(From Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia)


Africa is the second-largest continent, after Asia. It is separated from Asia by the Suez Canal, the Gulf of Suez, and the Red Sea, and from Europe by the Strait of Gibraltar and the Mediterranean Sea. It is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the west and the Indian Ocean on the east. Offshore islands considered part of Africa include, in the Indian Ocean, Madagascar, Mauritius, Réunion, Zanzibar, Pemba, the Seychelles, and the Comoros. In the North Atlantic Ocean are the Canary Islands, Cape Verde Islands, and Madeira Islands. In the South Atlantic are Ascension Island and Saint Helena. In the Gulf of Guinea are Pagalu, Bioko, and São Tomé and Pr’ncipe.

The earliest-known hominid fossils (see prehistoric humans) have been found in Africa, primarily in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania. The continent was also the home of one of the world's oldest civilizations, that of ancient Egypt. Egyptian influence spread south up the Nile into Sudan by the 1st millennium B.C. At the same time, the Phoenicians were founding Carthage and other cities along the Mediterranean coast north of the Atlas Mountains. North Africa came under European influence during the period of rule by ancient Rome (1st century B.C.-7th century A.D.). Beginning in the 7th century, Arab culture and Islam spread across the Sahara. They followed trade routes between the north coast and towns along the Sahara's southern border region. A number of powerful African kingdoms, including the kingdom of Ghana, the empire of Mali, Kanem-Bornu, and Songhai, flourished during the Middle Ages. Farther south in the rain forests the kingdoms of Ashanti, Benin, Kongo, Oyo, and Dahomey emerged after the 14th century; they lasted until the colonial partition of Africa. East central Africa was occupied by the kingdoms of Ankole, Buganda, Bunyoro, Luba, and Lunda.

The modern European colonization of Africa was begun by the Portuguese. They established trading stations on the coast in the 15th and 16th centuries. The interior of what Europeans called "the Dark Continent", however, was not explored or colonized until the 19th century. By the early 20th century nearly all of Africa had been subjected to European rule. Since World War II, 49 nations have gained their independence. The effects of the colonial experience persist, however. It left Africa with arbitrarily defined boundaries, a diversity of political systems and problems, and economies dependent on the industrialized world. (The Republic of South Africa, though independent, was long controlled by descendants of European settlers; its black African majority did not participate in national elections until 1994.) Africa's peoples remain divided by race, language, religion, and politics in a complex cultural mosaic. In 2006, Africa contained 14% of the world's population. It was the second most populous continent, after Asia.

Land and Resources

Africa has a number of outstanding natural features that have influenced its history and development. The northern coastal area is separated from the rest of the continent by the Sahara, the largest desert in the world. The coastlines are remarkably straight; the continent has few large bays, estuaries, and protected indentations that can serve as harbors. Most major rivers have waterfalls and rapids close to the coast. This hindered colonial penetration and still limits navigation. In sub-Saharan Africa a narrow coastal plain is backed by steep escarpments and mountain ranges that form the edge of the African high plateau. The plain is often swampy along the Gulf of Guinea, arid from Angola south to Cape Town, and swampy, forested, or arid northward along the east coast to the Red Sea.

Africa lacks a major mountain system like the Andes of South America or the Himalayas of Asia. Several small ranges, however, break the monotony of the flat to gently rolling plateaus that constitute most of Africa. The Atlas Mountains of northwest Africa extend from east to west across Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. They reach their highest elevation, 4,166 m (13,668 ft), at Mount Toubkal, Morocco. The Drakensberg, rising above 3,000 m (10,000 ft), extends through eastern South Africa and Lesotho. The high plateau of Africa stretches from Ethiopia southwest to Angola and Namibia; it includes the Ethiopian Massif, the East African Plateau, the Ruwenzori (Mountains of the Moon), the Munchinga Mountains of Zambia, and the Bihe of Angola. Rising above this plateau are Mount Kilimanjaro (5,892 m/19,330 ft), a semiactive volcano and Africa's highest peak; Mount Kenya (5,199 m/17,058 ft); and Mount Elgon (4,321 m/14,178 ft), also of volcanic origin. The Sahara is interrupted by the Tibesti Massif and the Ahaggar and A•r mountains. The Cameroon Mountains, a volcanic chain extending northeast through Cameroon, are the highest mountains in western Africa. The Fouta Djallon of Guinea and Liberia contains the headwaters of the Niger River (Djouf) and the Senegal River, West Africa's largest. Between these highland zones are a series of shallow sedimentary basins usually associated with rivers. They include the basins of the Niger, Chad, and Sudd rivers on the southern margins of the Sahara; the Congo River of central equatorial Africa; and the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa.

One of Africa's most distinct topographical features is the Great Rift Valley. This is a giant trough that cuts into the high plateaus and stretches from the Dead Sea in the Middle East southward to Mozambique and Swaziland. It extends for a distance of almost 6,900 km (4,300 mi). The northern section is filled by the Red Sea between Africa and Arabia. The central section cuts through Ethiopia. It divides near Lake Turkana (Lake Rudolf) into two branches: the western rift arcs through Uganda to Lake Malawi (Lake Nyasa) and is occupied by Lakes Albert, Edward, Kivu, and Tanganyika; the eastern rift cuts through Kenya and Tanzania and joins the western rift near Lake Malawi. In places the rift-valley walls rise more than 3,200 m (10,500 ft) above the flat and sometimes drowned valley floor. (See also East African Rift System.)


Africa is a massive crystalline platform of ancient granites, schists, and gneisses. The oldest of these are more than 3.2 billion years old. They contain rich and varied minerals, including copper, zinc, lead, gold, uranium, diamonds, and many rare metals. Present-day Africa was once part of the supercontinent known as Gondwanaland. Gondwanaland also included Australia, Antarctica, South America, Madagascar, and the Indian subcontinent. During the Late Jurassic and Early Cretaceous periods these landmasses drifted apart. Compared with the other continents, however, Africa remained relatively stable. South America was separated from Africa about 80 million years ago. Arabia split off about 20 million years ago.

