The geological structure of Africa is very complex, reflecting many stages and types of development over a period of 3.5 billion years. Most of the continent consists of rock dating from the Precambrian Period (more than 570 million years ago). These rocks … Continue reading
The geological evolution of Africa has been hinged on stability. Africa contains three major cratons, or areas of basement-complex rock that have been geologically stable for hundreds of millions of years. The Kalahari craton is located in southern Africa, the Congo craton is in Central Africa, and the northwest African craton, forming the core of West Africa, is centered in the Western Sahara. Areas between the cratons contain somewhat younger rocks. These areas have undergone more extensive and continuing geological change since the late Precambrian Period, caused by processes such as faulting, volcanism, folding, and crustal displacement. The stability of the areas of basement-complex rock has helped define the geological evolution of Africa.
Education in Africa
Africans value education and all governments see improving educational access and quality as essential to national economic and political development. Despite scarce financial resources, many countries have made noteworthy achievements in raising literacy rates in recent decades. Adult literacy rates of 70 percent or more are characteristic of East, Central, and southern Africa, except, notably, in Somalia, Angola, Ethiopia, and Mozambique. Gains have been less impressive in West Africa: Many countries still have literacy rates below 60 percent, and the rates in Niger, Burkina Faso, and Sierra Leone are among the world’s lowest. Cameroon, Ghana, and Nigeria are notable exceptions, with particularly high literacy rates. Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria in North Africa have rates of 90 percent or higher. Females have significantly lower literacy rates than males across most of Africa.
Compulsory school attendance, starting at either 6 or 7 years of age and lasting until the ages of 11 to 16, is now universal in Africa. In many instances, education is free. A major obstacle to universal education is the problem of providing enough teachers, schools, and classroom materials to meet children’s needs, especially in remote rural areas. Huge national debts, the economic austerity measures designed to eliminate them, and military expenditures have all limited the funds that most countries have available to devote to education. Another obstacle to ensuring that all children receive education is the fact that they are still an important part of the workforce across Africa. They provide childcare, work farms and herds, and perform a range of other menial jobs, such as drawing water and collecting firewood. Parents may also lack the financial means to send their children to school, or may be forced to choose which ones can go and which ones cannot. Boys are usually given preference over girls in access to education and they typically stay in school much longer. The rationale for this is based on future income-earning potential: As matters currently stand, males have access to more and better paying jobs than females. Deteriorating economic conditions have actually led the income-earning and literacy gaps between males and females to widen even more.
Universities have space for only a tiny fraction of secondary school graduates and competition to secure admittance is intense. Those who are admitted are not guaranteed a good education, however. University libraries are often poorly stocked and, most critically, lack up-to-date scientific journals. Computers are few and Internet access rare. Most campuses were built in the 1950s and 1960s and have deteriorated, the more so because of limited funds for maintenance. The quality of higher education is also affected by frequent student protests over issues ranging from poor living conditions to politics. On many occasions governments have responded with force and closed campuses for considerable periods of time. While faculties are usually of high quality, with many members having been trained in Europe and North America, the conditions severely constrain what they can do. As a result, many look outside Africa for employment, which contributes significantly to Africa’s brain drain.
Eastern Africa stretches from Sudan in the north to Mozambique in the south, taking in Eritrea, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and the island nation of Madagascar. This vast region encompasses a diverse range of peoples, environments, and historical experiences. They include seminomadic herders, ancient kingdoms, coastal trading ports, and even a few isolated communities of hunter-gatherers. An extremely wide range of art and architecture in the region reflects this diversity. Trade with Arabs and other groups along Africa’s east coast also introduced a strong foreign influence.
Early Southern Africa
By 650 small Bantu-speaking communities of ironworkers and farmers had settled all over southern Africa, excluding only the drier regions of central and western Botswana, Namibia, and the Cape of Good Hope region of South Africa. In these drier areas, Khoisan hunter-gatherers and herders were dominant.
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- Bantu Migration (egrejeen.wordpress.com)
- Discovery of Mineral Wealth in Southern Africa (egrejeen.wordpress.com)
- Beadwork in Southern Africa (egrejeen.wordpress.com)
Early North Africa
Early North Africa remained a place of conquest by various armies. The Greek conquest of Egypt in 332 BC tied Egypt more closely to the fortunes of the Mediterranean world. The new ruling class adapted many aspects of Egyptian culture, but Greek became the language of administration and trade. A new capital city was built at Alexandria, which, within a few centuries, became the greatest trading center of the ancient world. During this early North Africa, the Greeks founded the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egyptian pharaohs, which persisted until the Roman Empire conquered Egypt in 31 BC.
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East Africa to the 1870s
By the 19th century foreign powers dominated the East African coast, but in the inland regions indigenous Africans still largely controlled their own fates. The southern Arabian sultanate of Oman extended its influence to the northern Swahili coast in the 17th century, expelling the Portuguese from the Kenyan coast by 1700 and from the island of Zanzibar in 1729. To the south, along the Mozambique coast, the Portuguese remained the dominant trading power. This region supplied captives to meet the rising French demand for slave labor on sugar plantations on Mauritius and other French-held Indian Ocean islands.
In the interior, west of Lake Victoria, the lakeside kingdom of Buganda had grown to surpass Bunyoro, its older rival, in regional strength. To their south, Rwanda and Burundi had become powerful mountain kingdoms. The Nyamwezi people of the interior of present-day Tanzania were professional traders, carrying ivory between the lake kingdoms and the coast. Meanwhile, in the north, the Christian empire of Ethiopia continued to be a regional power in the highlands, while the Ottoman Empire controlled the coastal region of Eritrea.
Early East Africa
Early Iron Age Bantu-speaking farmers spread their settlements widely along the Indian Ocean coast and throughout the better-watered and wooded regions of the East African interior during the early centuries AD. The drier regions largely remained the domain of cattle-herding peoples, many of them descendants of earlier Cushitic-speaking herders.
Early Influence of African Art on Western Art
Prior to the 20th century, anthropologists and others who were interested in African cultures viewed the objects these cultures produced as interesting cultural artifacts, but they did not consider them as art. The earliest documented entry of a piece of African art into a European collection occurred around 1470, with a work that a Portuguese collector acquired from the kingdom of Kongo. By the late 19th century, many more Europeans were collecting objects from sub-Saharan Africa. They housed them in ethnographic museums, alongside examples of flora and fauna, as artifacts of exotic cultures.
Dutch at the Cape of Africa
In the mid-17th century a new force appeared at the southwestern tip of the continent. The Dutch East India Company established a trading station at the Cape of Good Hope to provision their ships heading to Dutch colonies in Indonesia. Subsequent Dutch and other European settlers used firearms to seize control of the region, subjugate the Khoisan, and strip them of their cattle. These white settlers established wheat farms and vineyards in the Cape region, worked by imported slaves or Khoisan forced labor. Other settlers moved into the interior, establishing large cattle ranges and hunting lodges before moving on when resources were exhausted. By the 1770s their settlements had reached as far east as the lands of the southernmost Bantu farmers. Here they met well-established and powerful Xhosa kingdoms that could command armies sufficient to halt the settlers’ advance. Thus began a century of conflict between the Xhosa and the Cape invaders.