Analyze the Article

Read the article and write a brief summary about it.

2. Analyze the content of the article in the context of facts and concepts about Sub-Saharan Africa presented in the foundation notes and video slide lectures. Pick at least three distinctive ideas about Sub-Saharan Africa from the class materials and point out examples from the article that support the ideas. Be clear about which idea is being supported by which example.

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3. Answer the following questions by referring to the map of numbers of people either killed or kidnapped that accompanies the article.

a. The map uses six different colors to indicate six regions within Nigeria with six different causes of the intense violence the country is experiencing, with each cause identified in a color-coded rectangle near its region. Make a numbered list of each of these six causes as stated in the rectangles and for each one use general geographical descriptors such as northeast, southwest, central, etc. to identify the general location of the problem. For example, the correct geographical descriptor for Boko Haram and ISWAP is northeast.

b. In which region is the problem of kidnapping most pronounced?

c.  In which state have the deaths due to conflict been greatest so far this year.?

d.  Nigeria is fairly dangerous everywhere, but if we divide the country in half at the capital of Abuja, which half seems more dangerous, the north or the south?


Foundation notes 16: Sub-Saharan Africa

16.1. Sub-Saharan Africa physiography and its consequences: The region is surrounded by the Sahara Desert, Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean. For many centuries, these functioned as barriers separating this region from others, engendering distinctive cultural development. The climates of the region are primarily tropical and subtropical and therefore persistently warm to hot. It is extremely rainy in the equatorial zone and transitions to extremely dry heading both north and south of this wet zone. Highlands on the east side of the continent tend to be more temperate. The topography is primarily dissected plateau and highlands which has fostered the concentration of people into numerous separated settlements contributing to extreme and persistent cultural diversity.


16.2. Sub-Saharan Africa as a culture region: Languages are primarily in the Niger-Congo family. Religion shows a distinctive spatial pattern of Islam, mostly to the north, Christianity elsewhere and Animism receding everywhere. The politics and economics have been significantly affected by over 500 years of disruptive incursions by Europeans and are characterized by a high degree of instability and poverty. While there is regional correspondence to race, race is generally not considered a meaningful biological or anthropological category, so Sub-Saharan Africa is best thought of as a culture region.


16.3. Sub-Saharan Africa demography: Most countries within the region and the region as a whole are still in stage 2 of the demographic transition. Although RNI and TFR have dropped substantially in recent decades, they are still very high and population is growing rapidly. The still exploding population is a major factor undermining economic development.


16.4. Sub-Saharan Africa religion: Since the late 19th century, intensive missionary activity by Muslims from the north and Christians from the coasts have squeezed and diminished the Animists (practitioners of traditional tribal beliefs) in between. The current breakdown is about 60% Christian, 30% Muslim and 10% animists, although given the recency of the arrival of the monotheistic faiths, it is not surprising that religious practice across the region is highly syncretic. The Islamic contact zones are often areas of conflict across the northern part of the region.


16.5. Sahel: A subregion comprising the southern margins of the Sahara Desert where the aridity eases and the vegetation transitions to sparse grasslands. The area is traditionally suited to transhumance, but in recent decades overgrazing by livestock related to the economic pressures of rapid population growth has contributed to desertification.


16.6. Desertification: A process by which marginally productive grasslands suitable for low density livestock grazing are turned into unproductive desert through a combination of recurrent drought, overgrazing and other inappropriate land management practices.


16.7. European influences: Since the mid-15th century, Sub-Saharan Africa has been profoundly affected through three eras of interaction with Europeans.


1) The slavery era: Ten million or more people were stolen out of Africa to become slaves in the Americas, mostly during the 17th and 18th centuries. The demographic and economic effects of this forced outmigration are unclear. However, due to European manipulations along with the complicity of Sub-Saharan Africans in the slave trade, the social disruption was massive and extreme intertribal distrust became wide-spread. This cultural legacy remains deep-seated today.


2) The colonial era: The advancement of European medicine and military technologies opened the region to a rush of colonization at the end of the 19th century. Under European imperialism and mercantilism, labor and resources were ruthlessly exploited and development of Africa for Africans was systematically hindered.


3) The independence era: With the 20th century attitude shift following World War II and the decreasing economic viability of imperial colonialism, the European colonies became independent states, mostly during the 1950s and 1960s. But the road to economic development and peaceful society since independence has been arduous. The persistence of dependency with former colonial powers and its exploitative economic relations (also called neo-colonialism), has contributed to the endurance of poverty. Also, the persistence of European colonial boundaries as the boundaries of the newly independent states, coupled with the high degree of ethnic diversity and intertribal distrust that has endured since the slavery era, have been significant causes of political instability due to the mismatch of nations and states.



16.8. Persistence of poverty: Development in Sub-Saharan Africa lags behind all other regions, although many of the region’s countries have experienced substantial economic growth in the twenty-first century. There are a number of factors that undermine economic growth, some of which are as follows:


1) Nearly two thirds of the people live in rural villages and rely on subsistence farming. They have restricted access to the economies beyond their local area and contribute little to the money economy of their country. Investment in agriculture by the state and other sources tends to be low and policy changes are too often ineffective. Most of the economic growth and poverty reduction is recent years has taken place among people living in cities.


2) Hunger is rampant, thereby diminishing people’s ability to work and contributing to poor health. Consistent increases in food production in recent decades have generally not kept up with population growth so that food production per capita has been declining.


3) Health is relatively poor, diminishing the ability of people to work. Health care systems are poorly funded and inadequate.


4) Education levels are relatively low, which diminishes the ability of people to work productively or solve systemic problems. Many Sub-Saharan Africans that seek higher education in wealthy world regions stay there to make much more money, thus engendering a “brain drain” out of the region.


5) Infrastructure is inadequate and hinders economic interaction. Reliable, rapid transportation and energy systems are often unavailable in rural areas where most people live and are even spotty in urban areas. Bright notes in the past few years include the rapid diffusion of cell phones and individual-scale solar energy generating systems. The cell phones support telephone banking and thus the development of financial infrastructure, even in rural areas. The solar electrical systems allow people to not only charge their phones, but to have light at night and perhaps a refrigerator or a tv. Such technological changes engender hugely significant lifestyle changes.


6) Governments are often ineffective or worse. Socio-political conflicts tend to undermine the legitimacy of the state, making it hard to implement even good policy. Kleptocracies, that is corrupt governments of theft, are all too common. At the minor level, bureaucrats require bribes to do their jobs and law enforcement personnel shake down the citizenry rather than protect them. At the major level, powerful, corrupt politicians divert huge amounts of their country’s wealth for themselves. The lack of trustworthy government and incoherent or inconsistent policies, as well as outright violent conflict, repel foreign investment.


7) Markets are small, inconsistent and hard to penetrate. With so many relatively small countries, each having their own economic and political policies along with numerous trade barriers between the countries, investment by globalizing firms is hindered and economies of scale are hard to achieve.


8) There is an over-reliance on the export of primary products of agriculture and mining, so that when global commodity markets drop, national economies collapse.


9) Terms of trade set by global corporations and financial institutions (neo-colonialism) often lead to a negative net flow of wealth, inhibiting re-investment in national economies.


10) Poverty at this scale is self-reinforcing as the lack of money for investment means that problems in any one of the above areas can undermine progress made in another.

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