As Gondwanaland fractured and drifted, Africa acquired its scarp-dominated coastline, interior seas that occupied shallow depressions emptied, and rivers carved steep gorges and formed new courses. Volcanic outpourings covered vast areas of east and southern Africa. As the Cretaceous Period came to an end, the sedimentary rocks of northwestern Africa were severely folded and uplifted in a series of orogenic phases to form the Atlas Mountains. Geologically, the Atlas Mountains are part of Europe's alpine system. Epicontinental seas extended across North Africa linking the present Mediterranean with the Gulf of Guinea; they left extensive deposits of limestone and sandstone in their wake. Gigantic meridian fractures occurred in the African shield, producing the Great Rift Valley. As tensional forces wrenched the land apart, some land blocks sank while others rose and tilted. This allowed volcanic materials to break the surface. Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Cameroon were formed this way.

During Gondwanaland's last 100 million years of existence, southern Africa was covered by the Dwyka ice field. This field scoured the crystalline surface and deposited tillites (sedimentary rocks) hundreds of meters thick. Following the glacial age, southern Africa became progressively drier. A lengthy period of sedimentary accumulation began in the Kalahari and Karroo basins. These sediments in turn were covered by outpourings of basalt as much as 7,600 m (25,000 ft) thick.


The climates of Africa are predominantly tropical. Limited areas of subtropical and temperate climates are found only at the northern and southern extremities and in the high altitudes of Ethiopia and East Africa. The cold ocean currents that parallel the western Sahara (Canaries Current) and Namibia (Benguela Current) modify the temperatures of the adjoining coastal lowlands. The absence of lengthy high mountains and other weather divides permits a free circulation of tropical air over the continent. Changes in climate therefore occur very gradually. Rainfall is heaviest along the coast of the Gulf of Guinea, in the equatorial lowlands facing the Atlantic, in scattered mountain locations, and in eastern Madagascar. There the average annual rainfall exceeds 2,030 mm (80 in). Africa's wettest place is in western Cameroon (10,160 mm/400 in). Rainfall decreases poleward from the equator to the Sahara, Kalahari, and Namib deserts. These regions generally receive less than 150 mm (6 in) of rain in the average year. Rainfall rather than temperature is the most variable element of climate affecting distribution of soils, vegetation, and populations. There is increasing evidence that much of Africa is becoming progressively drier. It is expected to bear the brunt of global warming even though it has made little contribution to the problem.

Six major climate types prevail. They are arranged in a series of parallel zones ordered around the equator. The tropical wet climate is characterized by uniformly hot temperatures, a heavy and evenly distributed rainfall, and year-round high humidity. This tropical climate region is bounded by the tropical wet-dry, or savanna, climate. This climate is distinguished by its long dry season (coincidental with the period of low Sun) and by a short, wet summer. The savanna gives way to tropical steppes where rainfall is light and highly variable from year to year, and prolonged droughts are common. The steppes of West Africa are called the Sahel, literally the "border" of the desert.

The tropical deserts have the least rainfall and the greatest temperature range of any African climate. Diurnal temperature ranges may exceed 28 C degrees (50 F degrees). Africa's highest temperature (57.8ˇ C/136ˇ F) was recorded in the Libyan desert. Small areas of Mediterranean climate occupy coastal Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and South Africa's Cape of Good Hope region. A narrow zone of humid subtropical climate, similar to that of the southeastern United States, is located along South Africa's Natal coast.


Africa's major rivers have cut deep gorges in their upper courses and through the coastal rimlands before emptying into the oceans. Waterfalls, rapids, and irregular flows resulting from seasonal variations in rainfall all make river navigation difficult. Only a small percentage of the continent's vast waterpower potential is used to generate electricity. The Congo River alone has 13% of the world's hydroelectric power potential.

The Nile River is the world's longest (6,650 km/4,132 mi). It rises in Burundi and Uganda in equatorial east Africa. From Lake Victoria it flows north through the swampy Sudd of Sudan and over six cataracts (waterfalls) before entering the Mediterranean; there it has built a 25,000-km2 (9,650-mi2) delta. Its major tributary, the Blue Nile, rises in the headwaters of Lake Tana, Ethiopia. It joins the White Nile at Khartoum. The Aswan High Dam and Lake Nasser now regulate the flow of water downstream to the densely settled farmlands of lower Egypt. The Congo is Africa's second-longest river (4,670 km/2,900 mi). It drains an area larger than the Nile. Fed by many tributaries, including the Ubangi, Kasai, and Kwango, it sweeps around the Congo Basin and cuts through the Crystal Mountains to empty into the Atlantic.

Africa's third-longest river is the Niger (4,185 km/2,600 mi). It rises in the Futa Jallon of West Africa, flows northeast through the Djouf Basin of Mali, and then turns southeastward into Nigeria to form a delta on the Gulf of Guinea. The Zambezi River (about 2,650 km/1,650 mi) rises in south central Africa. It flows east over Victoria Falls and through a narrow gorge between Zimbabwe and Zambia to the Indian Ocean in central Mozambique. The Orange River (2,100 km/1,300 mi) rises in the Drakensberg. It flows west through South Africa to the Atlantic.

Africa's largest and deepest lakes are found in East Africa. They are generally associated with the rift valley. They include, from north to south, Lakes Albert, Edward, Kivu, Tanganyika, and Malawi in the western rift, and Lakes Turkana, Natron, and Eyasi in the eastern rift. Lake Tanganyika is the world's second-deepest lake (1,436 m/4,710 ft; after Lake Baikal). Between the two limbs of the rift valley lies Lake Victoria, Africa's largest (69,481 km2/26,827 mi2). Lake Chad, between Nigeria and Chad, is extremely shallow; its boundaries vary greatly with rainfall.


Few areas of Africa possess fertile soils. In the humid tropics, lime, potash, phosphorus, and humus material are washed out of the soil's top layers while high temperatures accelerate bacterial activity. What remains is a soil high in iron and aluminum that forms a hardpan through which roots penetrate with difficulty. This facilitates runoff and the loss of surface water. In the dry regions the soils are thin, stony, high in calcium, and low in humus. The richest soils are associated with Africa's rivers. Among the richest, most extensive, and most productive alluvial soils are those along the Senegal, the central reaches of the Niger, and the lower Juba; those at the confluence of the White and Blue Niles in central Sudan; and those in the Nile delta. There, large-scale irrigation projects have been developed. Nonalluvial soils of good quality, often associated with volcanic materials, are found on the high veld of South Africa and in parts of Kenya and Cameroon. Inappropriate technology, such as the utilization of heavy farm machinery, and overuse have destroyed millions of hectares of marginal soil in several climatic regions.


