World Geography and Cultures © 2008

Chapter 22: The Region Today: Africa South of the Sahara

Chapter Overviews

Today, Africa south of the Sahara is making the slow transition from an economy based on subsistence agriculture to one that is a part of the global economy. The region is working to resolve human-made conflicts and environmental challenges that have interrupted the supply of food and endangered its plant and animal life.

The Economy More than two-thirds of the region's working population derives its living from agriculture. Most families only grow enough to feed themselves or their villages. Commercial farms, typically foreign-owned, usually rely on only one or two cash crops. Some countries have rich deposits of minerals, such as gold, bauxite, and oil, but profits are often diverted into the hands of foreign owners. Industrial growth has been slow in these developing countries due to a lack of skilled workers, capital resources, equipment, and reliable energy sources. Several countries have given high priority to developing their highway and railroad systems. Radio continues to be the dominant form of mass communication, while the low literacy rate limits the impact of printed materials. Satelite and cellular technology are reaching areas previously cut off from communications.

People and Their Environment Starvation threatens much of the region. Climatic changes have transformed semi-arid lands, which were once capable of sustaining marginal levels of agriculture, into desert lands. Extended periods of drought and wars also led to food shortages. The region remains are of the poorest in the world, but recent efforts involving dept relief and fair trade hope to make an impact. The region is working to preserve its environment. Rapid deforestation of rain forests caused animal habitats to disappear. Hunting and poaching also threatened big game animals. Some countries have created huge game preserves that have helped some animals make a comeback. The resulting ecotourism brings millions of dollars into African economies.

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