Africa n : the second largest continent; located south of Europe and bordered to the west by the South Atlantic and to the east by the Indian Ocean
EtymologyFrom Africa, from Afri, the ancient Carthagenian tribe of Northern Africa named after Άφρος (Afros), a character in Greek mythology, king of Λιβύη (Libya) and son of Κρόνος (Kronos) and Φιλύρα (Filyra). Adjective form with suffix -ic, -icus, -ikos, related to Afars.
- (RP) /ˈæfrɪkə/
continent south of Europe
- Bosnian: Afrika
- Catalan: Àfrica
- Chinese: 非洲 (Feizhou)
- Croatian: Afrika
- Czech: Afrika
- Danish: Afrika
- Dutch: Afrika
- Esperanto: Afriko
- Estonian: Aafrika
- Finnish: Afrikka
- French: l’Afrique
- German: Afrika
- Greek: Αφρική
- Hebrew: אפריקה (afriqa)
- Hungarian: Afrika
- Italian: l’Africa
- Japanese: アフリカ
- Korean: 아프리카 (ah-peu-li-ka)
- Latin: Africa
- Latvian: Āfrika
- Novial: Afrika
- Persian: افریقا
- Polish: Afryka
- Portuguese: África
- Romanian: Africa
- Russian: Африка (Afrika)
- Scottish Gaelic: Afraga
- Cyrillic: Африка
- Latin: Afrika
- Slovene: Afrika
- Spanish: África
- Turkish: Afrika
- Yiddish: אַפֿריקע
- /ˈafrika/, /"afrika/
- Si probare possemus Ligarium in Āfricā omnino non fuisse.
- If we could prove that Ligarius was not at all in Africa.
<div style="float: right; margin: 0 0 1em 2em; width: 25em; text-align: right; font-size: 0.86em; line-height: normal;"> <div style="border: 1px solid #ccd2d9; background: #f0f6fa; text-align: left; padding: 0.5em 1em; text-align: center;"> Africa
Africa is the world's second-largest and second most-populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² (11.7 million sq mi) including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area. With about 922 million people (as of 2005) in 61 territories, it accounts for about 14.2% of the world's human population. The continent is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Suez Canal and the Red Sea to the northeast, the Indian Ocean to the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. There are 46 countries including Madagascar, and 53 including all the island groups.
Africa, particularly central eastern Africa, is widely regarded within the scientific community to be the origin of humans and the Hominidae tree (great apes), as evidenced by the discovery of the earliest hominids and their possible ancestors, as well as later ones that have been dated to around seven million years ago – including Sahelanthropus tchadensis, Australopithecus africanus, A. afarensis, Homo erectus, H. habilis and H. ergaster – with the earliest Homo sapiens (human) found in Ethiopia being dated to ca. 200,000 years ago.
Africa straddles the equator and encompasses numerous climate areas; it is the only continent to stretch from the northern temperate to southern temperate zones. Because of the lack of natural regular precipitation and irrigation as well as glaciers or mountain aquifer systems, there is no natural moderating effect on the climate except near the coasts.
Afri was the name of several peoples who dwelt in North Africa near Carthage. Their name is usually connected with Phoenician afar, "dust", but a 1981 theory has asserted that it stems from a Berber word ifri meaning "cave", in reference to cave dwellers.
In Roman times, Carthage became the capital of Africa Province, which also included the coastal part of modern Libya. The Roman suffix "-ca" denotes "country or land". The later Muslim kingdom of Ifriqiya, modern-day Tunisia, also preserved a form of the name.
Other etymologies that 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.
- the Latin word aprica, meaning "sunny", mentioned by Isidore of Seville (sixth century) in Etymologiae XIV.5.2
- the Greek word aphrike, meaning "without cold." This was proposed by historian Leo Africanus (1488–1554), who suggested the Greek word phrike (φρίκη, meaning "cold and horror"), combined with the privative prefix "a-", thus indicating a land free of cold and horror.
- Massey, in 1881, derived an etymology from the Egyptian af-rui-ka, "to turn toward the opening of the Ka." The Ka is the energetic double of every person and "opening of the Ka" refers to a womb or birthplace. Africa would be, for the Egyptians, "the birthplace."http://gerald-massey.org.uk/massey/cmc_nile_genesis.htm
The Irish female name Aifric is sometimes Anglicised as Africa, but the personal name is unrelated to the geonym.
