World Geography and Cultures © 2008
The Region Today: Africa South of the Sahara
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.