Africa has little natural vegetation that has not been modified by humans and their livestock. Overgrazing in the Sahel has destroyed the short grassland ecology and hastened desert encroachment. The forests and grasslands have been cut and burned to provide building materials, agricultural land, and pastures. The tropical forest of the west equatorial belt produces mahogany, teak, ebony, rubber, oil palm, and silk-cotton trees. Multinational efforts to preserve the rain forests of the Congo Basin (the largest in the world after those of the Amazon) were launched in the early 21st century after conservationists said that 70% of them might vanish by 2040 if logging continued at its current rate. Mangrove swamps clog many estuaries.

North and south of the rain forests stretch the tropical grasslands, or savannas, with their characteristic acacia trees and baobabs. As rainfall decreases, the savannas give way to scrubby grasslands, thornbush, and eventually deserts. The deserts are virtually devoid of vegetation other than such widely scattered xerophytic plants as the stipa grass, tamarisk, and date palm. In the Mediterranean climatic zone, stands of pine, juniper, cork, cedar, and olive are common.


Animal life in Africa is remarkable for its great diversity, vast numbers, and the presence of both primitive and more advanced forms of life. This is owing to the continent's general climatic stability and land connections with Asia. Animals such as the elephant evolved in Africa and spread to Asia across the Suez land bridge. Asia's elephants, monkeys, great apes, and certain bird groups such as the hornbills exhibit close relations with those in tropical Africa. Among the truly indigenous African animals are the aardvark, the secretary bird, and the whale-headed stork of the Nilotic marshes.

Africa's rain forests contain gorillas, chimpanzees, monkeys, wild pigs, and bongos. The tropical rivers, lakes, and swamps are populated by crocodiles, hippopotamuses, lizards, snakes, and an abundance of bird life including flamingos, pelicans, herons, storks, and kingfishers. The grasslands of the east and south contain some of the world's largest herds of elephant, rhinoceros, wildebeest, giraffe, zebra, buffalo, and antelope. They are home to the carnivores that prey upon the herds, such as lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, and jackals. The grasslands also support a great diversity of birds, including the bustard, falcon, hornbill, and ostrich. Uncontrolled hunting and poaching have severely reduced the animal populations. This is especially true of the elephant and rhinoceros, which are killed for their ivory tusks.

Africa's insects and other invertebrates are as varied as the larger animals. The tsetse fly, which carries sleeping sickness (trypanosomiasis), and the malaria-bearing mosquito limit the amount of land that humans and livestock may occupy. Common snakes include the cobra, python, and mamba.

Among Africa's largest game reserves are Tanzania's Serengeti National Park, Kenya's Tsavo Park and Amboseli National Park, and South Africa's Kruger National Park. The countries of South Africa, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe are establishing the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park. It is one of the largest conservation areas in the world, which joins game and nature reserves in all three countries. The new park will eventually cover more than 100,000 km2 (38,600 mi2), about 72% of which would be in Mozambique. The goal is to allow animals in overcrowded Kruger National Park to wander freely into less populated areas in Mozambique.

Water Resources

Africa has approximately 40% of the world's hydroelectric potential. About half of this is found in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo-Kinshasa; formerly Zaire). Most countries have chosen to build a few large facilities rather than several small dams. Africa's largest hydroelectric facilities are Egypt's Aswan High Dam (which produces 10 billion kW h annually), Mozambique's Cahora Bassa (which can generate 18 billion kW h), Congo-Kinshasa's Inga Dam, Ghana's Akosombo Dam, Nigeria's Kainji and Jos projects, and Cameroon's Edea project. A few projects, including the Aswan Dam, the Kariba Dam (shared by Zambia and Zimbabwe), and South Africa's Orange River Project, provide not only power but water for irrigation, fishing, and soil-conservation purposes.

Mineral Resources

African mineral resources are plentiful but only partially explored and exploited. Mining became an important and highly profitable activity during the colonial period. Today the bulk of prospecting and exploitation remains in the hands of multinational corporations. With few exceptions, Africa's minerals and fuels are exported; they have not given rise to local industry and general economic prosperity. Minerals provide the bulk of foreign revenues in several states, including Angola, Algeria, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Libya, and Nigeria (petroleum); Liberia and Mauritania (iron ore); and Zambia (copper). Sudan is becoming an important petroleum producer. Africa is also experiencing rapid growth in the production of natural gas; Algeria, Libya, and Nigeria have the largest reserves. South Africa has the greatest variety, reserves, and current output of minerals in Africa. It has the world's largest known reserves of manganese, platinum, chromium, vanadium, gold, and aluminum ore; it is also the leading producer of chromium, antimony, and manganese.

The major oil and natural-gas reserves are located in Algeria and Libya and in the coastal areas of Nigeria, Gabon, and Angola. Between 1997 and 2002, more new proven oil reserves were found in Africa than anywhere else in the world, most notably in Equatorial Guinea and in Chad. A pipeline to move oil from fields in Chad to the coast at Cameroon was completed in 2003; it was the largest single investment project on the continent to date. The recently discovered oil wealth has the possibility of transforming the region. Africa has limited coal reserves, especially coking coal for steel manufacture. The biggest reserves are found in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Nigeria. Uranium is widely distributed; significant deposits occur in South Africa, Niger, Namibia, and Gabon. The largest iron-ore deposits are found in South Africa, Liberia, Mauritania, Angola, and Algeria. The principal copper producers are Zambia, Congo-Kinshasa, and South Africa. Africa has the largest known reserves of chromium (95% of the world total), antimony, and manganese, as well as significant amounts of bauxite (Guinea), diamonds (South Africa, Namibia, Botswana), platinum (75% of the world's known reserves), cobalt (68%), gold (54%), and zinc.


Africa contains a complex mosaic of peoples, languages, and cultures. Few of its states are ethnically homogeneous. Few have developed a strong sense of national unity. For centuries traditional values prevailed. Africans identified first and foremost with members of their own tribe or nation. They avoided or competed with those who spoke a different language and were of a different culture. The imposition of colonial boundaries without regard for the indigenous cultural mosaic further divided the African people.

