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Useful Notes: Africa

It's gonna take a lot to drag me away from youuuuu
There's nothing that a hundred men or more could ever dooooo
I bless the rains down in Africaaaaa
It's gonna take some time to do the things we never haaaaa-aaad, woo-oo
Toto's "Africa", a song about a white man trying to write about Africa but struggling because he's never been there.

Africa covers one-fifth of the Earth's land surface and contains 54 countriesnote , two thousand languages and upwards of a billion people. Its primary cultural divide is between the Muslim states north of the Sahara, which have more in common with the rest of the Arab world than with the rest of the continent, and "Black Africa" or sub-Saharan Africa further south. There are a lot of other divisions, though, including the difference between East Africa and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, and the transition zones just south of the Sahara: the primarily-Arab Sahel and primarily-African Sudan (which confusingly does not include the country of Sudan, where the people are for the most part physically black but culturally Arab).

For Africa in fiction, see Ancient Africa, Darkest Africa, and Bulungi. See also Mighty Whitey, Great White Hunter. And despite what you may have heard, Africa is not a country.

Continental union

Like Europe and South America, Africa has an institution that represents the continent as a whole—or at least tries to.

Sovereign states by region

Vaguely following the UN geoscheme for Africa.

North Africa

The majority of people in this part of Africa speak Arabic and often (but not always) feel closer affinity to other Arabic speakers in Asia than to other people of the African continent, or even to certain parts of southern Europe, with which they share the history and culture of the Mediterranean. Nevertheless, all these countries participate in various pan-African institutions, and all but Morocco are part of the African Union.

Western Africa

We can subdivide this region further into the aforementioned Sahara/Sahel/Sudan states (mostly Muslim, containing much of the Sahara Desert and bordering dry plains, typically with large populations of Arabs and Berbers) and the Niger River and Coastal states (typically religiously mixed and geographically varied).

Dry West Africa

Wetter West Africa

East Africa

Can also be divided into sub-regions: the Horn of Africa, the East African Community, and the Indian Ocean islands. South Sudan is a new country and a special case, with both the Horn of Africa and the EAC having an influence. The entire human species originated within this region.

Horn of Africa

All of these countries were at one point in time part of the ancient and medieval Ethiopian empires (the best-known of which is the Kingdom of Axum), and share in the heritage of ancient Ethiopian civilization. All also speak languages of the Afro-Asiatic family, primarily of the South Semitic and Cushitic branches. They are very big on bickering with and fighting each other, especially since Somalia collapsed in 1992 and is still trying to get its act together.

East African Community

The East African Community is an attempt to develop regional integration at a smaller level than Africa. As all of these countries have certain cultural elements and political interests in common—rather than the huge and unwieldy thing that is the African continent—their leaders felt there was a better chance of real integration, particularly economically. This is eased by the inland countries' gradual adoption of Swahili as a commercial lingua franca, and Burundi and Rwanda's moves away from French and towards English as the foreign language of choice; Rwanda has even been admitted to The Commonwealth—to which Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda had long belonged—as a sort of encouraging gesture, with Burundi not sure about whether to follow suit.

Indian Ocean islands

Several islands in the Indian Ocean are generally associated with the African continent; of these, the largest by far is Madagascar. Many if not most of these islands have quite unique cultures unrelated to anything on the African mainland.

Special Case

Central Africa

Dominated by the Congo River basin.

Southern Africa

Except for Mozambique and Namibia, all were once British colonies; Namibia, for its part, was administered as part of South Africa for the better part of a century. All states are or were members of The Commonwealth (Mozambique having been given special dispensation for its close relationship with the neighbouring members, while Zimbabwe was suspended for bad behaviour and subsequently left in the international-affairs equivalent of a petulant pout). South Africa has a powerful influence on the region, acting as a regional bully during The Apartheid Era, and as a sort of friendly-if-slightly-overbearing regional hegemon since 1994.

Other entities

Westermarck EffectUseful NotesThe Americas

alternative title(s): Useful Notes On Africa; Africa
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