What If Europe Never Colonized Africa?

Africa, Uncolonized: A Detailed Look at an Alternate Continent | Big Think | Strange Maps.

What if Europeans had never colonized Africa?  What would the “state” boundaries look like?

The map – upside down, to skew our traditional eurocentric point of view – shows an Africa dominated by Islamic states, and native kingdoms and federations. All have at least some basis in history, linguistics or ethnography. None of their borders is concurrent with any of the straight lines imposed on the continent by European powers, during the 1884-85 Berlin Conference and in the subsequent Scramble for Africa.

Much different than the current boundaries, of course.  Would it be more peaceful and prosperous?

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It’s Columbus Day. Let’s talk about geography and Ebola. – The Washington Post

Today we commemorate Columbus Day, an American holiday observed in some states, perhaps for Christopher Columbus’s perseverance and bravery rather than his geographical knowledge. In light of recent scares involving “potential Ebola cases” and air travel involving individuals who had been nowhere near the Ebola outbreak zone, it seems we all could use a little geography lesson.

via It’s Columbus Day. Let’s talk about geography and Ebola. – The Washington Post.

Face it, many places in Europe are closer to the Ebola outbreak than many places in Africa.

Greenland is actually about 1/14 the size of the African continent, but the misunderstandings perpetrated by old maps — plus cultural and media norms that often refer to Africa as one entity rather than an 11.7 million-square-mile land mass comprised of 54 countries and over 1.1 billion people who speak over 2,000 different languages

perpetuate many misconceptions.

Hopefully geography classes will do their part in educating students about the continent.

Africa is big. Really big. As this resource from Boston University’s African Studies program shows, the combined land masses of the United States (including Alaska), Europe, and China are all smaller than the African continent.  The United States — including Alaska — would fit into Africa three times.

So although 3 tiny countries in West Africa are going through untold horrors, most of the massive continent is unaffected by Ebola.  Except economically.

Safari bookings are way down, because ignorant people have no idea how far Kenya is from the outbreak zone.

These actions are based in fear, not reality. We are faced with risk every day, and would be better suited to understand our relative risks if we appreciated where in the world some places are.

What are you most at risk for?  I bet it’s not Ebola.

Building Boom

Chinese corporations, financial institutions, and the government are involved in billions of dollars worth of large dams in Africa. Civil society and dam-affected peoples’ movements are concerned that China’s own poor record on protecting human rights and the environment could mean trouble for African rivers now targeted for Chinese-built large dams.

Africa is a growing source of raw materials for China’s industrial sector as well as a marketplace for Chinese goods. Chinese companies are heavily involved in many fields: oil, mining, logging, and infrastructure. Unlike western financiers China’s assistance comes with almost no strings attached.

via Chinese Dams in Africa | International Rivers.

I was looking for information on Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam when I came across this information from International Rivers.  I knew China had invested heavily in Africa, but this is a LOT of dams.

According to this article China is involved in building 304 dams in 74 countries, not just in Africa.  Here’s the list.  Most are in Africa or Southeast Asia.  Many of the ones close to home will generate electricity that will be exported to China.

I have so many questions I don’t even know where to begin.  How about you?

Somalia’s Famine – China’s Fault?

German official blames China for Somalia’s famine – By Edmund Downie | FP Passport.

Chinese investment in African farmland has ratcheted up significantly in recent years, as the government seeks to quell concerns about long-term food security. One estimate puts the number of Chinese farm workers in Africa at 1 million. Meanwhile, the Atlantic quotes a June 2009 report in the Chinese weekly Economic Observer that describes how Beijing “was planning to rent and buy land abroad” to deal with “increasing pressure on food security.”

According to the German’s African policy co-ordinator, China has bought up land in Africa, rendering many small farmers and herders there landless, and deprived of their livelihood.  Since many farmers and herders just use the land, and don’t actually “own” it, the elite landowners can easily sell out to foreigners.

China denies the claims, but

it’s worth noting that China is far from the only foreign investor with major land holdings in Africa today. Private and public investors from India, the United States, and the petrostates of the Middle East, to name a few, have taken their piece of the African land grab, which brought 15 to 20 million hectares of the continent under foreign investment between 2006 and mid-2009. By way of comparison, that’s equal to the size of all the farmland in France.(bold mine)

That’s a lot of land that’s no longer feeding African people.  No wonder the countries there are having problems.

Middle Class

Middle Class Africa | FP Passport.

A new report released by the African Development bank today estimates that more than a third of the continent’s population — 313 million people — are now middle class. Wake up investors: “Africa’s emerging middle class comprises roughly the size of the middle class in India or China.”

Although many of the people there are just now entering the Middle Class, the trend toward fewer children and better education will undoubtedly move more people up economically.

And it’s not just the economy that benefits:

Having a middle class can be a massive boom to political growth as well. It may be no coincidence that two of the countries with the largest percentage of middle class citizens — Tunisia (89.5 percent) and Egypt (79.7 percent) — got fed up with their corrupt, incompetent regimes. The young generation of African businessmen, thinkers, and leaders won’t put up with business as usual; they have too much work to get done.

A good thing, if it works out as planned.

Africa+Chinese=Your Future

Chinese in Africa: The Chinese are coming…to Africa | The Economist.

Trade between the two surpassed $120 billion in 2010, and in the past two years China has given more loans to poor, mainly African countries than the World Bank.

Many people are not happy about this, as the piece points out, but it is what it is. China needs resources, and Africa has them. China has money to burn, and Africa needs it.  It may be a Faustian bargain, but Africa doesn’t have much choice – they are so poor they feel like they have to take what they can get.

On his first trip three years ago Mr Zhu filled a whole notebook with orders and was surprised that Africans not only wanted to trade with him but also enjoyed his company.

But now:

… African attitudes have changed. His partners say he is ripping them off. Chinese goods are held up as examples of shoddy work. Politics has crept into encounters. The word “colonial” is bandied about. Children jeer and their parents whisper about street dogs disappearing into cooking pots.

Partly to blame are Chinese business practices, born in communist systems with little public input:

Chinese expatriates in Africa come from a rough-and-tumble, anything-goes business culture that cares little about rules and regulations. Local sensitivities are routinely ignored at home, and so abroad. Sinopec, an oil firm, has explored in a Gabonese national park. Another state oil company has created lakes of spilled crude in Sudan. Zimbabwe’s environment minister said Chinese multinationals were “operating like makorokoza miners”, a scornful term for illegal gold-panners.

Chinese built projects were so poorly contructed that the roads washed away in the rains, and buildings cracked and had to be closed.

Africans claim Chinese are paying less than minimum wage, are unfair competition, and are paying bribes.  Some of that is true.  But tens of thousands of Chinese businessmen have spread themselves across the continent.  they are committed to building the new Africa.

Many dream of a new life. Miners and builders see business opportunities in Africa, and greater freedom (to be their own bosses and speak their minds, but also to pollute). A Chinese government survey of 1,600 companies shows the growing use of Africa as an industrial base. Manufacturing’s share of total Chinese investment (22%) is catching up fast with mining (29%)

Chinese are using Africa to practice on:

In Africa they can learn the ropes in a region where competition is weak. The continent—soon to be ringed with Chinese free-trade ports—is a stepping stone to a commercial presence around the globe.

Will what they learn here eventually be used against us?

It’s Really Big

Since we are studying Africa:

true-size-of-africa.jpg (JPEG Image, 2482×1755 pixels) – Scaled (28%).

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