Population is unevenly distributed. Highest densities occur along the coast of the Gulf of Guinea; in the lower reaches of the Nile; in the highlands of East Africa and Madagascar; along the northern coast; and in the urban and mining areas of South Africa, Zimbabwe, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Lowest densities are found in the deserts, high mountains, and thick forests where economic opportunities are poor.

In the Saharan states the dominant groups are Arabs, Berbers, and Tuaregs. Beyond the cities the Berbers are agriculturists; the Tuaregs are pastoral nomads. The Sahara forms an effective divide between these peoples and the predominantly Negroid peoples of the south. In the Sahelian zone sedentary farmers are interspersed with pastoralists. The major groups are the Hausa, Fulani, Bambara, and Wolof. In the Horn of Africa (Somalia, Eritrea, and eastern Ethiopia), the pastoral Somali, Oromo (Galle), and Tigré are dominant. Dinka and Nuer prevail in the upper Nile. The densely settled coast of the Gulf of Guinea is home for literally hundreds of different ethnic groups. Each has its own language, territory, culture, and values. Among the numerically strongest are the Yoruba and Ibo (Igbo) of Nigeria, the Ashanti and Ga of Ghana, and the Kru of Ivory Coast and Liberia. The sparsely populated forests of equatorial Africa are home to Fang, Bateke, Pygmy, and others. In the east African savannas, the pastoral people, including the Masai, Kikuyu, and Kamba, have historically competed for grazing land and watering places. The Luo and Baganda occupy densely settled farms along the north shore of Lake Victoria.

Ethnic diversity and population density tend to be less south of the Democratic Republic of Congo, except in the urban areas of South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. South Africa has ten indigenous groups; the largest are the Zulu of KwaZulu/Natal and the Xhosa of Eastern Cape and Western Cape provinces. South Africa's Afrikaners are a people of Dutch and French descent. Swaziland, Lesotho, and Botswana are examples of ethnically homogeneous states. They are populated by the Swazi, Sotho, and Tswana, respectively. Arid Namibia's population includes the San (Bushmen), who are hunters and gatherers, and the Herero, Damara, and Ovambo. Other major groups in southern Africa are the Shona and Ndebele of Zimbabwe, the Bemba of Zambia, the Makonde and Makua of Mozambique, the Yao of Malawi, and the Ovimbundu of Angola. Madagascar is populated by the Betsimisaraka and by the Merina and Betsileo, whose ancestors came from Southeast Asia some 2,000 years ago.

The nonindigenous peoples of Africa include Europeans and South Asians in southern and eastern Africa, especially South Africa and Kenya. Europeans live in most capital cities. A few Syrians and Lebanese live primarily as traders in the urban areas of the coast along the Gulf of Guinea.


The number of languages spoken in Africa has been variously estimated at between 800 and 1,700. Five major stocks are generally recognized. Afroasiatic languages are dominant in North Africa and the Horn. They include Berber, Kushitic, Semitic, Chad, and Coptic languages. Click languages, so named because of their characteristic implosive "click" sounds, include Khoisan, which is spoken by the Khoikhoi of southern Africa. The Niger-Congo languages cover almost all of West Africa south of the Sahara and most of the Congo Basin and southern Africa. They include the Hausa language, Peul, and Wolof in West Africa and Swahili, Tsonga, and Bemba east and south of Congo-Kinshasa. Sudanic languages include Kanuri, Songhai, Turkana, and Masai. The Austronesian languages of Madagascar were introduced from Southeast Asia about 2,000 years ago.

Superimposed on this linguistic mosaic are English, French, Italian, Portuguese, German, and languages of the Indian subcontinent. English is the official language, or one of the two official languages, in all ex-British colonies, excluding Tanzania, where Swahili has been adopted. It is growing in influence throughout the continent for economic reasons. French is the official language of most former French possessions south of the Sahara. Arabic is the official language of seven Saharan states. Numerous lingua francas, such as Lingala in Congo-Kinshasa and Mandingo in West Africa, are used for commerce and in mixed-language areas. The multilinguistic nature of most states has hindered nationalism and perpetuates tribal and local identities.


The dominant religion of northern Africa is Islam. Islam replaced Christianity as the region's leading religion in the 7th century. It spread west and south across the Sahara and into the equatorial zones. With an estimated 358 million believers, Islam is the fastest-growing faith in Africa.

The Christian churches claim a membership of approximately 411 million Africans, of whom about one-third are Roman Catholics. Many denominations are present, including a number of indigenous churches. Christianity's earliest hold in Africa was in Egypt and Ethiopia, home of the Coptic church. European missionaries introduced Christianity into sub-Saharan Africa during the 19th century. Roughly 11% of the African population follow traditional religions and animism.


Educational standards, facilities, and programs vary considerably. They reflect differences in class, ethnicity, gender, and location. In all countries literacy rates for women are lower than those for men, more males than females attend primary school, and urban education is superior to rural. The richest countries invest more in education than the poorest. In most states, secondary-school enrollments are less than half the primary-school enrollments. The latter averaged just under 60% of all eligible children in sub-Saharan Africa in 1996-2002—the lowest percentage of any region in the world.

Between 1999 and 2004, however, primary-school enrollment increased by 18%—the highest rate in the world. In part this was due to the willingness of governments and international donors to spend more on basic education, and in part it was due to high birthrates. Africa still has one-sixth of the world's children under the age of 15, but half of the world's uneducated children. The continent's percentage of trained teachers is one of the lowest in the world; many of its schools lack classrooms and books. Adult literacy rates range from 18% in Niger to 86-91% in Mauritius, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. In recent years countries such as Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya have abolished school fees in an effort to increase the number of children attending school.

Only a small fraction of Africa's young people go on to universities. Due to the lack of prestigious universities in many African countries, qualified students often enroll at U.S. and European universities.


