Africa: Basic Data

"The essence of Africa's crisis is fundamentally its extreme poverty and therefore its inability to mobilize out of its own resources"  Jeff Sachs



Afri was the name of several peoples who dwelt in North Africa near Carthage. The Roman suffix "-ca" denotes "country or land".


Africa is the world's second-largest and second most-populous continent.  It covers 6.0% of the Earth's total surface area, and 20.4% of the total land area. With nearly one billion peoples (as of 2005), it accounts for about 14% of the world's human population and it is the fastest growing region in the world.


Africa, particularly eastern Africa, is widely believed within the historian and scientific community to be the origin of humans, as evidenced by the discovery of the earliest hominids, as well as later ones that have been dated to around 5-7 million years ago, including Sahelanthropus Tchadensis, with the earliest humans being dated to around 200,000 years ago.


At the end of the latest Ice Age, around 10,500 BC, the Sahara had become a green fertile valley. However, by 5000 BC the Sahara region was becoming increasingly drier. The population trekked out of the Sahara region towards the Nile Valley below the Second Cataract where they made permanent or semi-permanent settlements. A major climatic recession occurred, lessening the heavy and persistent rains in Central andEastern Africa. Since then dry conditions have prevailed in Eastern Africa, especially in Ethiopia in the last 200 years.


The domestication of cattle in Africa precedes agriculture and seems to have existed alongside hunter-gathering cultures. It is speculated that by 6000 BC cattle were already domesticated in North Africa. Agriculturally, the first case of domestication of plants for agricultural purposes occurred in the Sahel region circa 5000 BC, when sorghum and African rice began to be cultivated. Around this time and in the same region, the small guinea fowl became domesticated.


According to the Oxford Atlas of World History, in the year 4000 BC the climate of the Sahara started to become drier at an exceedingly fast pace. This climate change caused lakes and rivers to shrink rather significantly and caused increasing desertification. This, in turn, decreased the amount of land conducive to settlements and helped to cause migrations of farming communities to the more tropical climate of West Africa.


By 3000 BC, agriculture arose independently in both the tropical portions of West Africa, where African yams and oil palms were domesticated, and in Ethiopia, where teff and recently coffee, became domesticated. No animals were independently domesticated in these regions, although domestication did spread there from the Sahel and Nile regions. Agricultural crops were also adopted from other regions around this time as pearl millet, cowpea, cotton, watermelon and bottle gourds began to be grown agriculturally in both West Africa and the Sahel region while finger millet, peas, lentil and flax took hold in Ethiopia.


By the 1st millennium BC, ironworking had been introduced in Northern Africa and quickly began spreading across the Sahara into the northern parts of sub-Saharan Africa. And by 500 BC, metalworking began to become commonplace in West Africa, possibly after being introduced by the Carthaginians. Ironworking was fully established by roughly 500 BC in areas of East and West Africa, though other regions didn't begin ironworking until the early centuries AD. Some copper objects from Egypt, North Africa, Nubia and Ethiopiahave been excavated dating around 500 BC, suggesting that trade networks had been established by this time.


About 3300 BC, the historical record opens in Africa with the rise of literacy in the Pharaonic-ruled civilisation of Ancient Egypt, which continued, with varying levels of influence over other areas. Prominent civilisations at different times include Carthage, the Kingdom of Aksum, the Nubian kingdoms, the empires of the Sahel (Kanem-Bornu, Ghana, Mali, and Songhai), Great Zimbabwe, and the Kongo  (Source:  adapted from Wikipedia).