Exploring Our World: People, Places, and Cultures

Chapter 21: Africa South of the Sahara Today

Chapter Overviews

The economies of Africa south of the Sahara depend more on agriculture and mineral resources than on manufacturing. Today, a number of challenges face the people of this region, including environmental damage, the spread of disease, and various ethnic conflicts.

Nigeria, the largest country in West Africa, is a major producer of oil. Despite this resource, however, its people work mainly as farmers. Ethnic and now religious conflict has plagued the country. Other countries in West Africa are inland countries like Mali and Chad, which lie on the partly dry grasslands called the Sahel, and coastal and island areas like the Cape Verde islands and the countries of Liberia, Ghana, and Senegal. Populations are smaller in the inland areas, and the lack of good transportation limits development. Civil wars have destroyed the economies of some coastal countries.

In Central and East Africa, ethnic conflicts have hurt people and the environment. Central Africa remains largely undeveloped because of the environment and political conflicts. The large rain forest in the region is rapidly being destroyed as it is cleared for timber and farmland. Some countries in Central Africa are moving toward economic growth. East Africa countries on the coast, like Tanzania and Kenya, have stable governments and economies, while highland countries like Uganda and Rwanda have faced rampant unrest. The northern part of East Africa, in the countries of Sudan, Ethiopia, and Somalia, endure ethnic conflict and war, which hurts their economies.

Southern Africa’s economies rely on the export of valuable minerals such as gold and diamonds. The country of South Africa has experience major social and political change in recent years and is now a growing democracy and a developed economy. Other Southern African countries are rich in resources but struggle to have basics such as food and water. They are home to many different ethnic groups, and people there are primarily farmers or they travel as migrant workers to more-prosperous South Africa.

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