Lessons in political geography: Africa is not a country but a continent

Posted: May 12, 2018 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan

The missed truth about African continent by the world

By Daniel Awet Benjamin, Jiangsu Province, China

 

Saturday, May 12, 2018 (PW) — There are 54 states on the continent, yet the media insists on referring to it as one place or a country. Instead I should’ve written an article base on my home country or some part of her best beauty.

However, I felt it that,  there is a need to educate the masses of misperception about Africa being referred to as a country by some uninformed citizens around the world especially in Asia.  I therefore take this momentous juncture to project the missed truth of this proudly beautiful and richest continent in the world.

“If people are not interested in learning your roots or history by themselves, then teach them yourself” First and foremost, Africa is divided into five regions as follows:

1. South Africa regions

2. West Africa regions

3. East Africa regions

4. North Africa regions

5. Central Africa regions

Under each region, there are several countries sharing the above mentioned or identified of about 63 political territories with their geographical nature and its people.

Africa’s total land area is approximately 11,724,000 square miles (30,365,000 square km), and the continent measures about 5,000 miles (8,000 km) from north to south and about 4,600 miles (7,400 km) from east to west.

Its northern extremity is Al-Ghīrān Point, near Al-Abyaḍ Point (Cape Blanc), Tunisia; its southern extremity is Cape Agulhas, South Africa; its farthest point east is Xaafuun (Hafun) Point, near Cape Gwardafuy (Guardafui), Somalia; and its western extremity is Almadi Point (Pointe des Almadies), on Cape Verde(Cap Vert), Senegal.

In the northeast, Africa was joined to Asia by the Sinai Peninsula until the construction of the Suez Canal. Paradoxically, the coastline of Africa—18,950 miles (30,500 km) in length—is shorter than that of Europe, because there are few inlets and few large bays or gulfs.

Africa is the second-largest continent which is bounded by the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Atlantic Ocean. It is divided in half almost equally by the Equator.

Africa has eight major physical geographical historic regions:

the Sahara, the Sahel, the Ethiopian Highlands, the savanna, the Swahili Coast, the rain forest, the African Great Lakes, and Southern Africa. Some of these regions cover large bands of the continent, such as the Sahara and Sahel, while others are isolated areas, such as the Ethiopian Highlands and the Great Lakes. Each of these regions has unique animal and plant communities.

The Sahara is the worlds largest hot desert, covering 8.5 million square kilometers (3.3 million square miles), about the size of the South American country of Brazil. Defining Africas northern bulge, the Sahara makes up 25 percent of the continent.

The Sahara has a number of distinct physical features, including ergs, regs, hamadas, and oases. Ergs, which cover 20 percent of the Sahara, are sand dunes that stretch for hundreds of kilometers at heights of more than 300 meters (1,000 feet).

Ergs cover most of Algeria and Libya and parts of Mali and Nigeria. Ergs can contain large quantities of salt, which is sold for industrial and food use.

Regs are plains of sand and gravel that make up 70 percent of the Sahara. The gravel can be black, red, or white. Regs are the remains of prehistoric seabeds and riverbeds, but are now nearly waterless.

Hamadas are elevated plateaus of rock and stone that reach heights of 3,353 meters (11,000 feet). They include the Atlas Mountains, which stretch from southwestern Morocco to northeastern Tunisia; the Tibesti Mountains of southern Libya and northern Chad; and the Ahaggar Mountains in southern Algeria.

An oasis is a hub of water in the desert, often in the form of springs, wells, or irrigationsystems. About 75 percent of the Saharas population lives in oases, which make up only 2,071 square kilometers (800 square miles) of the deserts vast area.

The Saharas animal and plant communities have adapted to the regions extremely dry conditions. The kidneys of the jerboa, a type of rodent, produce highly concentrated urine that minimizes water loss. A dromedary camel conserves water by changing its body temperature so it doesn’t sweat as the day gets hotter. The scorpion limits its activities to night, burrowing into the cooler sands beneath the surface during the day.

The scorpion, a predator, also absorbs water from the flesh of its prey.

Saharan plants survive thanks to root systems that plunge as far as 24 meters (80 feet) underground. In parts of the Sahara, plants cannot take root at all. In the southern Libyan Desert, for instance, no greenery exists for more than 195 kilometers (120 miles).

The Sahel is a narrow band of semi-arid land that forms a transition zone between the Sahara to the north and the savannas to the south. It is made up of flat, barren plains that stretch roughly 5,400 kilometers (3,300 miles) across Africa, from Senegal to Sudan.

The Sahel contains the fertile delta of the Niger, one of Africas longest rivers. Unfortunately, the Sahels fertile land is rapidly becoming desert as a result of drought, deforestation, and intensive agriculture. This process is known as desertification.