Africa is the largest of the three great southward projections from the main mass of the Earth's exposed surface. Separated from Europe by the Mediterranean Sea, it is joined to Asia at its northeast extremity by the Isthmus of Suez (transected by the Suez Canal), 163 km (101 miles) wide. (Geopolitically, Egypt's Sinai Peninsula east of the Suez Canal is often considered part of Africa, as well. http://www.nationalgeographic.com/xpeditions/atlas/index.html?Parent=africa&Rootmap=&Mode=d http://atlas.nrcan.gc.ca/site/english/maps/reference/international/africa/referencemap_image_view) From the most northerly point, Ras ben Sakka in Tunisia (37°21' N), to the most southerly point, Cape Agulhas in South Africa (34°51'15" S), is a distance of approximately 8,000 km (5,000 miles); from Cape Verde, 17°33'22" W, the westernmost point, to Ras Hafun in Somalia, 51°27'52" E, the most easterly projection, is a distance of approximately 7,400 km (4,600 miles). The coastline is 26,000 km (16,100 miles) long, and the absence of deep indentations of the shore is illustrated by the fact that Europe, which covers only 10,400,000 km² (4,010,000 square miles) – about a third of the surface of Africa – has a coastline of 32,000 km (19,800 miles). The smallest nation on the continental mainland is The Gambia.
According to the ancient Romans, Africa lay to the west of Egypt, while "Asia" was used to refer to Anatolia and lands to the east. A definite line was drawn between the two continents by the geographer Ptolemy (85–165 AD), indicating Alexandria along the Prime Meridian and making the isthmus of Suez and the Red Sea the boundary between Asia and Africa. As Europeans came to understand the real extent of the continent, the idea of Africa expanded with their knowledge.
Climate, fauna, and floraThe climate of Africa ranges from tropical to subarctic on its highest peaks. Its northern half is primarily desert or arid, while its central and southern areas contain both savanna plains and very dense jungle (rainforest) regions. In between, there is a convergence where vegetation patterns such as sahel, and steppe dominate.
Africa boasts perhaps the world's largest combination of density and "range of freedom" of wild animal populations and diversity, with wild populations of large carnivores (such as lions, hyenas, and cheetahs) and herbivores (such as buffalo, deer, elephants, camels, and giraffes) ranging freely on primarily open non-private plains. It is also home to a variety of jungle creatures (including snakes and primates) and aquatic life (including crocodiles and amphibians)(see also: Fauna of Africa).
HistoryAfrica is considered by most paleoanthropologists to be the oldest inhabited territory on Earth, with the human species originating from the continent. During the middle of the twentieth century, anthropologists discovered many fossils and evidence of human occupation perhaps as early as 7 million years ago. Fossil remains of several species of early apelike humans thought to have evolved into modern man, such as Australopithecus afarensis (radiometrically dated to approximately 3.9–3.0 million years BC), Paranthropus boisei (c. 2.3–1.4 million BC) and Homo ergaster (c. 600,000–1.9 million BC) have been discovered.
At the end of the Ice Ages, estimated to have been around 10,500 BC, the Sahara had again become a green fertile valley, and its African populations returned from the interior and coastal highlands in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, the warming and drying climate meant that by 5000 BC the Sahara region was becoming increasingly dry and hostile. The population trekked out of the Sahara region towards the Nile Valley below the Second Cataract where they made permanent or semi-permanent settlements. A major climatic recession occurred, lessening the heavy and persistent rains in Central and Eastern Africa. Since this time dry conditions have prevailed in Eastern Africa, and increasingly during the last 200 years, in Ethiopia.
The domestication of cattle in Africa preceded agriculture and seems to have existed alongside hunter-gathering cultures. It is speculated that by 6000 BC cattle were already domesticated in North Africa. In the Sahara-Nile complex, people domesticated many animals including the pack ass, and a small screw horned goat which was common from Algeria to Nubia.
The first known example of the domestication of plants for agricultural purposes on the continent occurred in the Sahel region circa 5000 BC, when sorghum and African rice began to be cultivated. Around this time, and in the same region, the guinea fowl became domesticated.
In the year 4000 BC the climate of the Sahara 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. Agricultural crops were also adopted from other regions around this time as pearl millet, cowpea, groundnut, cotton, watermelon and bottle gourds began to be grown agriculturally in both West Africa and the Sahel Region while finger millet, peas, lentil and flax took hold in Ethiopia.