There is an urgent need to improve general health and nutritional standards in Africa. A significant number of persons in every country suffer from chronic malnutrition due to poverty, ignorance, and poor agricultural practices. On a per-capita basis, food production declined from the 1970s into the 21st century. Africa's malnutrition rates are the highest in the world. In several countries of the Sahel, Guinea Coast, and equatorial Africa, as many as 40% of the population are malnourished and suffer from such diseases as malaria, dysentery, schistosomiasis, and yaws. The Sahelian states from Senegal to Somalia recorded exceptionally high rates of death and malnutrition during the severe droughts of 1968-74 and again from the 1980s. Overall, an estimated 35% of Africans are classified as malnourished; the total number of people receiving inadequate nutrition has grown along with the population as a whole. Many believe that malnutrition is a systemic problem, rather than the result of isolated disasters brought about by war or drought. The causes are complex and interrelated. Primary among them are a lack of investment in rural areas, disease, population growth, and declining soil fertility. Global warming is also a factor; it has contributed to drought and floods in some of Africa's most productive agricultural areas.

More than 90% of the world's malaria cases occur in Africa. Other common ailments include influenza, tuberculosis, river blindness, and a host of parasitic disorders associated with unsanitary living conditions. Less than 60% of Africans have access to clean water. That number was predicted to double by 2025 due to mounting water shortages. More than 1 million babies die in Africa during their first month of life𤿌,000 of them within their first 24 hours. Many of these deaths are due to a lack of prenatal care or infections that could be easily and inexpensively prevented.

Many experts believe that the biggest spur to improving health care would be an increase in aid for long-term development such as the establishment of clinics, reforestation and water schemes, and the development of disease-resistant seeds. (Ethiopia, for example, is the largest per-capita recipient of emergency aid in the world. Yet it receives the least per-capita development aid.) Meanwhile, efforts are being made to distribute mosquito nets, train community health-care workers, and provide children with preventive care such as polio vaccine, vitamins, deworming medication, and measles vaccine.

Sub-Saharan Africa has roughly one-tenth the number of doctors and nurses per capita as does Europe. Most of the doctors and general hospitals are situated in the capitals and towns; the more populated rural areas have few health facilities and high incidences of disease, malnutrition, and infant mortality. In 2004 it was estimated that Africa required an additional 1 million health-care workers to tackle its pressing problems. This shortage has been exacerbated by the recruitment of many of the continent's doctors and nurses by wealthier nations. Since World War II, national and international efforts to control mosquitoes, locusts, tsetse flies, and other pests have increased, but polio appears to be making a comeback, largely because of the decision by the Nigerian state of Kano to stop immunizing children against the disease. Another health threat is a particularly drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis that was first detected in South Africa in 2005 and has since probably spread to neighboring countries.

AIDS has become the continent's leading cause of death, especially in central and southern Africa. By 2004 it was estimated that about 64% of the people in the world living with the AIDS virus (or HIV) were in sub-Saharan Africa. By 2006, 6.1% of all people between the ages of 15 and 49 in sub-Saharan Africa were HIV infected, as compared with 1% for the world as a whole. In six countries, all in southern Africa, more than 18% of the population between the ages of 15 and 49 were infected. Women were two and a half times more likely to be infected than men. Only a small percentage of those who have contracted the virus are receiving antiretroviral treatment, although this number is increasing. Adult infection rates exceeded 33% in Swaziland in 2005 and continue to rise. Nevertheless, prevention programs have caused rates of infection to decline in some countries, most notably Senegal, Uganda, Kenya, and Zimbabwe. Some experts have predicted that the AIDS death toll in Africa between 2003 and 2010 might reach as much as 20 million. This would create as many as 40 million AIDS orphans (up from 13 million in 2003).

Primarily because of AIDS, the average life expectancy of Africans dropped by 15 years between 1987 and 2002; poverty and war also contributed to the decline. Educated young adults, such as teachers, civil servants, and health-care workers, are disproportionately affected. This has had a devastating impact on development efforts. AIDS, combined with drought, mismanagement, and conflict, has contributed significantly to the threat of widespread famine in southern Africa by cutting agricultural production. A 2006 World Health Organization report said that the ten countries with the world's lowest life expectancy were in Africa; the lowest of these was Zimbabwe.


Africa's population numbered roughly 924 million in 2006. The most populous states are Nigeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Africa. If Africa's population continues to increase at its present rate, experts predict that it will reach 1.8 billion by 2050. Improved diets, sanitary conditions, medical technologies, and insecticides have lowered death rates considerably since 1960. Infant mortality rates, however, remain the highest in the world. AIDS is now actually decreasing life expectancy in the southern part of the continent, with devastating effects. Life expectancy at birth is approximately 52 years, compared with about 78 years in the United States. Birthrates will remain high unless the general desire for large families changes. Africa has the highest fertility rates in the world. Roughly 42% of its population are under 15 years of age.

Africa is the most rural and least urbanized of all the continents except Antarctica. About 37% of the population live in cities. Several countries, including South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, and Morocco, have large urban-industrial areas, and it is predicted that more than half of all Africans will live in urban areas by 2030. In most countries the largest city is the capital, which is often also the only city of significant size. Urban-population growth rates exceed rural growth rates as more and more Africans migrate to the cities in search of jobs, education, and security. Slums are growing. In general, urban living conditions are deteriorating in most countries.

Between the 1970s and the turn of the century, civil strife and political upheaval displaced millions of people in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, Angola, Liberia, Rwanda, Burundi, Mozambique, Congo-Kinshasa, Sierra Leone, and other areas. By the year 2000 the continent was estimated to have more than 3 million refugees; some 15 million others were displaced within their own countries. Few countries have been willing or able to accommodate the refugees, even with United Nations (UN) assistance.


Despite Africa's great natural resources and energy potentials, industrialization is in its infancy. Africa contributes only 1% of worldwide industrial production. It has less than a 2% share of the world's trade. South Africa is the only modern industrial state, although manufacturing is becoming increasingly strong in Nigeria, Egypt, and Algeria. The fastest-growing economies in the early 21st century, albeit from an extremely low level and with the help of significant amounts of foreign aid, were those of Mozambique, Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Uganda. There are many handicaps to rapid industrialization. They include weak agricultural economies, inadequate and poorly integrated transportation facilities, insufficient capital and technology, political instability, a poorly trained workforce, a small purchasing power, and economic policies and practices determined outside of Africa. The huge burden of external debt, some of which is now being forgiven, diverts scarce resources from economic development. Between 1974 and 2004, per-capita income in Africa south of the Sahara declined by 11%.