The Sahels animal communities are constantly scavenging for scarce water and vegetation resources. The Senegal gerbil, the most common mammal in the Sahel and measuring only a few centimeters, consumes as much as 10 percent of the Sahels plants.

The Sahels green vegetation only emerges during the rainy season, but is often quickly harvested by farmers or consumed by animals. Baobabs are drought- and fire-resistant trees with trunks that are often 15 meters (50 feet) wide and as tall as 26 meters (85 feet).

Acacia, whose deep root systems are ideal for semi-arid climates, are among the most common trees found in the Sahel. Cram-cram, a prickly grass, is the primary fodder for Sahel herds such as zebu cattle.

The Ethiopian Highlands began to rise 75 million years ago, as magma from Earths mantle uplifted a broad dome of ancient rock.

This dome was later split as Africas continental crust pulled apart, creating the Great Rift Valley system. Today, this valley cuts through the Ethiopian Highlands from the southwest to the northeast. The Ethiopian Highlands are home to 80 percent of Africas tallest mountains.

The highlands craggy landscape is perfect for nimble animal species. Native species such as the walia ibex, an endangered wild goat, and the gelada baboon live in the ledges and rocky outposts of the Simien Mountains.

The most emblematic highlands species is probably the Ethiopian wolf, which is now on the brink of extinction.

Important plant species native to the Ethiopian Highlands include the Ethiopian rose, Africas only native rose, and the ensete, a tall, thick, rubbery plant that is a close relative of the banana.

Savannas, or grasslands, cover almost half of Africa, more than 13 million square kilometers (5 million square miles). These grasslands make up most of central Africa, beginning south of the Sahara and the Sahel and ending north of the continents southern tip.

Among Africas many savanna regions, the Serengeti (or Serengeti Plains) is the most well-known. The Serengeti is a vast, undulating plain that stretches 30,000 square kilometers (11,583 square miles) from Kenyas Massai-Mara game reserve to Tanzanias Serengeti National Park.

The Serengeti is home to one of the continents highest concentrations of large mammal species, including lions, hyenas, zebras, giraffes, and elephants. Each year, more than 1 million wildebeest travel in a circular migration, following seasonal rains, across the Serengeti Plains. Their grazing and trampling of grass allows new grasses to grow, while their waste helps fertilize the soil.

The Swahili Coast stretches about 1,610 kilometers (1,000 miles) along the Indian Ocean, from Somalia to Mozambique. The nearby coral reefs and barrier islands protect the coast from severe weather.

There is not a lot of animal life on the sandy Swahili Coast. The golden-rumped elephant shrew, an insect-eating rodent with a long snout, is common. A small, primitive species of primate known as the bush baby inhabits vegetated areas of the Swahili Coast. Bush babies, which have enormous eyes for hunting at night, feed primarily on insects, fruit, and leaves.

These more vegetated areas are located on a narrow strip just inland from the coastal sands. Heavy cultivation has diminished the diversity of plant species in this interior area of the Swahili Coast. Mangrove forests are the most common vegetation. Mangroves have exposed root systems.

This allows the trees to absorb oxygen directly from the air, as well as from the nutrient-poor soil.

Most of Africas native rain forest has been destroyed by development, agriculture, and forestry. Today, 80 percent of Africas rain forest is concentrated in central Africa, along the Congo River basin.

Africas rain forests have a rich variety of animal life; a 6-kilometer (4-mile) patch could contain up to 400 bird species, 150 butterfly species, and 60 species of amphibians. Important mammals include African forest elephants, gorillas, the black colobus monkey, and the okapi, a donkey-like giraffe.

The driver ant is one of Africas most aggressive rain forest species. Driver ants move in columns of up to 20 million across the rain forest floor, and will eat anything from toxic millipedes to reptiles and small mammals.

The African rain forests plant community is even more diverse, with an estimated 8,000 plant species documented. More than 1,100 of these species are endemic, or found nowhere else on Earth. Only 10 percent of the plants in the African rain forest have been identified.

The Great Lakes are located in nine countries that surround the Great Rift Valley. As the African continent separated from Saudi Arabia, large, deep cracks were created in the Earths surface. These cracks were later filled with water. This geologic process created some of the largest and deepest lakes in the world.

There are seven major African Great Lakes: Lake Albert, Lake Edward, Lake Kivu, Lake Malawi, Lake Tanganyika, Lake Turkana, and Lake Victoria. Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Africa, is the southern source of the Nile River, the longest river in the world.

The African Great Lakes region has a diverse range of aquatic and terrestrial animal life. Fish include the 45-kilogram (100-pound) Nile perch and the 2.5-centimeter (1-inch) cichlid. Migrating savanna animals, such as wildebeest, use the lakes as watering holes. Hippos and crocodiles call the region their home.

