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Explain how the following five factors have influenced settlement and the economies of major African regions and countries.
A. absolute and relative locations
C. major physical characteristics
D. major natural resources
E. population size
Focus Question: How have location, climate, physical characteristics, natural resources, and population influenced settlement and the economies of major African regions?
Resources for Teachers
from the Boston University African Studies Center. Includes sections on history, geography, culture, politics & economy, literature/language/arts, and health & disease.
For a multimedia resource for teachers and students, see
Africa Focus: Sights and Sounds of a Continent
Africa's location allowed trade with both Europe and Asia
Africa was close to both Europe and Asia and was a stop on trade journeys
Climate Map of Africa
There was also a large amount of trade within Africa
There is evidence that Africans were trading with West Asia and India since about 4000 BC
African traders sold ivory from elephant tusks, ostrich eggs, wood, metals, etc...
In return, they received wheat, wine, cloth, sugar, glass, and sugar
for more info
1770 Map by French Cartographer Rigobert Bonne. Displays southeastern Africa and Madagasgar, an area popular with Europeans due to the gold
"How Big Is Africa?"
curriculum developed by Boston University.
B. Size and climate:
Africa is the second largest continent in the world
15% of it is considered desert (hot with little rain)
10 % of it is considered tropical rainforest (tropical wet)
35% of it is considered savanna/ grasslands (steppe)
The rest of Africa includes Mediterranean climate, mountain climate, tropical wet and dry, rainy and mild, and wet and mild.
See Young Adult Literature Page for
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
about the country of Malawi
C. Major Physical Characteristics:
The Great Rift Valley, Tanzania. Photo by Sachi Gahan on Wikimedia Commons
The Great Rift Valley
From Ethiopia, through Kenya, into Tanzania
Series of faults, caused by movement of tectonic plates
Formed about 20 million years ago, when Africa and Europe pulled aport from each other millions of years ago
From 6,200 feet above sea level to 1,900 feet below sea level
for a detailed look at the Great Rift Valley from geology.com
Located in the Zambezi River
On the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe
Twice as wide and deep as Niagara Falls
Spans over 5,500 feet and drops 355 feet into a chasm
for more info
for a video of Victoria Falls
__Art Wolfe: Travels to the Edge Series__
Art Wolfe is a Seattle based photographer whose series traverses the globe to highlight the cultures and landscapes of some of the world's remotes locations. Each episode starts with a geographical overview of the region including a brief history.
1. From the Sahel to the Sahara
2. Ethiopia: Omo Valley (male frontal nudity)
3. Togo and Benin
D. Natural Resources:
Check out this
which shows what kinds of natural resources can be found in each African country.
The economy of Africa has been both enriched and impoverished by its natural resources.
"Cons" of abundant natural resources
One important thing to think about in the context of Africa and its natural resources is how geography and an abundance of natural resources can harm a region as well as help it.
In brief: if Africa had not been (and still is) so rich in natural resources, would it have been colonized, occupied, and thoroughly abused by outsiders as it was (and still is)?
For example, if the Congolese forests had not been so rich in natural rubber, would King Leopold of Belgium taken over the country for his own personal enrichment and glory during the Industrial Revolution, when demand for rubber was high?
To use a far-out example: would Europe have divvied up Greenland, Antarctica, and Siberia, if it was ice that was so coveted, and not rubber or diamonds or oil?
It is not only Africa that has been affected by the search and hunger for natural resources; in fact, the entire world has been affected by this in one way or another, in particular, North America, South America, the Caribbean, and Africa.
Greenland was settled by Scandinavians and its native peoples displaced somewhat, but not nearly on the scale as happened in the Americas and Africa.
This is largely due to Greenland’s lack of natural resources—a deficit that, strangely, actually protected its people and land.
Gold specimen, near Johannesburg, South Africa. Rob Lavinsky/iRocks.com Photo on Wikimedia Commons
Currently, many African nations have regained sovereignty over their natural resources, but this is not entirely the case.