In this period the international phenomenon known as the Beaker culture began to impact upon western North Africa. Named for the distinctively shaped grave ceramics, the Beaker culture is associated with the emergence of a warrior mentality. North African rock art of this period largely depicts animals, but also places a new emphasis on the human figure, equipped with weapons and adornments. People from the Great Lakes Region of Africa settled along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea to become the proto-Canaanites who dominated the lowlands between the Jordan River, the Mediterranean and the Sinai Desert.
By the 1st 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 500 BC in many areas of East and West Africa, although other regions didn't begin iron working until the early centuries AD. Copper objects from Egypt, North Africa, Nubia and Ethiopia dating from around 500 BC have been excavated in West Africa, suggesting that trans-saharan trade networks had been established by this date. Egyptian influence reached deep into modern-day Libya, north to Crete and Palestine, and south to the kingdoms of Aksum andNubia. An independent centre of civilisation with trading links to Phoenecia was estblished on the north-west African coast at Carthage.
Following the conquest of North Africa's Mediterranean coastline by the Roman Empire, the area was integrated economically and culturally into the Roman system. Roman settlement occurred in modern Tunisia and elsewhere along the coast. Christianity spread across these areas from Palestine via Egypt, also passing south, beyond the borders of the Roman world into Nubia and by at least the 6th century into Ethiopia.
In the early seventh century, the newly formed Arabian Islamic Caliphate expanded into Egypt, and then into North Africa. In a short while the local Berber elite had been integrated into Muslim Arab tribes. When the Ummayad capital Damascus fell in the eight century, the Islamic center of the Mediterranean shifted from Syria to Qayrawan in North Africa. Islamic North Africa had become diverse, and a hub for mystics, scholars, jurists and philosophers. During the above mentioned period, Islam spread to sub-Saharan Africa, mainly through trade routes and migration.
Sub-saharan AfricaEven after the Sahara had become a desert, it did not present a totally impenetrable barrier for travellers between north and south. Prior to the introduction of the camel the use of oxen for desert crossing was common, and trade routes followed chains of oases that were strung across the desert. It is thought that the camel was first brought to Egypt sfter the Persian Empire conquered Egypt in 525 BC, although large herds did not become common enough in North Africa to establish the trans-Saharan trade until the eighth century AD. The Sanhaja Berbers were the first to exploit this.
Pre-colonial Africa possessed perhaps as many as 10,000 different states and polities characterised by many different sorts of political organisation and rule. These included small family groups of hunter-gatherers such as the San people of southern Africa; larger, more structured groups such as the family clan groupings of the Bantu-speaking people of central and southern Africa, heavily-structured clan groups in the Horn of Africa, the large Sahelian Kingdoms, and autonomous city-states such as those of the Yoruba in West Africa, and the Swahili coastal trading towns of East Africa.
By the 9th century AD a string of dynastic states, including the earliest Hausa states, stretched across the sub-saharan savannah from the western regions to central Sudan. The most powerful of these states were Ghana, Gao, and the Kanem-Bornu Empire. Ghana declined in the 11th century but was succeeded by the Mali Empire which consolidated much of western Sudan in the 13th century. Kanem accepted Islam in the 11th century. Following the breakup of Mali a local leader named Sonni Ali (1464 -1492) founded the Songhai Empire in the region of middle Niger and the western Sudan and took control of the trans-Saharan trade. Sonni Ali seized Timbuktu in 1468 and Jenne in 1473, building his regime on trade revenues and the cooperation of Muslim merchants. His successor Askiya Mohammad Ture (1493 - 1528) made Islam the official religion, built mosques, and brought Muslim scholars, including al-Maghili (d.1504), the founder of an important tradition of Sudanic African Muslim scholarship, to Gao. By the 11th century some Hausa states - such as Kano, jigawa,Katsina, and Gobir - had developed into walled towns engaging in trade, servicing caravans, and the manufacture of goods. Until the 15th century these small states were on the periphery of the major Sudanic empires of the era, paying tribute to Songhai to the west and Kanem-Borno to the east.