The Great Lakes abut everything from rain forest to savanna plant communities. However, invasive species like the water hyacinth and papyrus have begun to take over entire shorelines, endangering animals and plants.

The region of Southern Africa is dominated by the Kaapvaal craton, a shelf of bedrock that is more than 2.6 billion years old. Rocky features of Southern Africa include plateaus and mountains, such as the Drakensberg range.

Southern Africa is the epicenter of Africas well-known reserves, which protect animal species such as lions, elephants, baboons, white rhinos, and Burchells zebras. Other important animal species include the impala, a type of deer, and the springbok, a type of gazelle that can spring several feet into the air to avoid predators.

Southern Africas Cape Floral Region is one of the richest areas for plants in the world. While the Cape Floral Region covers less than 0.5 percent of Africa, it is home to nearly 20 percent of the continents flora. The giant protea, South Africas national flower, is found in the Cape Floral Region.

Ironically, as you can see the rich history of this continent, many public figures and journalists have no problem describing someone from South Africa and a person from North Africa or East Africa as “Africans”.

They probably wouldn’t call them “Americans” if they were from Brazil and the United States, even though the distance between the two is the same – and the economic conditions as different.

You don’t have a film called Out of Asia and you rarely go to Oceania on holidays (instead you talk of vacations in Australia, New Zealand or another island).

Yet for a continent of one billion people three times the size of the US, it’s no problem to call it by one single name  “Africa”! This is hugely detrimental to many countries and people around the world. When a civil war starts in the Central African Republic(Africa!), it negatively impacts countries as far away as Senegal (Africa!) and Lesotho (Africa!).

This has to change. “What can be measured can be changed by measuring how many articles talk negatively of Africa” without mentioning a specific country, I wish to tell you that “Africa Isn’t A Country, but a continent extremely rich in natural resources and cultural diversity” how widespread the prejudice against the continent actually is. And we give journalists a tool to measure their progress towards more sensible reporting.

Because “Europe” is used to describe the European Union and “America” is used as a synonym for the United States, the coverage of Africa can only be compared with that of Asia. See how the Guardian, for instance, uses “Africa” as an all-purpose word to describe anything from Tangiers to Cape Town. Comparing the mentions of the three biggest African economies with the three biggest Asian ones, we see how much less precise reporting of African countries remains biased.

I landed on an articles from 2012 and 2013 that mention only Asia to describe some African states like South Africa and Nigeria in economic histograms.

Guardian journalist don’t use “Asia” when talking of Hyderabad or Shenzhen. They use “India” and “China” but for Africa:

The methodology vastly understates the problem. If a piece talks at length of “African” leaders discussing “African” issues in “Tunisia”, it will not appear in the statistics above.

More interestingly, the sections suffering from this syndrome are not culture, fashion and travel, as one could think. Looking at the seven sections that contain more than half of all the articles mentioning only Africa, the ones most prone to treating Africa as a country are world news, Comment is free and Global development.

Most of the time, journalists are not to blame. One of the old tweet from Bill Clinton, during his presidency, was as meaningless as announcing that he landed between Calgary and Buenos Aires. As a head of state, he must have noticed that Obasanjo and Mandela did not rule the same country, though. More recently, the German defence minister explained that “the situation in Africa is serious”. I hope that she sends the Bundeswehr to more precise locations.

The blame does not fall entirely on celebrities and politicians. Guardianist as produced some surprising pieces, notably one that informs us that Africa can feed itself. There, the name of the continent is mentioned 13 times but the reader will not know that South Africa, for instance, is a net food exporter (like 18 other African countries).

Methodology.

I can recommend that you visit more websites that contain the term “Africa” but no other African country name, the same query applies for Asia.

Unfortunately, The Guardian has a section called “Middle East and Africa” that produces a lot of false positives, such as articles about Syria that appear in the results because of the name of the section. To correct this, all articles containing the names of Middle Eastern countries have been excluded from the count, which decreases dramatically the count of articles for Egypt. The total count is also inflated because of multimedia pieces (an image displaying the names of specific countries will be included in the “mentioning only Africa” category if the title mentions only the continent).

I have a small favour to ask. More people are reading the Guardian than ever but advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. And unlike many news organisations, we haven’t put up a paywall – we want to keep our media outlets & journalism as open as we can. And to teach our children the correct history not the false and manipulated ones based on misconception of skin color. So you can see why we need to ask for your help. The Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce. But we do it because we believe our perspective matters – because it might well be your perspective, too.”

“I appreciate there is no being a paywall: it is more democratic for the media to be available for all and not a commodity to be purchased by a few. I’m happy to make a contribution so others with less means still have access to information and honor the law of nature as it is ”.

May God bless Africa 🌍 and its people to achieve peace and prosperity for all!

The author can be reached at awetbenjamin.maker@yahoo.com or

awetbenjamin1990@outlook.com 

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