For example, insurgents and militia in the Democratic Republic of Congo are stealing tin out of mines there by force [Nov. 14, 2008,
New York Times
article by Lydia Polgreen].
Also, there is a war brewing in Niger over who should have control over the uranium buried deep under that nation’s desert sands.
A December 14, 2008
New York Times
article, also by Lydia Polgreen, says in part: “Uranium could infuse Niger with enough cash to catapult it out of the kind of poverty that causes one in five Niger children to die before turning 5.
“Or it could end in a calamitous war that leaves Niger more destitute than ever. Mineral wealth has fueled conflict across Africa for decades, a series of bloody, smash-and-grab rebellions that shattered nations. The misery wrought has left many Africans to conclude that mineral wealth is a curse.”
Due to its fertile soil and early high population density of settlers during colonization, Côte d'Ivoire in West Africa is the world's leading producer of cocoa. See how other countries compare with this
See video on
Cocoa growing in West Africa
Coca-nomics: Why Chocolate Really Doesn't Grow on Trees
from the CNN Freedom Project
Chocolate and Slavery: Child Labor in Cote de Ivoire
Diamond mining is a major source of revenue for many African countries. Diamond mining has been linked to funding rebel armies in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. As well, it has a huge impact on the environment, as shown in this picture:
was constructed by a U.K. teacher who used Google Earth to compile lesson plans on diamond mining. The site also links to many useful articles, pictures, and videos regarding diamond mining in Africa.
for a December 2008 New York Times piece on the battle for control of uranium in the desert of Niger; includes maps, and an interactive feature called “The Paradox of Plenty.”
for a lesson plan on diamond mining in Africa
for a lesson plan on blood diamonds from Africa
E. Population Diversity:
The population of Africa makes up about 10% of the world's population
There are over 800 ethnic groups in Africa
This includes Asians, Europeans, and Arabs, who have permanently settled there - for centuries in some cases.
In some countries, there is as many as 20 ethnic groups
1000 languages are spoken in Africa (40 of which have more than one million speakers)
Over 40% of Africans practice a wide variety of traditional religions.
There are also many forms of Christianity and Islam, as well as some Hinduism, practiced in Africa.
for an interactive map on religion by region
for a slideshow showing a variety of African people and their culture
for photo albums on African ethnic groups
for the game "Darfur Is Dying" to shed light on the conflict in Darfur
for a BBC look at life in Africa
for a history of Africa from BBC
for lesson plans and resources on Africa from Mr. Donn. See also
Lessons from Africa
, a site from the United Kingdom that emphasizes issues of sustainability and the environment
For background and information on the AIDS crisis in Africa, see World History
Click here to see
videos, pictures and blog posts
by two Dutch citizens recording their travels in Africa. This site includes videos of many native animals.
Women in Africa
30 Indonesian Women (Accidentally) Founded Madagascar
from Livescience (March 2012).
For more information on the island, see
Madagascar's Geography, History and Culture
from the Embassy of Madagascar.
for an interactive map of notable women in African history. The women with orange boxes have modules linked to them that contain pictures, lesson plans, music, etc.
for a history of women's rights in South Africa
In the ancient world
, the Pharaohs of Egypt and kings and queens of Nubia reigned over advanced civilizations in the rich Nile River valley of north-eastern Africa. Later, Somali traders on the Indian Ocean coast did business with China and other Asian and African nations. The African people on the east coast of the continent were well-off and well-educated. Arab peoples in northern and western Africa developed some of the world’s first universities and libraries.
for information on ancient Nubia; See Grade
for background on the achievement of Egyptian civilization.
Settlement of ancient Africa followed typical patterns of people living near rivers and other water sources. Settlement of modern Africa is concentrated in cities, with the highest density in Cairo. The majority of the continent’s nations expect a population gain between 2004 and 2050, with only Botswana and South Africa anticipating a population decline. Most African nations expect a population rise over 125%. [Source:
Atlas of the World
, 2005, p. 24-25]
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