Sub-Saharan Africa

From Academic Kids

Missing image
A satellite composite image of Africa showing the ecological break between North and Sub-Saharan regions
Sub-Saharan Africa, Africa south of the Sahara Desert, is the term used to describe those countries of Africa that are not part of North Africa. In the 19th century Sub-Saharan Africa was commonly known as Black Africa or as Dark Africa, partly because of the race of its native inhabitants and partly because much of it had not been fully mapped or explored (Africa as a whole was sometimes labelled "the dark continent"). These terms are now obsolete, and often considered to be offensive. The neutral phrase African Uplands was preferred by Hegel and some other writers of the time, however this was primarily intended to refer to the African interior as opposed to coastal regions. The modern term Sub-Saharan corresponds with the standard representation of North as above and South as below. Tropical Africa is an alternative modern label, related to the word Afrotropic, used for the distinctive ecology of the region. However, if strictly applied, this term would exclude South Africa, which lies outside the Tropics.

This division of Africa has arisen from the perception of North Africa as predominantly Arab or Berber in ethnicity and culture, and the perception of sub-Saharan Africa as predominantly black in ethnicity or culture. The two regions are separated by the sparsely populated Sahara Desert. North Africa has long been integrated with the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Sub-Saharan Africa, on the other hand, had sporadic contacts with the rest of the world before the modern era partially due to the effect of endemic diseases like Malaria. While the coasts received visits by traders, much of the interior of the continent remained unknown to the outside world until the colonial era.

With a few exceptions, such as Mauritius and South Africa, sub-Saharan Africa is one of the poorest regions in the world, and it contains many of the least developed countries. (See Economy of Africa.)

The exact position of the dividing line between the two regions is not clearly defined because of discontinuous and blurred break-points between national boundaries, ecologies and ethnicities. However, according to one classification of the two regions, sub-Saharan Africa includes forty-eight nations. Forty-two of these nations are on the African mainland. In addition, four island nations in the southwest Indian Ocean (Madagascar, The Comoros, Mauritius, and Seychelles) and two island nations in the Atlantic Ocean (Cape Verde and Sao Tome and Principe) are considered part of Africa. According to this classification scheme, the countries of sub-Saharan Africa are:

Central Africa

Eastern Africa

Southern Africa

Western Africa

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