Africa is the second largest continent in the world, occupying 22% of the world's land mass with a total area of 30,330,000 sq km (11,699,000 sq mi). Fifty four (54) countries occupy the continent including surrounding islands. Africa has a total population of 1,013,779,050, 14.8% of the world's total. The African continent was formed from tectonic movement away from the southern Gondwanaland super-continent 60 million years ago.
More Info: Timeline of African History
Africa occupies mostly the tropical zone, the northern and southern tip occupies the temperate zone. Of the 11 million sq. mi. of the continent, 9 million sq. mi. is in the tropical zone. This is defined as 23o 30' south latitude and 23o 30' north latitude, between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. Forty percent of the continent is classed as dessert or semi-arid. Because of mostly being a tropical continent, Africa's climatic events can be broken into the wet and dry season. Rainfall is unevenly distributed. The continent receives most of its rain during the first 5-6 months of the wet season and receives almost zero during the dry season.
Forty percent of the continent is classed as dessert or semi-arid.
Though rainfall is unevenly distributed during the year, Africa receives considerable amounts of precipitation, largely due to very moist onshore winds on the western coast that rises over the continent. Eight different types of climates have been noted in Africa.
Africa is blessed with abundant rivers. Her major riverways include the Nile, the longest river in the world. From Lake Victoria, it runs 3,470 miles(5,584 km). Its second longest river is the Congo River 2,900 mile(4,667 km). The Niger River is the third longest river(2,504 mile, 4,030 km) running through Guinea, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria.
Major mountains also dot the landscape of the Continent. Kilimanjaro(19,340 ft, 5,895 m) is Africa's highest mountain, followed by Mt. Kenya, Mt. Stanley, Rash Dashen Terara, and Volcan Karisimbi.
The development, use, and study of modern science and technology remains miniscule on the continent. Only 0.1% of patents registered in the United States Patent and Trademarks Office originated from sub-Saharan Africa.
Aknowledgement of the importance of science and commitment to science began taking place in the 1980s, with the adoption of the Lagos Plan of Action adopted by the Organization of African Unity, predecessor to the African Union. The plan called for African governments to allocate 1% of GDP to science and technology. By 2003, only South Africa, Malawi, and Uganda came close. By 2012, no African country alloted more than 5% of their budget to science and research.
95% of research conducted in Africa is funded by other countries, aid agencies, NGOs, and funders like the Wellcome Trust, setting priorities, priorities that might not be in African interest. Thirteen percent of the world population is in Africa, but she has only .36 percent of the world's scientist. African scientist publish less than 1 percent of material in reputable scientific journals, as of July of 2013. Of the listed 400 top universities in the world, Africa has only four listed universities, and all are in South Africa.
Though science and technology remains miniscule, things are improving. On March 27, 2012 Angola and South Africa agreed to cooperate in developing their research and development capacities. The two countries agreed to share technical research among their universities.
Technology hubs and districts are also beginning to take hold on the continent. Such hubs include Mauritius's Ebene Cyber-City, Kenya's Konza Technology City, Rwanda's ICT City, and South Africa's Innovation Hub. South Africa's Innovation Hub is the first fully accredited Science and Technology Park, a full member of the International Association of Science Parks (IASP).
In recognition of the role science needs to play in the developement of the continent, the African Union has created the Kwame Nkrumah Scientific Awards, in two categories:Earth and Life Sciences Category and Basic Sciences, Technology, and Innovation. In 2012, the award was given to Prof. Michael John Wingfield of South Africa in Earth and Life Sciences Category and Prof. Nabil A. Ibrahim of Egypt in Basic Sciences, Technology and innovation Category.
Although allocation of 1% of GDP has been advocated to increase science and technology on the continent, another solution has been greater economic regional integration and intra-regional trade. Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) is at the forefront of this approach. They have establish an Innovation Council, headed by eminent African experts, scientist, and scholars.
Ready access to energy is still a problem on the continent. Without an abundance of supply, prosperity remains elusive. Only 30% of Africans have access to grid power. that is 600 million Africans have no access to electricity as 2015.
Africa belongs to the AfriNIC regional internet registry. Internet penetration is increasing. As of 2012 , the continent had an internet penetration of 10.9%, in 2013 it is at 16%.