In the forested regions of the West African coast, independent kingdoms grew up with little influence from the Muslim north. Ife, historically the first of these Yoruba city-states, established government under a priestly king, or Oni. Ife was noted as the religious and cultural centre of the region, and for its unique naturalistic tradition of bronze sculpture. The Ife model of government was adapted at Oyo, where a member of its ruling dynasty controlled several smaller city-states. By the 15th century the Oyo Empire had cut off the mother city from the savanna. Yorubaland established a community in the Edo-speaking area east of Ife at the beginning of the 14th century. This developed into the Benin Empire. By the 15th century Benin had become an independent trading power, blocking Ife's access to the coastal ports. Benin, which may have housed 100,000 inhabitants at its height, spread over twenty-five square kilometres, and was enclosed by three concentric rings of earthworks. By the late 15th century Benin was in contact with Portugal. At its apogee in the 16th and 17th centuries, Benin encompassed parts of southeastern Yorubaland and the western Igbo.
Between the seventh and fifteenth centuries, the Arab slave trade emerged, which by the twentieth century would eventually take as many as 18 million slaves from Africa to parts of the Muslim world. This was as voluminous as the later Atlantic slave trade.
In 1418, the fifth expedition by Chinese admiral Zheng He reached Africa's east coast. The two later Zheng He voyages, the last in 1432, also sailed to East Africa. The Chinese travelled at least as far as Malindi in Kenya. In 1482, the Portuguese established the first of many trading stations along the coast of Ghana at Elmina. The chief commodities dealt in were slaves, gold, ivory and spices. The European discovery of the Americas in 1492 was followed by a great development of the slave trade, which, before the Portuguese era, had been an overland trade almost exclusively, and never confined to any one continent.
In West Africa, the decline of the Atlantic slave trade in the 1820s caused dramatic economic shifts in local polities. The gradual decline of slave-trading, prompted by a lack of demand for slaves in the New World, increasing anti-slavery legislation in Europe and America, and the British navy's increasing presence off the West African coast (see West Africa Squadron), obliged African states to adopt new economies. The largest powers of West Africa: the Asante Confederacy, the Kingdom of Dahomey, and the Oyo Empire, adopted different ways of adapting to the shift. Asante and Dahomey concentrated on the development of "legitimate commerce" in the form of palm oil, cocoa, timber and gold, forming the bedrock of West Africa's modern export trade. The Oyo Empire, unable to adapt, collapsed into civil wars.
In Southern Africa, centred on where modern day Zimbabwe is was the ancient civilisation of Great Zimbabwe. This is thought to have had trading routes extending widely across the region.
Pre-colonial explorationIn the mid-nineteenth century, European explorers became interested in exploring the heart of the continent and opening the area for trade, mining and other commercial exploitation. In addition, there was a desire to convert the inhabitants to Christianity. The central area of Africa was still largely unknown to Europeans at this time. David Livingstone explored the continent between 1852 and his death in 1873; amongst other claims to fame, he was the first European to see the Victoria Falls. A prime goal for explorers was to locate the source of the River Nile. Expeditions by Burton and Speke (1857–1858) and Speke and Grant (1863) located Lake Tanganyika and Lake Victoria. The latter was eventually proven as the main source of the Nile. With subsequent expeditions by Baker and Stanley, Africa was well explored by the end of the century and this was to lead the way for the colonization which followed.
Colonialism and the "scramble for Africa"In the late nineteenth century, the European imperial powers engaged in a major territorial scramble and occupied most of the continent, creating many colonial nation states, and leaving only two independent nations: Liberia, an independent state partly settled by African Americans; and Orthodox Christian Ethiopia (known to Europeans as "Abyssinia"). Colonial rule by Europeans would continue until after the conclusion of World War II, when all colonial states gradually obtained formal independence.
Colonialism had a destabilising effect on a number of ethnic groups that is still being felt in African politics. Before European influence, national borders were not much of a concern, with Africans generally following the practice of other areas of the world, such as the Arabian Peninsula, where a group's territory was congruent with its military or trade influence. The European insistence of drawing borders around territories to isolate them from those of other colonial powers often had the effect of separating otherwise contiguous political groups, or forcing traditional enemies to live side by side with no buffer between them. For example, although the Congo River appears to be a natural geographic boundary, there were groups that otherwise shared a language, culture or other similarity living on both sides. The division of the land between Belgium and France along the river isolated these groups from each other. Those who lived in Saharan or Sub-Saharan Africa and traded across the continent for centuries often found themselves crossing borders that existed only on European maps.
