Kingdoms, Empires, and the Slave Trade

West Africa was home to several vast empires that shaped the culture and people of present-day Africa. Gold, salt, copper, and ivory were essential early trading commodities. Mining and acquiring these items brought enormous wealth to the region. Slavery became a component in the warfare between groups, as the winner usually took the captives to serve as servants or slaves. The Ghana Empire (790–1076 CE) was responsible for one of the early consolidations of power in West Africa. Though its power and wealth were vast, it was only the first of several empires to arise in the region.

After the Ghana Empire came the Mali Empire (1230–1600 CE), which was known for its wealth and size. The empire held significant mining operations, including gold, copper, and salt. Expanding along the Niger River and to the Atlantic coast, the Mali Empire extended over an area the size of Western Europe. Initially a federation of local groups, the empire incorporated many smaller provinces or kingdoms and had a significant influence on the region’s laws and cultural heritage.

The Niger River and the main empires of West Africa are indicated on this map. The shaded region indicates the furthest expanse of the Songhai Empire at its peak in the sixteenth century.

One of the indigenous states that evolved out of the Mali Empire was that of the Songhai people, who were located to the east of the central Mali Empire. The Songhai had been based around the city of Gao for centuries, and in the fifteenth century, they established the Songhai Empire, one of the largest empires in African history. The city of Timbuktu became prominent during this period as an urban center, and its educational institutions became well known. In the end, the Songhai Empire was defeated by Moroccan Berber forces that splintered the empire into many smaller kingdoms and ethnic clans.

South of the empires of the Niger River were coastal kingdoms, including the Ashanti and the Dahomey, which flourished during the colonial era. The local African groups had to contend with the colonial European traders and invaders, which had superior weapons and different technology. Besides the mining resources of gold-copper, salt, and ivory, the slave trade was a driving force that attracted trade ships from various European countries.

The Ashanti Empire was located along the Atlantic coast in an inland region of what is now Ghana and Ivory Coast; this area served as a trading corridor where goods from the northern regions crossed to make their way to the coastal trading towns. The Ashanti Empire took advantage of the trade opportunities and became wealthy. By the time the Europeans arrived, Ashanti trade relationships were well established and capable of supplying the colonial ships with slaves, ivory, and gold. The coastal area of Ghana was known as the Gold Coast during colonial times. Similarly, the country of Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire) got its name from its participation in the elephant ivory trade. The Ashanti were known for their involvement in the slave trade, and today must live with that legacy.

This region of West Africa bordering the Atlantic was called the Slave Coast because of the high number of local people from this area who were sold into the European slave trade and shipped to the Americas. The once-powerful Kingdom of Dahomey, east of the Ashanti Empire, was heavily involved in the slave trade. Slave trading with Europeans brought them rifles and other firearms that were useful in conflicts with their regional adversaries. A significant slave state along the Slave Coast, the kingdom attracted the spite of its neighbors as a pariah state for selling its war captives into transatlantic slavery rather than killing them, as was the custom in warfare. The Kingdom of Dahomey became the country of Benin after the colonial era.

The slave trade brought wealth to many of the slave-trading kingdoms on the African coast. The demand for slaves pushed many of the African kingdoms to expand their slave-trading activities, capturing more individuals whom they could sell to European slave traders. Millions of Africans were captured by other Africans only to be sold into slavery, placed on ships, and sent to slave owners in the Americas. The total number sold into the Atlantic slave trade will never be known, but estimates range somewhere between ten and twelve million.

States and kingdoms existed throughout Subsaharan Africa. Ancient kingdoms flourished in the region that is now Ethiopia. East Africa’s Axum Empire was an example of the powers of the early African savanna kingdoms located in the east. The struggles between Islam and Christianity divided the region and gave way to the African Transition Zone, which serves as the dividing line between the two religions. Ethiopia has retained its Christian heritage, while to the north and east Islam has prevailed. South of the equator, the ruins of Great Zimbabwe give testimony to the regional base of power that existed there in centuries past. The Zulu Empire thrived in the nineteenth century in the region that is now South Africa.

Colonialism in Subsaharan Africa

Wherever you go in the world, you cannot escape the impact of European colonialism. Subsaharan Africa was broadly affected by colonial activities, the legacy of which can be recognized to this day. Colonial powers of Europe ventured into Africa to claim colonies. Many African groups were instrumental in capturing and holding slaves to trade with the European merchants. These groups still exist and have had to live with the fallout of their role in the supply side of the slave trade.