Since gaining independence, most African countries have promoted import substitution industries to reduce their dependence on European and American manufactured goods. Light industries, including textiles, clothing, pharmaceuticals, food processing, and beverages, are the most common. They account for 70% of industrial employment. Heavy industry, including the manufacture of petrochemicals, iron and steel, rubber products, and cement, is concentrated in South Africa. That country supplies a higher percentage of its industrial needs than any other African state. Industry tends to be concentrated in capital cities. It is generally small scale, and is capital- rather than labor-intensive despite the cheap labor.


Agriculture accounts for about one-third of the continent's total economic output and more than half of its export earnings. This sector also directly employs more than 60% of the workforce. But agricultural output in Africa has remained stagnant over the past four decades, while it has tripled in Asia. Less than 10% of Africa's farmers use fertilizer—the lowest rate in the world. In addition, they have less access to transportation, irrigation, and regional markets where they can sell their products. The green revolution that was so effective in much of the rest of the world focused on two major crops, rice and wheat. In Africa, farmers depend on dozens of food crops scattered across hundreds of different regions and harvested at different times of the year. By the early 21st century, water shortages were also becoming a serious concern. Scientists warned that crop yields in Africa might decline by as much as 23% by 2025 due to such shortages, forcing Africa to more than triple its food imports.

Two distinct agricultural systems operate side by side: a traditional subsistence sector and a modern commercial sector. The traditional sector employs the majority of Africa's rural population. It is characterized by small and frequently fragmented farms, little use of technology or fertilizer, high reliance on human labor, low yields, infrequent surpluses, and an emphasis on staple crops such as corn, millet, rice, cassava, sweet potatoes, peanuts, and other high-starch foods. Work on the farms is increasingly being left to women, children, and the aged as men migrate to the cities. Traditional slash-and-burn agriculture is being restricted as population increases and land-ownership systems change. Land in parts of Ethiopia and Eritrea and elsewhere on the continent has become so degraded due to drought and the strains created by population growth and poor cultivation practices that it may never again produce decent harvests. One recent study classified 72% of arable land and 31% of pasture in sub-Saharan Africa as degraded.

The modern commercial sector is the economic backbone of many countries and the principal source of their foreign-exchange earnings. Coffee, for example, is a major export for Burundi, cocoa for Ghana, and peanuts for Gambia. Other primary cash crops include cotton, sugar, bananas, tea, oil palm, tobacco, and citrus fruits. These are produced on large estates and plantations that are frequently owned by expatriates, urban elites, the state, and multinational corporations. They depend on cheap, abundant, and often seasonal labor. They also tend to have much higher inputs of fertilizer, insecticides, and capital in the form of machinery, processing, and storage facilities than the traditional sector.

The raising of cattle, goats, and sheep is very important in much of the savanna and steppe lands. Africans are only gradually improving the quality of their herds, decreasing the traditional emphasis on herd size and the social importance attached to cattle ownership, and commercializing this activity. Commercial cattle farming is most advanced in areas of European settlement such as South Africa, Kenya, and Zimbabwe. Africa possesses about 14% of the world's cattle population.

In the 1970s food production for subsistence and local markets failed to keep pace with population growth and rising demands, especially in the urban areas. Famine conditions first appeared in the Sahel and Ethiopia during the droughts of 1972. They later worsened and became more general. Low prices for farm products; rising costs of fertilizer, fuel, and seed; poor farm management; soil deterioration; and the common practice of using land for export crops rather than staples have all contributed to the shortage of food. On a per-capita basis, less food is produced today than in 1970. Food imports are rising. The overall standard of living is declining. The average African household consumed 20% less in 2000, when an estimated 200 million people were chronically malnourished, than it did in the 1950s. Malnutrition affected about one-third of all children in sub-Saharan Africa (the only region where childhood hunger was continuing to rise) in 2001; it was predicted to increase by 18% between 1997 and 2020. A United Nations-World Bank study released in 2000 predicted that without a sustained emphasis on agricultural development, the progressive and widespread deterioration of Africa's fragile soils would leave the continent unable to feed two-thirds of its projected population by the year 2025.

Forestry and Fishing

Although forests cover about 25% of Africa's land surface, the forest industry in general is not developed. High costs of clearing the forests, poor and costly transport, and a limited amount of usable forest have hindered profitable exploitation. Cameroon, Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon, and Ivory Coast are the main producers. Mahogany, ebony, and okoume are the principal commercial woods.

Ocean commercial fishing is economically more important than freshwater fishing. The major fishing grounds are off South Africa, Namibia, and Angola; the West African coast from Morocco to Liberia; and in the Mediterranean Sea. Much of the catch from southern Africa is exported as fish oil, fish meal, and fertilizer. Fresh and dried fish are important as food in certain areas of Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Congo-Kinshasa. Fish plays a relatively minor role in the diet of many Africans, however. Tilapia is the most widely consumed fish. Overfishing has depleted fish stocks. This has sparked new efforts to promote small-scale fish farming.

Transportation and Communications

Africa's transportation systems were developed during the colonial era to move minerals and other raw materials to seaports for export. Roads and railroads were used by the Europeans mainly to facilitate control over their African possessions. As a consequence, neighboring colonies were rarely linked. Even today the countries of Africa are poorly interconnected by road, rail, and air. In six well-governed African nations (Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda) likely to make impressive economic gains if roads connected producers to markets, there is 0.01 km (0.006 mi) of paved road per person, compared with 4.49 km (2.79 mi) per person in the non-African developing world. Africa has the lowest railroad density in the world. Some 13 countries (including landlocked Niger, Chad, and Burundi) have no railroads. South Africa has more than one-third of the continent's railroad tracks and the most modern railroad facilities.

