Africa: Past and Present Mr. Bayne

Land Use

The primary way the land is used in Sub-Saharan Africa is through subsistence farming. This is where farmers work smaller plots of land, and grow only enough to feed themselves and their families. Commercial farming involves larger plots of land, and producing crops to sell for profit. The fact that Africans use so much of the land for subsistence farming is an issue because they aren't generating income from much of this.


Sub-Saharan Africa is blessed with many valuable mineral resources. Two of their most valuable include gold, of which they produce anywhere from 40%-60% of the world's supply. Another major resource they mine is diamonds. It is estimated that perhaps 65% of the world's diamonds are mined there, particularly in the southern region. Unfortunately, since the resources are not distributed evenly throughout the continent, this leads to unequal wealth, uneven population distribution, wars over access to the resources, and government corruption.


Despite having many natural resources, the Democratic Republic of Congo remains one of the poorest nations in the world. They not only have gold, but are also rich in the "3 T's": which is tin, tungsten, and tantalum. All of these are very valuable minerals because they go into producing cell phones, gaming systems, and other electronic devices. The problem is that armed rebel groups have control of the mines. They force people to work in them, they sell the minerals to fund themselves and buy more weapons, and they bribe corrupt government leaders to stay out. All this leads to poverty in the DRC.


The top five nations with the highest GDP Per Capita in Africa are as follows: Mauritius $12,800; South Africa $11,100; Botswana $9,200; Seychelles $7,800; Namibia $7,300. 16 nations in the continent have a GDP Per Capita lower than $1,000. Reasons why those 5 are so much higher than others include the following reasons: they may have more natural resources, they trade more, they better education, better technology, a highly skilled workforce, better transportation, or better healthcare. Any combination of these factors, or all of these factors together can cause the differences in GDP and standard of living between nations.


Out of the 31 countries of the world with the lowest life expectancy, 28 of them are from Sub-Saharan Africa. There are many factors that affect this, but the primary reason is due the the prevalence of HIV/AIDS. Out of the 1.1 million people who died of AIDS last year, 770,000 of them are from the region. They estimate that 24 million Africans are currently infected with HIV.


The names of the Three West African Kingdoms were Ghana, Mali, and Songhai. They existed between 800 CE and 1600 CE. They traded on the Trans-Saharan trade network. West Africans traded gold to North Africans for salt. Slaves were also traded on this network.


According to the Koran, Muslims are not allowed to enslave other Muslims. This led many North African traders to obtain slaves from West Africa. Since many of these were taken as prisoners of war, their slaves were mostly used for military service. Overall, they were treated better and had more freedom than what we know about Europeans taking slaves. They were not only able to obtain their freedom easier, but were also able to own property, their own slaves, and could even become generals of Muslim armies.


King Mansa Musa was probably the most powerful king, not just of Mali, but in any of the West African Kingdoms. He was Muslim and he went on a hajj in 1325 that became well known throughout the world. It included 60,000 people and 80 camels carrying 300 lbs. of gold each. on his return he brought back Muslim scholars and architects to build cities, and also mosques and schools in Timbuktu. Timbuktu became the center of trade and learning in West Africa. Muslim scholars from all over came to study religion, law, music, mathematics, and others there.


The first person to make the Three West African Kingdoms known to others in the world was the Muslim explorer Ibn Battuta. At age 21, he left his home city of Tangier, Morocco to go on a hajj to Mecca. He did not return for 30 years. He traveled 75,000 miles all over Africa and Asia, writing about the places he was going to. After he returned to his home country, he put his travel writings together in a book called the Rihla, which is still available today. It was the first travel book written.

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