In nations that had substantial European populations, for example Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Angola, Mozambique, Kenya and South Africa, systems of second-class citizenship were often set up in order to give Europeans political power far in excess of their numbers. In the Congo Free State, personal property of King Leopold II of Belgium, the native population was submitted to inhumane treatment, and a near slavery status assorted with forced labor. However, the lines were not always drawn strictly across racial lines. In Liberia, citizens who were descendants of American slaves had a political system for over 100 years that gave ex-slaves and natives to the area roughly equal legislative power despite the fact the ex-slaves were outnumbered ten to one in the general population.
Europeans often altered the local balance of power, created ethnic divides where they did not previously exist, and introduced a cultural dichotomy detrimental to the native inhabitants in the areas they controlled. For example, in what are now Rwanda and Burundi, two ethnic groups Hutus and Tutsis had merged into one culture by the time German colonists had taken control of the region in the nineteenth century. No longer divided by ethnicity as intermingling, intermarriage, and merging of cultural practices over the centuries had long since erased visible signs of a culture divide, Belgium instituted a policy of racial categorization upon taking control of the region, as racially based categorization and philosophies were a fixture of the European culture of that time. The term Hutu originally referred to the agricultural-based Bantu-speaking peoples that moved into present day Rwanda and Burundi from the West, and the term Tutsi referred to Northeastern cattle-based peoples that migrated into the region later. The terms described a person's economic class; individuals who owned roughly 10 or more cattle were considered Tutsi, and those with fewer were considered Hutu, regardless of ancestral history. This was not a strict line but a general rule of thumb, and one could move from Hutu to Tutsi and vice versa.
The Belgians introduced a racialized system; European-like features such as fairer skin, ample height, narrow noses were seen as more ideally Hamitic, and belonged to those people closest to Tutsi in ancestry, who were thus given power amongst the colonised peoples. Identity cards were issued based on this philosophy.
Tunisia was the first country in Africa to gain independence, doing so in 1956. The decades-long struggle for independence from France was led by Habib Bourguiba, founder of the Republic of Tunisia.
Post-colonial AfricaToday, Africa contains 53 independent and sovereign countries, most of which still have the borders drawn during the era of European colonialism.
Since colonialism, African states have frequently been hampered by instability, corruption, violence, and authoritarianism. The vast majority of African nations are republics that operate under some form of the presidential system of rule. However, few of them have been able to sustain democratic governments, and many have instead cycled through a series of coups, producing military dictatorships. A number of Africa's post-colonial political leaders were military generals who were poorly educated and ignorant on matters of governance. Great instability, however, was mainly the result of marginalization of other ethnic groups and graft under these leaders. For political gain, many leaders fanned ethnic conflicts that had been exacerbated, or even created, by colonial rule. In many countries, the military was perceived as being the only group that could effectively maintain order, and it ruled many nations in Africa during the 1970s and early 1980s. During the period from the early 1960s to the late 1980s, Africa had more than 70 coups and 13 presidential assassinations. Border and territorial disputes were also common, with the European-imposed borders of many nations being widely contested through armed conflicts.
Cold War conflicts between the United States and the Soviet Union, as well as the policies of the International Monetary Fund, also played a role in instability. When a country became independent for the first time, it was often expected to align with one of the two superpowers. Many countries in Northern Africa received Soviet military aid, while many in Central and Southern Africa were supported by the United States, France or both. The 1970s saw an escalation, as newly independent Angola and Mozambique aligned themselves with the Soviet Union, and the West and South Africa sought to contain Soviet influence by funding insurgency movements. Some countries were ruled by Marxist parties that sought to impose the Kremlin's policies, contributing to atrocities such as the Ethiopian famine of 1984–85, when hundreds of thousands of people starved.
AIDS has also been a prevalent issue in post-colonial Africa. See article AIDS in Africa.
The African Union (AU) is a federation consisting of all of Africa's states except Morocco. The union was formed, with Addis Ababa as its headquarters, on June 26 2001. In July 2004, the African Union's Pan-African Parliament (PAP) was relocated to Midrand, in South Africa, but the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights remained in Addis Ababa. There is a policy in effect to decentralise the African Federation's institutions so that they are shared by all the states.
The African Union, not to be confused with the AU Commission, is formed by an Act of Union which aims to transform the African Economic Community, a federated commonwealth, into a state, under established international conventions. The African Union has a parliamentary government, known as the African Union Government, consisting of legislative, judicial and executive organs, and led by the African Union President and Head of State, who is also the President of the Pan African Parliament. A person becomes AU President by being elected to the PAP, and subsequently gaining majority support in the PAP.