Railroads continue to convey the bulk of Africa's minerals. The Great Uhuru (or Tan-Zam) Railway was built with help from China. Completed in 1976, it connects the copper mines of Zambia with Tanzania's Indian Ocean port of Dar es Salaam. The Benguela Railway carries copper from Congo-Kinshasa's Katanga province across Angola to the Atlantic port of Benguela. Zimbabwe's mineral areas are linked by rail with ports in Mozambique and South Africa. The newly renamed Rift Valley Railways linking Mombasa, Kenya, to Kampala, Uganda, was privatized in 2006. If the financing is forthcoming, construction of a rail tunnel beneath the Strait of Gibraltar that would carry freight, passengers, and cars between Morocco and Spain is expected to begin in 2008. Plans to link Cape Town, South Africa, to Cairo, Egypt, by rail have also been announced. If completed, the project would reduce shipping time between South Africa and northern Africa from about 3 months to only 14 days.

Africa has the least developed road system in the world. Less than 100,000 km (62,000 mi) of the 1,350,000 km (839,000 mi) of roads are paved. The greatest densities of well-maintained roads occur in South Africa and the Mediterranean states. Work is progressing on a trans-Saharan highway; it would extend across the desert from Morocco (which faces Spain on the Strait of Gibraltar) through Western Sahara and Mauritania to Senegal, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria. All countries need additional feeder roads to link the rural populations and agricultural projects with the towns, cities, and railroads. Isolation is particularly severe during the rainy season, when unpaved roads may become impassable. This is a major handicap to development.

River transport is handicapped by waterfalls and rapids and in many areas by irregular stream flow due to seasonal rainfall. Countries dependent on rivers to supplement their road and rail systems include Congo-Kinshasa, Congo-Brazzaville, Nigeria, and Sudan. Lengthy unnavigable stretches of the Congo River are bypassed by railroads that carry copper and other exports to the coast.

Air transport is of growing importance in Africa. Since independence, many countries have established national airlines and extended their international routes. Few are profitable. In remote areas air travel is often the only practical means of transportation.

Africa's telecommunications systems are underdeveloped but expanding. Radio, television, and telephone systems are concentrated in the urban areas, and rural districts are poorly served. This situation is improving with the proliferation of cell-phone networks in many parts of the continent. Eastern and much of southern Africa is the only region in the world not connected to the global broadband infrastructure; it currently relies heavily on high-cost satellite services to link it electronically to the outside world. To boost the region's business competitiveness, the World Bank in 2007 made loans to Kenya, Burundi, and Madagascar to provide high-speed Internet networks.


Africa's principal trade is with Europe and North America. In most cases, an African country's leading trade partner is the colonial power with which it was formerly connected. Since independence, however, trade contacts have diversified and increased. Under the Lomé Convention, first signed in 1975, 70 African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) countries had preferred trade and economic-aid agreements with the European Economic Community, now the European Union (EU). The African members of ACP send about half their exports, mainly agricultural and mineral products, to the EU; they receive about half their imports, mainly manufactured goods, from the EU. In 2000 a new accord, the Cotonou Agreement, replaced the Lomé Convention. It called for the gradual removal of trade restrictions over a 15-year period. It also required ACP members to respect human rights and democratic principles in exchange for aid and special trading status with the EU.

By late 2002, 38 African countries had qualified under a 2000 U.S. trade law designed to foster industrial development in Africa. This law, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), allowed qualifying nations to gain preferential tariff treatment for products they exported to the United States. One of its primary effects has been to dramatically increase clothing exports to the United States from mostly Asian-owned factories in Africa, especially from Lesotho and Uganda. The expiration of World Trade Organization quotas on clothing and textiles in 2005, however, removed a powerful incentive for foreign businesses to invest in Africa. West Africa was providing roughly 15% of all U.S. oil imports by 2006. Experts predicted that this percentage could well rise to 25% by 2015, particularly with oil flowing through the Chad-Cameroon pipeline, which was completed in October 2003. In an effort to ensure that oil revenues were used to reduce the poverty rate, the World Bank was overseeing a plan to invest Chad's oil moneys in infrastructure, education, and health. It temporarily suspended its assistance when Chad unilaterally altered the terms of the agreement. A South African power company has announced ambitious plans to create a continent-wide electricity grid that would allow the continent to eventually export power across the Mediterranean to Europe and the Middle East. China has become an increasingly important African trading partner, particularly in the energy and minerals sectors. By 2007, China's trade with Africa topped $50 billion; some predicted that it might double by 2010.

Trade between African nations is very limited. In part this is a result of prohibitive tariffs on agricultural products within sub-Saharan Africa. Poor roads and conflict also make it difficult to move goods to market. But mechanisms exist to promote trade. West Africa has several regional trade groups. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) began issuing a single passport for citizens of its 15 member nations in 2004. The smaller, French-speaking Union économique et Monétaire Ouest-Africaine (UEMOA) replaced the Communauté Economique de l'Afrique de l'Ouest in 1994; it plans to abolish all tariffs between its 6 members (who are also members of ECOWAS). The 20-member Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) was founded in 1993 as the successor to the Preferential Trade Area for Eastern and Southern Africa. It abolished all tariffs among 9 of its 20 members in 2000. The Union DouaniŹre et économique de l'Afrique Centrale (UDEAC), a less successful customs union of French-speaking central African states, was founded in 1966.

The Portuguese-speaking nations (Portugal, Brazil, Angola, São Tomé and Pr’ncipe, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, and Cape Verde) sought to encourage trade and investment by forming the Community of Portuguese-Language Countries in 1996. Burkina Faso, Libya, Mali, Niger, Chad, and Sudan formed what is intended to become a free-trade region, the Sahara-Sahelian Community States Rally (RCES), in 1998. The East African Community (Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda) was revived in 2001. In southern Africa, South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland are joined together in the South African Customs Union.

At its 2000 summit the Southern African Development Community, which included 14 member nations, announced that it would establish a free-trade zone effective September 1 of that year. Some tariff protections would be granted to Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zambia (the group's poorest members); Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Seychelles would initially not participate. Since that time, however, the southern African economy has been dragged down by the political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe. Between 1999 and 2006, Zimbabwe's economy shrunk by an estimated 40%. This situation was thought to have cost the region at least $2.6 billion in lost investment and trade between 2000 and 2002 alone, and the problem continued to worsen.