Major world religions as Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism are practice. Christianity is the dominant religion in 19 countries. Islam is dominant in 13 countries. Mauritius has a dominant Hindu population. Africans also practice traditional religions, which can bear similiar traits based on the ethnolinguistic orientation.
North African cuisine reflects its native Berber, islamic culture, and historical connections to Carthaginian, Roman, Arabic, Turkish, and European past. Popular dishes are tajines, rich stews, couscous, bazeen, and ful mudammas. The region uses spices as nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, safron, cumin, and caraway. Fruits, melons, oranges, figs, dates, grapes, and peaches are frequent part of the diet. Couscous and rice are identifying traits. Flat breads are integral part of meals. Meats include lamb, beef, poultry, and fish from the Mediterranean Sea. Olive oil is widely used. Drinks include mint tea and coffee. Dessert ingredients include honey and almonds, common in turkish baklava.
West African cuisine can be broken into two broad region, the sahelian zone and the forest zone. In the Sahel, one find rice, millet, and couscous as major staples. Spices include saffron, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Shea butter used for cooking, and chicken, fish, beef (kebab form) used for meat. Tea is popular. In the forest zone, lots of tubers--cassava and yams, orkra, and plantains. Dishes include garri, banku, fufu, and jollof rice. Food can be cooked in palm oil or peanut oil. Spices include garlic, tomatoes, onions, and peppers. Drinks include coconut juice, palmwine, hibiscus juice, and sorrel juice. Lots of overlapping occurs.
East African cuisine reflects its native African roots and its Indian Ocean connections to Arabia and India. Major dishes include wat, ugali, matooke, and agatogo. Major staples of east African diet include teff, corn(maize), bananas, plantains, millet, and sorghum. Beverages include coffee, chai tea, banana beer, millet beer, and sorghum beer. Spices include berberie, curry, cumin, safron, cinnamon, cloves, and hot pepper.
Central African cuisine connects with almost all regions of Africa. Mwambe is a major dish of chicken cooked in peanut sauce. The region was never completely isolated from the rest of the world. Cassava, a new world plant, is a major staple, introduced via trade with the Portuguese. Millet, sorghum, and plantain are major staples. Meats can include wild game and fish. Food can be very spicey and hot, with the use of hot pepper. Garlic and onion are used in flavoring. Palm and peanut oil are used for cooking.
Barbeque called braais are major components of Southern African cuisine. The consumption of meat is widespread, which can include cattle, lamb, oysters, and wild game. European influences can be seen in bitongs(spicey dried meat) and droewors(spicey dried sausage). Corn is a major staple of the diet and is used in major dishes as nshima, sadza, and pap. Oshifima in Namibia can use millet instead of corn, in fact before the introduction of corn, millet, and sorghum were the preferred choice, for making similiar dishes.
Most Africans have adopted western style of clothing. But Africa has always had her traditional clothing. In North Africa, linen was the choice of Ancient Egypt. Wool was the dominant material of the Maghreb. During the islamic period different styles were introduced. The djellaba is worn in the Maghreb and is unisex. The jilbab is worn by women in North Africa. Jellabiya is worn by men in Egypt. Galabaya and abayas are worn by women in Egypt. Unique to Morroco are the Moroccan kaftan and takchita, all worn by women.
West African clothing made use of cotton, silk, raffia, and bark cloth. Cotton was the dominant fiber. One finds the boubou or long rob for men. Women wore the kaftan or buba. Mudcloth was a type of cloth dyed with fermented mud. Kente cloth found in Ghana was formed into a tunic for the asantehene or dashikis--short sleaves shirts for men. Kufi hats are circular hats worn by men. Brightly colored head-wraps are worn by women to express social status and regional heritage.
African popular music include Mbalax from Senegal, Kuduro and Kizomba from Angola, Soukous from Congo, Highlife from Ghana, Kwaito from South Africa, Rai from Algeria/Morocco, and Coupe-Decale from Ivory coast. African popular music has been influenced by music of the new world, which in itself was influence by African music. African American and Afro-Cuban music especially has been quite influential on musical styles on the continent. New world styles like Reggae, Salsa, Zouk, Rap/Hip Hop, and R&B remain quite popular on the continent.
The continent has only 10,000 Km of roads for inter-regional trade.
Related Article: Timeline of African History
Martin, Phyllis M. and O'Meara, Patrick (1995). Africa, Third Edition. Indiana University Press:Bloomington and Indianapolis. pp. 10-45.
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