President Gertrude Ibengwe Mongella is the Head of State and Chief of Government of the African Union, by virtue of the fact that she is the President of the Pan African Parliament. She was elected by Parliament in its inaugural session in March 2004, for a term of five years. The PAP consists of 265 legislators, five from each constituent state of the African Union. Over 21% of the members are female.
The powers and authority of the President of the African Parliament derive from the Union Act, and the Protocol of the Pan African Parliament, as well as the inheritance of presidential authority stipulated by African treaties and by international treaties, including those subordinating the Secretary General of the OAU Secretariat (AU Commission) to the PAP. The government of the AU consists of all-union (federal), regional, state, and municipal authorities, as well as hundreds of institutions, that together manage the day-to-day affairs of the institution.
Failed state policies, inequitable global trade practices, and climatic conditions (especially drought) have resulted in many widespread famines, and significant portions of Africa remain with distribution systems unable to disseminate enough food or water for the population to survive. What had before colonialism been the source for 90% of the world's gold has become the poorest continent on earth, its former riches enjoyed by those on other continents. The spread of disease is also rampant, especially the spread of the HIV and the associated AIDS, which has become a deadly pandemic on the continent.
There are clear signs of increased networking among African organisations and states. In the civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (former Zaire), rather than rich, non-African countries intervening, neighbouring African countries became involved (see also Second Congo War). Since the conflict began in 1998, the estimated death toll has reached 4 million. Political associations such as the African Union offer hope for greater co-operation and peace between the continent's many countries. Extensive human rights abuses still occur in several parts of Africa, often under the oversight of the state. Most of such violations occur for political reasons, often as a side effect of civil war. Countries where major human rights violations have been reported in recent times include the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Sudan, Zimbabwe, and Côte d'Ivoire.
Country name changessee also Africanization Numerous African countries have undergone name changes during the previous century as the result of consolidations and secessions, territories gaining sovereignty, and regime changes.
EconomyAlthough it has abundant natural resources, Africa remains the world's poorest and most underdeveloped continent, due largely to the effects of: tropical diseases, the slave trade, corrupt governments, failed central planning, the international trade regime and geopolitics; as well as widespread human rights violations, the negative effects of colonialism, despotism, illiteracy, superstition, tribal savagery and military conflict (ranging from war and civil war to guerrilla warfare to genocide). According to the United Nations' Human Development Report in 2003, the bottom 25 ranked nations (151st to 175th) were all African nations.
Widespread poverty, illiteracy, malnutrition and inadequate water supply and sanitation, as well as poor health, affect a large majority of the people who reside in the African continent, where 36.2% of the population is living on under $1 per day. Africa is by far the world's poorest inhabited continent, and on average, in 2003 it was poorer than it was in 1973.
Some areas, notably Botswana and South Africa, have experienced economic success. The latter has a wealth of natural resources, being the world's leading producer of both gold and diamonds, and having a well-established legal system. South Africa also has access to financial capital, numerous markets, skilled labor, and first world infrastructure in much of the country and has one of the major stock exchanges of the continent, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.
Over a quarter of Botswana's budget (also a major diamond producer) goes toward improving the infrastructure of Gaborone, the nation's capital, largest city, and one of the world's fastest growing cities. Other African countries are making comparable progress, such as Ghana, Cameroon and Egypt.
On the other hand, 80% of Zimbabweans are unemployed. Two million of the country's residents have fled to Botswana and South Africa. Inflation rates, which fluctuate wildly, average out to more than 1000% a year, and the Zimbabwean dollar has depreciated against the U.S. dollar from 38 to 1 in 1999 to more than 5,000 to 1. Hunger and starvation are widespread, and consumer shortages abound. Since 1998, Zimbabwe's per capita gross domestic product has slid from about $700 to less than $200. Death rates have skyrocketed, and school attendance has plummeted. Once a country with a strong economy for Sub-Saharan Africa's standards, natural resources and a tolerant society, Zimbabwe is now one of the poorest and most bitterly divided countries in the continent, brought to ruin in less than two decades.
Nigeria sits on one of the largest proven oil reserves in the world and has the highest population among nations in Africa, with one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.
From 1995 to 2005, economic growth picked up, averaging 5% in 2005. However, some countries experienced much higher growth (10+%) in particular, Angola, Sudan and Equatorial Guinea, all three of which have recently begun extracting their petroleum reserves or have expanded their oil extraction capacity.