The idea of a continent-wide African Union similar to the European Union was introduced at the 2000 summit of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). It became a reality when the OAU was dissolved to pave the way for this new organization, which was formally inaugurated in June 2002. The new African Union (AU) held its first summit in Ethiopia in February 2003. It will eventually decrease Africa's economic marginalization by creating a powerful regional trading bloc with its own currency and central bank. The AU launched the first Pan-African Parliament in 2004. Initially it was to be an advisory body, but it would eventually begin making laws. Its members also agreed in 2004 to create the first continent-wide military force. This force would have the power to intervene in any African conflict on orders of a majority vote of a newly created 15-member African Security Council.

Recent Developments

Since independence Africa has faced a variety of obstacles to economic growth. Many of these are beyond its ability to control. Nearly three-fourths of all African nations are dependent on one or two exports for the bulk of all foreign exchange earnings. Drops in world prices for many of these commodities, coupled with rising prices for imports, have reduced the money available for development. In addition, many governments borrowed heavily to finance prestigious but often economically unviable large-scale projects; the cost of debt service has nearly bankrupted some countries. Mozambique alone spends almost twice as much to service its debts as it does on postwar reconstruction. International lenders frequently insist that countries impose structural adjustment programs as a condition for restructuring their debts and obtaining additional loans. These programs normally include the removal of subsidies on basic foodstuffs. The elimination of subsidies raises food prices beyond the reach of many poor families. Economic reforms may therefore lead to job losses, wage freezes, and cutbacks in government expenditures on such things as schools and health care. Critics charge that rigid structural adjustment measures often increase poverty because their cost is borne most heavily by the poor.

Improvements in health care contributed to rapid population growth that, in most countries, exceeded gains in food production. This has resulted in an overall decline in the standard of living. Since the 1980s the spread of AIDS has placed new burdens on the continent's health facilities. Prolonged and recurrent drought and other natural disasters have aggravated food shortages and destructive pressures on marginal lands and increased the refugee population. (Africa has 14% of the world's people and more than one-third of its refugees.) The percentage of Africans living in urban areas more than doubled between 1960 and 1985 and continues to go up. By keeping urban food prices low to discourage unrest, governments accelerated rural-to-urban migration. This deprived farmers of incentives to grow more food. African food imports have increased dramatically, heightening trade imbalances.

Initially, most governments focused on the manufacturing sector, especially import substitution industries. However, only South Africa has achieved a high order of industrial self-sufficiency. Most industries are final-stage assembly operations. In some countries, shortages of imported raw materials and spare parts have forced factories to cut production and lay off workers. The majority of governments have recognized the failure of industry to alleviate poverty. They therefore have turned their attention to agriculture, including agro-based industry. African leaders have courted foreign investment in recent years, and such investment in Africa tripled between 1993 and 1996. Nevertheless, by 2004 the continent was receiving less than 1% of the world's direct foreign investment. Much of this investment has been concentrated in the minerals sector; it has done little to encourage further economic growth by building economic infrastructure. The average per-capita gross domestic product actually declined by almost 1% between 1998 and 1999. Foreign aid has dropped significantly since the end of the cold war in 1991. Many African leaders are calling on the West to open its markets to African goods and to increase aid and investment to the continent.

On the political front, many African nations continue to be plagued by instability and corruption. In the 1990s, when the wave of political change sweeping Eastern Europe also swept Africa, many longtime African leaders were overthrown or defeated in multiparty elections. Although some countries remain under military rule or are formal or de facto one-party states, 42 of the 48 countries of sub-Saharan Africa held multiparty elections between 1990 and 2002. And with South Africa's transformation into a multiracial democracy in 1994, the most persistent problem in inter-African relations was removed. Nevertheless, opposition parties lost in every one of the 8 African countries that held elections in 2004, suggesting that it often is still difficult to dislodge a ruling party or leader from power. Surveys indicate that most Africans still support democracy, even though their overall standard of living has typically declined as the region's fledgling democracies try to tackle Africa's serious economic problems. Particularly critical are the issues of improving access to education and health care and providing jobs for the poor. Economic woes not only fueled the demands for political reforms but also contributed to tribal conflicts and civil wars that diverted scarce resources and hampered efforts at nation building. In a 2004 report the United Nations Development Programme found that the world's 11 least developed countries, in human terms, were in Africa. About 20 African nations were suffering drastic reversals in education, health, and wealth, due primarily to the AIDS crisis.

The average per-capita income in Africa had been reduced by half, in real terms, during the decade ending in 2000. Yet many countries in Africa had made substantial economic progress during that period. In 1998, for the first time, the continent's rate of economic growth outstripped its rate of population increase. The formation of a West African peacekeeping force (under the aegis of ECOWAS) and moves to lower regional trade barriers highlighted a general feeling among African leaders that African-based regional organizations must play a more active role in combating poverty, underdevelopment, and political instability. Nonetheless, by 2000 nearly 20 African countries were experiencing armed conflict or civil strife. (This included the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which involved so many African nations that it was sometimes referred to as the first "World War" of Africa.) Governments in sub-Saharan Africa were spending four times as much servicing their debts as they were on education and health combined.

In 2006 it was estimated that 66% of Africa's 924 million people were living on less than $2 a day. Although ruinous civil wars in Angola, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and southern Sudan had ended, by late 2004 some 75% of the world's 62,000 UN peacekeeping forces were stationed in Africa. Nevertheless, there were some encouraging signs. Economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa reached an eight-year high of 5% in 2004; although the rate of growth was, however, still below what was needed to reduce the total number of Africans living in poverty. Inflation also fell to its lowest rate in 25 years. Net direct foreign investment increased from $6.3 billion in 2000 to $11.3 billion in 2004. That same year, African exports to the United States were up by 88%. Chinese companies invested $175 million in Africa in the first ten months of 2005 alone, mostly on oil exploration projects and infrastructure.

As part of a recently launched development plan called the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), a number of African countries agreed to submit to peer review and rating in such categories as democracy, good governance, and human rights to gain credibility with overseas donors and investors. In 2005, both the Group of Eight and the International Monetary Fund agreed to write off the debts of all but one of the 20 poorest countries in the world; 14 of these countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia) were in Africa. The Group of Eight debt-forgiveness arrangement alone canceled nearly one-sixth of Africa's total debt of $295 billion. It was expected to save the designated nations, which had a combined total of about $23.5 billion in government spending annually, some $1.5 billion in annual debt payments.

Alan C. G. Best

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