked by escarpments Rivers running across land create great rapids and waterfalls

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Africa as a region l.jpg
Africa as a rEGION

  • South of Sahara desert 9.5 million square miles

  • Region of plateaus, “stair steps” down toward sea

  • Edges of plateau marked by escarpments

  • Rivers running across land create great rapids and waterfalls

  • Great Rift Valley in East Africa home to continents greatest mountain ranges

  • Most of the region lies in the tropics, great tropical rain forests across central Africa, vast grasslands on either side of tropical forests

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Physical Geography

  • Wide variety of physical features

  • Higher average elevation than any other continent, but few major mountain ranges

  • Eastern Highlands, Ruwenzori Mountains, Drakensberg Range

  • Highest mountain Mt. Kilimanjaro (Tanzania)

  • Great Rift Valley in East Africa, formed by tectonic plates moving apart

  • Series of faults along region shape valley today

  • Volcanic mountains are found along the eastern part of the rift

  • Deep lakes formed by faults- Tanganyika, Malawi- are found on the western side of the Great Rift Valley

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Physical Geography

Water Systems

  • Most large lakes near Great Rift Valley

  • Largest lake in Africa Lake Victoria, source of White Nile River (shallow compared to Tanganyika, Malawi)

  • Lake Chad (North Central Africa) shrinking

  • Droughts , too much water used for irrigation and desertification (caused by long periods of drought and poor land use) have caused Lake Chad to shrink

  • Drought, arid climate threats to its existence

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Physical Geography

  • Lakes and rivers of southern Africa found in huge basins formed by uplifting land

  • Rivers originate in high plateaus and flow to the sea, across ridges and escarpments

  • Hard to navigate inland from sea because of waterfalls and rapids

  • Niger River main river in West Africa, vast inland delta formed before it meets the sea

  • Zambezi River, south- central Africa, course interrupted by many waterfalls

  • Congo River in central Africa, most easily navigated from the sea inland

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Physical Geography

  • Natural resources distributed unevenly across region

  • Countries in western Africa have petroleum reserves

  • Gold and diamond deposits found in some countries (South Africa worlds leading producer of gold)

  • Water is an abundant resource in some regions

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Climate and Vegetation

  • Great variety of climates across region

  • Near Equator, tropical rain forest, wettest region of continent

  • Farmers clearing land to grow cash crops in rain forest cause soil depletion

  • Tropical grasslands called savanna covers almost half of continent

  • Rainfall is seasonal (6 months wet, 6 months dry)

  • Main vegetation is trees and tall grasses

  • Savanna is home to African wildlife (Serengeti Plain)

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Climates and Vegetation

  • Away from tropics climate becomes drier

  • In North Africa separating savanna from deserts is semiarid steppe called Sahel

  • Low growing grasses, little rainfall

  • Over past 50 years much of region has undergone desertification

  • Human overuse and drought depletes topsoil and degrades quality of environment

  • Possibly caused by climate change that affects the lands ability to recover

  • Southern African deserts include the Namib and Kalahari

  • Moderate climates are found along the southern coast and parts of East Africa

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Cultural Geography

  • 673 million people (10% of world population)

  • Highest birthrate, highest death rate in the world

  • Highest infant mortality, shortest life expectancy

  • Population growth faster than anywhere else in the world

  • Nigeria population will be 300 million in 50 years

  • 70% of worlds AIDS cases found in Africa, may limit population

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Cultural Geography

Population and food production

  • Most Africans farmers (70%), but soaring population, makes it hard to feed people

  • Countries also gear economies toward export, don’t grow products for local consumption

  • Environmental degradation, over grazing, drought, intensive over cultivation has depleted the soil

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Cultural Geography

Population and healthcare

  • Famine, poor sanitation, poor nutrition cause high infant mortality, high death rate (only 1/3 have clean water to drink)

  • AIDS has reached epidemic proportions

  • Zimbabwe- child born there more likely to die of AIDS than any other cause

  • Life expectancy there has dropped to 39

  • Disease and health care issues will cause shortage of workers, collapse of industry, families and communities will have lost generations

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Cultural Geography

  • Most population is not evenly distributed

  • Rwanda one of the region’s most populated countries, Namibia one of the least populated

  • Climate, land factors in distribution of population

  • Most people crowded along West African coast, east coast of South Africa

  • Population found where there is easy access to water, mild climate, fertile soil

  • Agriculture, industry and commerce concentrated in these areas

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Cultural Geography

Growing Cities

  • One of the least urbanized areas of the world, but has the world’s fastest rate of urbanization

  • 1950 only 35 million lived in urban areas, today 270 million

  • Leave rural areas for cities for opportunity

  • Most cities near the coast, or near natural resources

  • Largest city Lagos, Nigeria (10 million)

  • Other important cities Johannesburg, South Africa

  • Kinshasa, Democratic Re public of the Congo (economic, cultural and political hub of the country)

  • Nairobi, Kenya important city in east Africa

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Cultural Geography

  • Earliest human bones found in East Africa

  • Early civilizations found along the Nile (Kush, Axum)

  • Trading empires based on trans-Sahara trade established around A.D. 700 in West Africa

  • Ghana, Mali Empires traded gold for salt

  • Around 800 AD Bantu speaking people spread out from central Africa (Bantu migration)

  • Founded kingdoms of Kongo in central Africa

  • 150 million Bantu speakers in Africa today

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Cultural Geography

  • European Colonization

  • Europeans heard of wealth of Africa and by the 1400’s they had established trading posts along the western coast

