AFRICA IN BRIEF




African Drums

Africa is the world’s second-largest and second-most-populous continent.

At about 30.3 million km2 (11.7 million square miles) including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of Earth’s total surface area and 20.4% of its total land area. With 1.2 billion people as of 2016, it accounts for about 16% of the world’s human population. The continent is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, both the Suez Canal and the Red Sea along Sinai Peninsula to the northeast, the Indian Ocean to the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The continent includes Madagascar and various archipelagos. It contains 54 fully recognized sovereign states (countries), nine territories and two de facto independent states with limited or no recognition.


Other etymological hypotheses have been postulated for the ancient name “Africa”.

The 1st-century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (Ant. 1.15) asserted that it was named for Epher, grandson of Abraham according to Gen. 25:4, whose descendants, he claimed, had invaded Libya.
Isidore of Seville in Etymologiae XIV.5.2. Suggests “Africa comes from the Latin Africa, meaning “sunny”.
Massey, in 1881, stated that Africa is derived from the Egyptian af-rui-ka, meaning “to turn toward the opening of the Ka.” The Ka is the energetic double of every person and the “opening of the Ka” refers to a womb or birthplace. Africa would be, for the Egyptians, “the birthplace.”
Michele Fruyt proposed linking the Latin word with Africa “south wind”, which would be of Umbrian origin and mean originally “rainy wind”.
Robert R. Stieglitz of Rutgers University proposed: “The name Africa, derived from the Latin Aphir-ic-a, is cognate to Hebrew Ophir.”

After the evolution of Homo sapiens approximately 150,000 to 100,000 years BP in Africa, the continent was mainly populated by groups of hunter-gatherers. These first modern humans left Africa and populated the rest of the globe during the Out of Africa II migration dated to approximately 50,000 years BP, exiting the continent either across Bab-el-Mandeb over the Red Sea, the Strait of Gibraltar in Morocco, or the Isthmus of Suez in Egypt.

O ther migrations of modern humans within the African continent have been dated to that time, with evidence of early human settlement found in Southern Africa, Southeast Africa, North Africa, and the Sahara. The domestication of cattle in Africa preceded agriculture and seems to have existed alongside hunter-gatherer cultures. It is speculated that by 6000 BC, cattle were domesticated in North Africa. In the Sahara-Nile complex, people domesticated many animals, including the donkey and a small screw-horned goat which was common from Algeria to Nubia.

A round 4000 BC, the Saharan climate started to become drier at an exceedingly fast pace. This climate change caused lakes and rivers to shrink significantly and caused increasing desertification. This, in turn, decreased the amount of land conducive to settlements and helped to cause migrations of farming communities to the more tropical climate of West Africa. By the first millennium BC, ironworking had been introduced in Northern Africa and quickly spread across the Sahara into the northern parts of sub-Saharan Africa, and by 500 BC, metalworking began to become commonplace in West Africa. Ironworking was fully established by roughly other regions didn’t begin ironworking until the early centuries AD. Copper objects from Egypt, North Africa, Nubia, and Ethiopia dating from around 500BC have been excavated in West Africa, suggesting that Trans-Saharan trade networks had been established by this date.

I t about 3300 BC, the historical record opens in Northern African with the rise of literacy in the Pharaonic civilization of Ancient Egypt. One of the world’s earliest and longest-lasting civilizations, the Egyptian state continued, with varying levels of influence over other areas, until 343 BC. Egyptian influence reached deep into modern-day Libya and Nubia, and according to Martin Bernal, as far north as Crete. An independent centre of civilization with trading links to Phoenicia was established by Phoenicians from Tyre on the north-west African coast at Carthage. European exploration of Africa began with Ancient Greeks and Romans. In 332 BC, Alexander the Great was welcomed as a liberator in Persian-occupied Egypt. He founded Alexandria in Egypt, which would become the prosperous capital of the Ptolemaic dynasty after his death.

F ollowing the conquest of North Africa’s Mediterranean coastline by the Roman Empire, the area was integrated economically and culturally in modern Tunisia and elsewhere along the coast. The first Roman emperor native to North Africa was Septimius Severus, born in Leptis Magna in present-day Libya- his mother was Italian Roman and his father was Punic. Christianity spread across these areas at an early date, from Judaea via Egypt and beyond the borders of the Roman world into Nubia; by AD 340 at the latest, it had become the state religion of the Aksumite Empire. Syro-Greek missionaries, who arrived by way of the Red Sea, were responsible for this theological development.