Only the Kingdom of Ethiopia and the area of Liberia, which was established as a home for freed slaves, remained independent. In 1884, Otto von Bismarck of Germany hosted the Berlin Conference, which, to a high degree, determined how Africa was colonized. This conference included fourteen colonial European countries and the United States, and its purpose was to divide Africa and agree on colonial boundary lines. Germany had few claims in Africa; Bismarck was hoping to benefit by playing the other countries against each other. At the time, more than 80 percent of Africa remained free of colonial control. On a large map of Africa, claims were argued over, and boundary lines were drawn according to European agreements. By 1900, European colonial powers claimed most of Africa.


There was little regard for the concerns of local ethnic groups. Colonial boundaries divided close-knit communities into separate colonies. Ethnic boundaries were disregarded. Often-warring groups were placed together in the same colony. The Europeans, seeking profits from cheap labor and resources, did not consider the local people or culture and often employed brutal measures to subdue the local people. Most of the current borders in Africa are a result of the Berlin Conference, and many of the geopolitical issues that confront Africa today can be traced back to this event specifically and to colonialism in general.

European colonialism remained active in Africa until the end of World War II, which left many European countries economically exhausted. In 1945, the United Nations (UN) was established. One of the primary UN objectives was to oversee the decolonization of European colonies. Still, colonialism in Subsaharan Africa lingered on. It was not until the 1990s that the last colony was finally freed. The transition from colony to the independent nation itself caused conflict. Civil wars were fought over who would control the country after the Europeans were pushed out. The transition to full independence has exacted a heavy toll from African countries but has resulted in stronger political structures and greater democratic liberties in many cases. The first country to gain independence in Subsaharan Africa was Ghana in 1957.

During the era of independence after World War II, the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union enticed many of the African countries to support one or the other of the superpowers. The political pressure that divided African countries during the Cold War has persisted and is the basis of some of the current political problems. The European countries extracted raw materials and minerals from their African colonies, as well as slave labor. Varying degrees of attention was given to education, medical care, or infrastructure development. The dependency that a colony had had on a European country for economic income in some cases continued long after independence and may continue today. On the other hand, major technology transfers from Europe to Africa infused greater efficiencies into Africa’s economic activities. The imperial nature of colonialism and the divisive Cold War did bring about, in an unfortunate manner, the benefits of structured governments and greater democratic processes for many of the local areas of the realm.

From Colonialism to Independence

The transition from European colony to the independent state has not necessarily been a civil transition for African countries; likewise, independent African countries have struggled to create stable governments or peaceful conditions, though stable governments and peaceful conditions have been established in some cases. In nearly all cases, removing the colonial powers from Africa was only half the battle toward independence. The other half was establishing a functional, effective government.

Though each country has taken a slightly different path, most former colonies have endured civil unrest, conflict, or warfare in their push for stable governments. Coups, fraudulent elections, military regimes, and corruption have plagued the leadership in a number of African countries. Civil unrest usually precedes a change in leadership when political power regularly changes hands by a military coup or an overthrow of the current leader.

The realm has had difficulty developing and maintaining effective political systems with democratic leadership. Political leaders have come and gone, many have been replaced before their terms were over, and a few have stayed long after their terms ended. When a leader is elected democratically, it is common to have widespread accusations of corruption, voter fraud, or ballot box scandals. Such government mismanagement and corruption have been common problems.

The vacuum left by retreating colonial powers at times has been filled by authoritarian dictators or by leaders who assumed control of the government and then proceeded to pillage and plunder the state for personal gain or the enrichment of their clan or political cronies. After the colonial era, it was not uncommon for new leaders to be connected to the old colonial power and to adopt the language and business arrangements of the European colonizer. This gave them an advantage over their competitors and provided a means of income gained by the support of their former European colonial business partners, which often wanted to keep ties with their colonies to continue to exploit their resources for economic profits. Many of these leaders stayed in power because of military backing or authoritarian rule funded by the profits from selling minerals or resources to their former colonial masters.

A few countries are still struggling to bring about some order and unity, and despite all the negative issues, there have been democratic and relatively stable progressive governments in Africa that have emerged from the transition in recent years, which is a hopeful trend for the long term.