  • 1600 and 1700’s trading with African kingdoms for gold, silver, ivory and slaves

  • Europeans shipped African slaves to their plantation in the Americas

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Cultural Geography

  • By the 1800’s Europe regarded the African continent as a source for raw materials

  • Central Africa last part of continent to be settled

  • 1914 all of Africa except Ethiopia and Liberia were under European control

  • European control upset the social political and economic structure of Africa

  • Divided up the continent by placing boundaries across ethnic homelands, set African groups against one another

  • Missionaries who opposed slave trade still forced European religious ways, weakened traditional life

  • African agriculture replaced by large scale plantation agriculture for profit to non-African businessmen

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Cultural Geography

  • From Colonies to Countries

  • Many Africans benefitted from European rule (education, urbanization)

  • In the second half of the 1900’s many demanded self-rule

  • Faced challenges after independence as a result of colonial rule

  • Had to industrialize, set up economies to meet local needs

  • Had no experience in government, had to establish new democratic systems

  • Because of European boundaries, rivals struggled for power and many civil wars broke out

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Colonial legacy

  • Ongoing ethnic struggle in Nigeria

  • Formed by British in1914 from several different ethnic, religious groups

  • Religious problems- North was Islamic, south practiced traditional religions

  • 1960 Nigeria becomes independent country and civil war erupted

  • To maintain control a harsh military dictatorship took over

  • Country struggles today as it tries to become a democracy

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South Africa

  • Early 1900’s becomes independent of British rule

  • For most of the rest of the century white minority controlled the social, political, economic institutions of the country

  • Policy called apartheid (separation of the races)

  • International pressure ended this system in the early 1990’s

  • 1994 anti- apartheid leader Nelson Mandela elected as first black president

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  • Distinct cultural divisions in north and south Sudan

  • North is Islamic and favor Islamic oriented governments and more of the population is urban, south is subsistence farmers that prefer secular government

  • Region of Darfur is in conflict between government backed militias and agrarian non Arab black African Muslims

  • Conflict has led to thousands being displaced and overcrowding in refugee camps

  • Food distribution and famine is another problem caused by this civil war

  • Region of Darfur has been called the worlds worst humanitarian crisis

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  • Colonial powers (Belgium) favored Tutsi ethnic group over Hutu ethnic group

  • Provided them with government jobs, better education

  • After independence violence erupted between the two groups that lasted for decades

  • 1994 800,000 Tutsi were killed by Hutus in ethnic clashes sparked by the assassination of the Hutu Rwandan president

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  • 70% of farms owned by 4,000 people (descendants of European settlers)

  • 2000- Government proposed land reform, sometimes through violent means

  • Land was redistributed without compensation to land owners

  • Land redistribution has caused farming to come to a halt in country, threat to economy that depends on commercial agriculture

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Cultural Geography

  • Many diverse ethnic groups

  • 3,000 ethnic groups, also non Africans (Europeans, South Asians, Arabs)

  • Borders of Africa meaningless to groups that share same cultural characteristics, language; connected along tribal not national lines

  • 800 different languages

  • Variety of religions (most Christian, Muslim, traditional religions), many follow a blend of religions

  • Islam most prominent in West Africa, the Sahel region, and Eastern Africa

  • Europeans brought Christianity

  • Education was allowed only to select few during colonial period

  • Since independence greater access to education, less access in rural areas

  • 60% literacy rate in Africa (not an even distribution)

  • Oral tradition, stories passed down from one generation to the next has helped preserve African history

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Africa Today

  • Farming main occupation of many Africans

  • Most are subsistence farmers (two thirds of the population)

  • Most large commercial farms are owned by foreign companies

  • Commercial crops provide many countries main source of income, crops leave the country to be processed somewhere else (money not kept in country)

  • Crops include coffee, peanuts, palm oil, cacao

  • World demand for products can have an effect on entire countries economy

  • Growing population has led to food shortage

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Africa Today

Logging, Mining

  • Deforestation occurring at alarming rate, need for agricultural land, population pressure

  • Logging heavier in West and Central Africa (rain forest)

  • Mineral wealth great in South Africa, world’s largest producer of gold, diamonds

  • Most mining operations are foreign owned

  • Little money reaches miners

  • Oil reserves found in Nigeria

  • Uneven distribution of mineral resources causes economic imbalance

  • Few people profit from mineral wealth (mostly foreigners)

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Africa Today


Obstacles to industrialization

  • Many countries lack infrastructure to develop natural resources, lack skilled workforce

  • Political conflict, lack of money hold back industrialization

  • Usually major trading partners are former colonizers

  • Most economy is export based

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Africa Today

Transportation and Communication

  • Economic, political problems plague transportation systems as well

  • Rivers hard to navigate because of geography

  • Satellite access and wireless technology have improved communications

  • Low literacy rates limit use of traditional media (newspapers, magazines)

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Africa Today

  • Trade and Interdependence

  • Most countries maintain economic ties with their former European colonizer

  • China is a growing trade partner in many African countries

  • Africa south of the Sahara is the poorest region in the world, it owes billions to foreign countries and this makes economic development difficult

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Africa Today

  • Drought, wars contribute to famine in Horn of Africa, many countries depend on imports for food

  • Severe drought has turned overgrazed, marginal farmland into desert

  • Many countries have approached or exceeded their carrying capacity (number of people a place can support on a sustained basis)

  • Refugee populations displaced because of civil war have strained food resources of many countries (Sudan, Rwanda, Somalia)

  • Groups in conflict keep food aid from reaching those in need