Don’t lose Africa


Africa is the continent of the future. Yet Europe and the United States are not paying enough attention to its 1.4 billion people. They are losing influence to China and Russia.

Lately, Africa has had a procession of high-profile visitors. In July and August, French President Emmanuel Macron toured several nations as did Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan preceded them late last year and again in February of this year while British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Rwanda in June for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. Probably due to the zero-Covid policy, no high-level Chinese leaders have visited Africa lately.

Africa is a remarkably diverse continent. Northern Africa is divided from the rest of the landmass by the vast Sahara Desert. Northern Africa is a close neighbor of Europe, which lies on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea. Thousands of years of easy shipping on the Mediterranean helped establish a common cultural zone among Southern Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East. The emergence of Islam in the 7th century divided Northern Africa from Europe.

Sub-Saharan Africa and the Sahel Zone were – except for coastal outposts and the Cape of Good Hope area – terra incognita to Europeans for a long time. Only after remedies against tropical diseases and malaria became available did Europeans start to explore and then colonize Africa in the mid-19th century.

The legacy of colonialism

The colonization, widely accepted then in Europe and the United States, cannot only be reduced to the detrimental effects of exploitation and oppression. Much was accomplished in education, infrastructure and healthcare. The population of the continent increased from an estimated 90 million in 1870 at the beginning of colonization to some 230 million in 1950. Decolonization started in the second half of the 1950s. By 2021, the population had soared to 1.4 billion people.

Africa is a rich continent with a young population. Its arable land could in theory feed much larger numbers than today’s population. It is wealthy in natural resources, such as iron ore, cobalt, lithium, copper, uranium, manganese and many more minerals. 

Africa’s strategic position between the Indian and the Atlantic oceans means the continent could play an important role in future geopolitical developments. There are 54 African countries represented in the United Nations, giving the continent an important position (some 30 percent) in votes, but also in other UN suborganizations.


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