It is important to note that the objective of colonialism was to connect a colony with the mother country, not to connect African countries. As a result, little cooperation occurs between African countries. Each country interacts more with its European colonial counterpart about trade, economics, and cultural dynamics. European colonialism has isolated African countries from their neighboring countries and does not contribute to unity within or among African regions. Colonial powers often built new port cities to extract goods and resources from their colonies and transportation systems from the new ports to the interior to collect the resources and bring them to the port. However, the colonial powers did not build a network of transportation systems that connected the region as a whole. Colonial powers were intent on continuing dependence on the mother country so their colonies could be controlled and dominated.

The current wave of globalization based on corporate colonialism continues to encourage the same pattern of discouraging interaction between counties and instead encouraging trade with more economically powerful non-African countries. Most of the interaction between countries is a result of crisis or warfare, in which case large numbers of refugees cross the border into neighboring countries for personal survival or security. To begin to work together and promote trade, common transportation, security, and industry, fifteen West African states came together in 1975 to create the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Since then, additional political and economic agreements have been signed by various African countries. In 2001, the more expansive African Union was created to help African states compete in the international marketplace.

Economic Geography

The demographic data for each country in each region of Subsaharan Africa indicate the region’s human geography. Urban percentages, family size, income levels, and the other data that can indicate the lifestyle or development level are acutely helpful in understanding the trends in Subsaharan Africa. The Index of Economic Development illustrates the dynamics and conditions that exist in the realm. The data indicate the consistency of economic and development trends across Africa. The data does not, however, indicate differences in cultural dynamics and uniqueness in the ways that local people live. The interesting part of studying Subsaharan Africa is the many ethnic and cultural groups in each country that bring to the surface a wide array of global diversity in our human community. Within each country are microcosms of human societies that hold particular customs that maybe thousands of years old. Globalization and technological advancements challenge every cultural group to adapt and innovate to make a living yet provide continuity in their heritage. The remote cultural groups of Subsaharan Africa are most susceptible to the volatile nature of globalization, which threatens their current way of life.

Subsaharan Africa is a peripheral world region with neocolonial economic patterns. Peripheral regions usually supply raw materials, food, and cheap labor to the core industrial countries. Most of the population in Subsaharan Africa works in subsistence agriculture to make a living and feed their families. Families are large. In recent decades, there has been enormous rural-to-urban migration to major cities, which are incredibly overcrowded. Subsaharan Africa has more than 750 million people, and most earn the US equivalent of only one to three dollards per day.

There is no single major core economic area in Subsaharan Africa. This realm has many core cities, and the rest is a periphery. Many of the core cities are improving their technology and infrastructure and entering into the globalized economy. Even so, as much as 70 percent of the people still work in agriculture, leaving little time to develop a sizeable educated group of professionals to assist with social services and administrative responsibilities. The realm depends heavily on outside support for technical and financial assistance. Computers, medical equipment, and other high-tech goods are all imported. African states have formed trade agreements and have joined the African Union to assist each other in economic development and trade.

Subsaharan Africa has nearly forty urban areas of more than one million people. At the center of the central business districts (CBDs) are modern high-rise business offices well connected to the global economy. Outside the CBD are slums with no services and miserable, unsanitary conditions. The informal sector of the economy – that which is not regulated, controlled, or taxed – has become the primary system of doing business in most of the cities. The informal sector comprises trading, street markets, and any other business without financial records for cash transactions.

The lack of government regulation and control prevents taxes from being assessed or collected, which in turn diminishes support for public services or infrastructure. The formal sector of the economy – that which the government can regulate, control, and tax – is forced to foot the bill to operate the government and support public services such as education, security, and transportation. Despite the misery and unhealthy conditions of the slums where millions of people already live, more migrants from the countryside continue to shift to the city in search of jobs and opportunities. African cities are growing rapidly, many without organized planning.

If the index of economic development were applied to Subsaharan Africa, a clear pattern would emerge. Rural areas would be in the lower stages of development, and only a few developing areas would be higher than stage 3. A large percentage of this realm would be in stage 1 or 2 of this model. Countries with higher standards of living, such as South Africa or Botswana, would be working through stages 3 or 4. This region has one of the fastest-growing populations of the world and economically lags behind countries in the Northern Hemisphere, which have transitioned into the higher stages of the index of economic development.

Incomes, Urbanization, and Family Size

The socioeconomic data illustrate well the conditions for people in Africa in comparison to the rest of the world. African countries are at the lowest end of the statistics for development prospects. The larger cities are showing promise for advancement into the higher stages of development. Family sizes in rural countries are some of the largest in the world. The average fertility rate for much of Africa is about 5; in Mali and Niger, the rate is higher than 7. One-third to half of the populations of these countries are under the age of fifteen. Children make up most of the population in many areas – an indication that more substantial burdens are placed on women, meaning that women are not easily able to get an education or work outside the home.

The populations of West African countries are increasing rapidly and will double in about thirty years at the current rate. This trend places an extra burden on the economy and the environment. It is fueling one of the fastest rural-to-urban shifts in the world. West Africa is now only about 32 percent urban, and Burkina Faso and Niger are less than 20 percent urban, clear indications that agriculture is the largest sector of their economies and that most of the people live in rural areas or small villages. Personal income levels in West African countries are among the lowest in the world; as far as standard of living is concerned, these are emerging countries. Few economic opportunities exist for the millions of young people entering the employment market.

The United Nations Human Development Index lists most of Subsaharan Africa in the lower levels of the development index. Sierra Leone is the lowest in the world. Ghana and Senegal were the two countries listed in the medium range. Senegal is the lowest country in the medium category, just barely rising about the lowest tier. A country listed in the lowest tier of the medium category translates into a region with low availability of opportunities and advantages for its people. As a peripheral world region, the economic base is structured around agriculture with supportive extractive activities. Agricultural activities are renewable, but agricultural profit margins are slim. These countries are in a subsistence mode with a rapidly expanding population and few industrial or post-industrial activities to gain income.

Though most of Subsaharan African ranks low on the Human Development Index, most of the region is rich in cultural values, heritage, and natural resources such as precious metals and minerals. High levels of social interaction and community involvement bring about different cultural standards than those of a consumer society, which focuses more on the individual and less on community. Unless there is social unrest or open warfare, which does exist in various places, the people work hard to bring about a civil society based on family and tradition.


The population pyramids of Niger, Tanzania, and South Africa illustrate the population growth dynamics of Subsaharan Africa. Niger’s population pyramid illustrates the large family size and rapid population growth. Tanzania’s pyramid is similar but shows signs of slowing population growth. South Africa, which is more urbanized and industrialized, shows signs of declining family sizes and fewer children.

Languages in Subsaharan Africa

Subsaharan Africa covers a large land area more than 2.3 times the size of the United States. Thousands of ethnic groups are scattered throughout the realm. There is immense diversity within the 750 million people in Subsaharan Africa, and within each country are cultural and ethnic groups with their history, language, and religion. More than two thousand separate and distinct languages are spoken in all of Africa. More than a million people speak forty. Many local languages are not written down and have no historical record or dictionary. Local languages without a written history are usually the first to be lost as globalization affects the realm. Nigeria, with more than 130 million people, is the most populous country in Africa. It is about the size of Texas and Oklahoma combined, and the African Transition Zone cuts through the country’s northern portion. More than five hundred separate languages are spoken in Nigeria alone. Three of the six dominant languages in Subsaharan Africa—spoken by at least ten million people or more—are spoken in Nigeria: Hausa, Yoruba, and Ibo. The three remaining major languages of Subsaharan Africa are Swahili, Lingala, and Zulu.

Colonial activity changed much of how the African countries operated economically, socially, and politically. Language is one aspect of culture that indicates a colonial relationship. Many African countries today speak a European language as the official language. Mauritania is the only country that has Arabic as its official language. Nigeria has English plus other local languages. The official languages of most of West Africa are either French or English, and Guinea-Bissau’s official language is Portuguese.


This vestige of colonial power would seem inconsistent with the desire to be free of foreign domination. However, because often dozens to hundreds of local languages are spoken within the country, choosing the colonial language as the official language produces less of an advantage for one group wishing to dominate the political arena with its local language and heritage.

For example, a language problem arises when a government needs to print material for the country. What language do they use? In Nigeria, there would be more than five hundred possible languages. What if the leadership used a language only spoken by a few people? The language of those in power would provide an advantage over those that could not understand it. What if there were more than five hundred separate languages in Texas and Oklahoma? How would they function? This is why many African countries have chosen a colonial language as their country’s lingua franca, or national language. Ghana, which is the size of Minnesota, has more than eighty spoken languages. Ghana and Nigeria have both chosen English as their national language to provide a cohesive and inclusive method of addressing the language dilemma.

A portion of the two thousand languages spoken on the African continent will not survive. A large number of the languages are spoken by a small number of local groups that may or may not have a written text or alphabet. The influence of globalization causes the country’s lingua franca to overshadow local languages, which are relegated to the older generations that may not be fluent in the languages of global business and commerce. Young people often learn the lingua franca and may or may not pass their local language on to the next generation. This is how languages become extinct. Similar dynamics can be applied to local religious beliefs. Outside influence can often erode local beliefs and cause an evolution of religious tenets that eventually transform indigenous beliefs into patterns similar to the larger, more mainstream religions.

Religion in Subsaharan Africa

Before the monotheistic religions from the Middle East were even in existence, the people of Africa followed traditional animist beliefs. The diffusion of Christianity and Islam to the African continent convinced many African people to abandon their animist beliefs. African religions spread with the slave trade and became a part of the African Diaspora. Examples can be found in the Santeria religion in Cuba, Umbanda followers in Brazil, and Vodou (Voodoo) practitioners in Haiti. Many of these examples indicate a high rate of mixing between traditional religions and Christianity, something that is not as well accepted within Islam.

The current religious trends in Africa follow the pattern of the African Transition Zone. Most of the population north of the zone follows Islam, and most of the population living south of the zone follows Christianity. Large percentages of people in the region follow a wide array of traditional or animist beliefs. For example, as of 2010, more than 50 percent of the people of Togo still followed local religions not affiliated with Christianity or Islam. Only about 29 percent of the population claimed to be Christian, and even fewer claimed to follow Islam (Central Intelligence Agency).

Along the African Transition Zone, followers of one religion will clash with followers of the other. Countries such as Nigeria have a history of this type of social division, and Nigeria’s government allows Islamic Sharia law to take precedence over civil law in the country’s northern regions.


Both Islam and Christianity have been on the rise in Africa. As the local beliefs are replaced with monotheistic religions, there is more integration with either the West (Europe and America) or the Middle East. Religious activity through Christian missionaries or the advancement of Islam sometimes coincides with economic support being brought in through the same channels, which is often welcome and enhances the global relationships that occur.

However, Africa is still full of traditional religions with rich spiritual histories. Spiritual forces are found in the environment. Deities of all kinds are worshipped throughout Africa. Christianity and Islam are latecomers to the region but have made deep inroads into the African culture. Both compete for the souls of the African people.

Ethnic Divisions and Civil Wars

Subsaharan Africa is home to thousands of ethnic or traditional groups. Each has a separate identity and history, and often one group conflicts with another. The slave trade and the establishment of colonial political boundaries or policies exacerbated historical, ethnic hostilities. Major civil wars have been fought throughout the history of Subsaharan Africa and continue at present. Central Africa has endured ongoing brutal conflict in the past decade, with no solution in sight. More than five million people have died as a result of the civil war in the Congo (Zaire). Fighting continues between various factions over political control or control over natural resources, such as diamonds or gold. Civil wars are devastating to some African countries. Many other countries, such as Zimbabwe, Chad, and the Central African Republic, have also suffered economic disintegration as a result of severe political unrest.

Rwanda’s Tutsi-Hutu conflict has been historic in its violence and the senseless killing of innocent people. In 1994, the centuries-old conflict erupted into the violence of unprecedented proportions. Hutu militias took revenge on the Tutsis for years of suppression and massacred anyone who did not support the Hutu cause. Tutsi rebels finally gained strength, fought back, and defeated the Hutu militias. More than a million people were killed, and more than a million defeated Hutus fled as refugees to neighboring countries, where many died of cholera and dysentery in refugee camps.

The civil war in Rwanda and the many refugees it created destabilized the entire Central African region. The shift in population and the increase in military arms along the Zairian border resulted in an extensive civil war in The Congo (Zaire) that has resulted in the deaths of more than five million people, many by disease or starvation. Over three million deaths are estimated to have been related directly to the war and another two million by the harsh conditions in the region ( The civil wars in The Congo from 1996 to 2003 changed the cultural and political landscapes and destroyed valuable infrastructure. One of the driving forces in these wars is the control of valuable mineral resources found in the Great Rift Valley along the eastern boundary of the Congo. Diamonds, gold, copper, zinc, and other minerals are abundant in this region, and wealth that can be gained from the mining of these products attracts political forces to compete for their control.

Civil wars have wreaked havoc on the countries of Angola, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Somalia. All have experienced some amount of serious conflicts in the past decade. Many of the civil wars are not reported by the news media worldwide, even though the number of people affected, injured, and killed is deplorable. In places such as Ivory Coast, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe, the streets have become a battleground.

Creating stability in parts of Africa has been challenging, as civil unrest and political corruption continue in many African countries. The core industrialized countries have been hesitant to step in or invest in the peace and stability of Africa. Governments of more than a few African countries have been unable to bring stability or to provide for their people. For example, Somalia has no central government; instead, it is ruled by warlords and village chiefs. Corruption, dictatorial rule, and military force have been significant components of government rule in these cases.

HIV and AIDS in Subsaharan Africa

As if Subsaharan Africa did not have enough to work through to achieve stability, it must also cope with high numbers of people infected with HIV and AIDS. From South Africa to Kenya, there is a line of countries with some of the highest percentages of HIV-infected people in the world. HIV has infected more than 24 percent of adults in Botswana, and some villages have lost an entire generation of adults to AIDS. The AIDS pandemic has become a significant health crisis for Subsaharan Africa. According to the World Health Organization, as many as thirty million people in this realm are HIV-infected.


It is possible to live with HIV for years before dying of AIDS. HIV-infected individuals can pass the virus to others without knowing they have it, and millions of people die of AIDS in Subsaharan Africa without ever knowing they were infected. The lack of education, HIV testing, and medical services hinder progress toward stopping this deadly disease. Prevention is an ideal that has not materialized yet. Many people do not want to be tested out of fear of rejection by their families and friends if they are infected. AIDS will surely kill millions more in Africa before a solution is found.

Many other diseases are common in Subsaharan Africa. Mosquitoes spread illnesses such as malaria, ebola, and yellow fever, which are common throughout the realm. Sleeping sickness is spread by the tsetse fly, which can also infect cattle and livestock. Hepatitis is widespread. Schistosomiasis, tuberculosis, and typhoid are also prevalent. Unsanitary conditions and polluted water are breeding grounds for microbes that cause diseases. People living in less-than-sanitary conditions are more likely to come in contact with and become infected with these diseases and are also less likely to obtain medical attention at an early stage of the disease.

Tourism Potential

Subsaharan Africa has great potential for the development of tourism. Tourism is considered a postindustrial activity with mixed-income opportunities. If Africa can manage its resources and provide a safe environment for travelers, tourism will have a substantial impact on Africa’s economic growth and will play a significant role in its future.

Tourism is a growing sector of the global economy. Travel and tourism jobs are increasing worldwide. Africa as a whole attracts less than 5 percent of total world tourists and accounts for only a small percentage of international tourism income. Given the region’s slim share of the tourism market and the expected dynamic growth of the sector worldwide, Africa can expect to increase its share of global tourism activity substantially.

Subsaharan Africa has a robust supply-side potential to attract tourists. Beach resorts alone create a big draw for tourists. The coastal waters of the Indian Ocean boast some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, with plenty of opportunities for sailing, diving, or other water sports. South Africa is proud of its secluded beaches and beautiful coastline. Other well-known coastal tourist destinations include Zanzibar-Tanzania, Benguerra Island in Mozambique, and Seychelles. Other areas with tourism potential are the wildlife parks and game preserves. Cultural locations with a rich heritage of historical significance are growing in their attractiveness to and accessibility for world travelers.

Every African country, urban center, or rural village is its unique tourism magnet. The tourism business, however, is broader than just the sites themselves. Considerations need to be made for transportation to and from the country and final destination. Hotels and guest accommodations, such as food services, restaurants, and the availability of other types of consumer goods, need to be considered. Services need to be available that link the various components of a trip, such as guide services in national parks or city bus tours. The attractiveness and competitiveness of each tourism destination will depend on the site’s quality and accessibility.

Serious financial investment is needed to bring Subsaharan Africa up to par with the global marketplace. Africa has enormous potential for growth in its tourism market. Unfortunately, the same problems with tourism that were discussed in the lesson on tourism in the Caribbean (Chapter 5 “Middle America,” Section 5.4 “The Caribbean”) can be applied to Africa. There are many positive and negative aspects of tourism, and a trade-off is usually needed. Heavy tourism traffic might have a negative impact on the environment, cultural stereotypes tend to be exploited, and the disparity between wealthy tourists and service workers earning a modest wage may lend itself to divisions and social friction.

Tourism demands higher levels of security and public health at all levels. Money spent on tourism development is money not spent on schools or clinics. On the other hand, without tourism income, there are no jobs. Tourism brings to the surface both centrifugal and centripetal cultural forces. To be successful, Africa will need to balance out the economic need for tourism with its willingness to comply with the requirements of the tourism industry.


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Introduction to World Regional Geography Copyright © 2019 by R. Adam Dastrup, MA, GISP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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