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Sub-Saharan Africa is a geographical term used to describe the area of the African continent which lies south of the Sahara, or those African countries which are fully or partially located south of the Sahara. It contrasts with North Africa, which is considered a part of the Arab world.

The Sahel is the transitional zone between the Sahara and the tropical savanna (the Sudan region) and forest-savanna mosaic to the south. The Horn of Africa and large areas of Sudanmarker are geographically part of sub-Saharan Africa, but nevertheless show strong Middle Eastern influence and, with the exception of Ethiopiamarker, are also part of the Arab world.

The Sub-Saharan region is also known as Black Africa, in reference to its many black populations. Notably, commentators in Arabic in the medieval period used a similar term, bilâd as-sûdân, which literally translates to "land of the blacks" in contrast with populations of the classic Islamic world.

Since around 5,400 years ago, the Saharan and sub-Saharan regions of Africa have been separated by the extremely harsh climate of the sparsely populated Sahara, forming an effective barrier interrupted by only the Nile River in Sudan, though the Nile was blocked by the river's cataracts. The Sahara Pump Theory explains how flora and fauna (including Homo sapiens) left Africa to penetrate the Middle East and beyond to Europe and Asia. African pluvial periods are associated with a "wet Sahara" phase during which larger lakes and more rivers exist.

Climate zones and ecoregions

Sub-Saharan Africa has a wide variety of climate zones or biomes. South Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congomarker in particular are considered Megadiverse countries.


Sub-Saharan Africa is historically known as "Ethiopia" or "Aethiopia".


The East African Rift region is the presumed area of human origins. Homo sapiens appeared some 250,000 years ago, and spread within Africa, to Southern Africa (L1) and West Africa (L2), before also migrating out of Africa some 70,000 years ago (L3).

After the Sahara became a desert, it did not present a totally impenetrable barrier for travelers between North and South due to the application of animal husbandry towards carrying water, food, and supplies across the desert. Prior to the introduction of the camel, the use of oxen for desert crossing was common, and trade routes followed chains of oases that were strung across the desert. It is thought that the camel was first brought to Egypt after the Persian Empire conquered Egypt in 525 BC, although large herds did not become common enough in North Africa to establish the trans-Saharan trade until the eighth century AD.

East Africa

Historical African states and empires

Sphinx of Nubian Emperor Tuharqa

The distribution of the Nilo-Saharan linguistic phylum is evidence of a certain coherence of the central Sahara, the Sahel and East Africa in prehistoric times. Much of Ancient Egypt's culture came from sub-Saharan Africa including her religion, agriculture, and language via the Red Sea Hills. Ancient Nubia appears to have acted as a link connecting Ancient Egypt to sub-Saharan Africa, based on traces of prehistoric south-to-north gene flow. Kush, Nubia at her greatest phase is considered sub-saharan Africa's oldest urban civialization. Nubia was a major source of gold for the ancient world. Accordingly, the Old Nubian language is itself a member of the Nilo-Saharan phylum. Old Nubian (arguably besides Meroitic) represents the oldest attested African language outside the Afro-Asiatic group.

The Axumite Empire spanned the southern Sahara and the Sahel along the western shore of the Red Sea. Located in northern Ethiopiamarker and Eritreamarker, Aksum was deeply involved in the trade network between Indiamarker and the Mediterraneanmarker. Emerging from ca. the 4th century BC, it rose to prominence by the 1st century AD. It was succeeded by the Zagwe dynasty in the 10th century.

Parts of northwestern Somaliamarker came under the control of Ethiopian Empire in the 14th century, until in 1527 a revolt under Imam Ahmad ibn Ibrihim al-Ghazi led to an invasion of Ethiopia. The Ajuran dynasty ruled parts of East Africa from the 16th to 20th centuries.

Further south in East Africa, during the first millennium AD, Nilotic and Bantu-speaking peoples moved into the region, and the latter now comprise three-quarters of Kenya's population. Increased trade (namely with Arab merchants) and the development of ports saw the birth of Swahili culture. Developed from an outgrowth of indigenous Bantu settlements, the Swahili Coast of Kenyamarker, Tanzania and northern Mozambiquemarker was part of the east African region which traded with the Arab world and India especially for ivory and slaves. Swahili, a Bantu language with many Arabic, