A Throwback to its Origins

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Pre-colonial Africa

Pre-colonial Africa possessed perhaps as many as 10,000 different states and polities characterized by many different sorts of political organization and rule. By the ninth century AD, these included small family groups of hunter-gatherers, more structured clan groups and also powerfull  states like Ghana,Gao, and the Kanem-Bornu Empire. Ghana declined in the eleventh century, but was succeeded by the Mali Empire which consolidated much of western Sudan in the thirteenth century.

 In the forested regions of the West African coast, independent kingdoms grew with little influence from the Muslim north, a region that would experience a fusion between Almoravids (berber from the Sahara) and Arab ( migrated from the Arabian Peninsula), resulting in Arabized locals, under the unifying framework of Islam.

Height of slave trade

Between the 15th and the 19th centuries (500 years), the Atlantic slave trade took an estimated 7–12 million slaves to the New World, which over the following centuries would debilitate the region’s population and economy.

In West Africa, the decline of the Atlantic slave trade in the 1820s caused dramatic economic shifts in local polities. The gradual decline of slave-trading, prompted by a lack of demand for slaves in the New World, increasing anti-slavery legislation in Europe and America, and the British Royal Navy’s increasing presence off the West African coast, obliged African states to adopt new economies.

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Colonialism

In the late 19th century, the European imperial powers engaged in a major territorial scramble and occupied most of the continent, creating many colonial territories, and leaving only two fully independent states: Ethiopia (known to Europeans as “Abyssinia”), and Liberia. Egypt and Sudan were never formally incorporated into any European colonial empire; however, after the British occupation of 1882, Egypt was effectively under British administration until 1922.

Independence Struggles

Imperial rule by Europeans would continue until after the conclusion of World War II, when almost all remaining colonial territories gradually obtained formal Independence. Independence movements in Africa gained momentum following World War II, which left the major European powers weakened.

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Post-colonial Africa

Today, Africa contains 54 sovereign countries, most of which have borders that were drawn during the era of European colonialism. Since colonialism, African states have frequently been hampered by instability, corruption, violence, and authoritarianism. The vast majority of African states are republics that operate under some form of the presidential system of rule. However, few of them have been able to sustain democratic governments on a permanent basis, and many have instead cycled through a series of coups, producing military dictatorships.

 

 

 

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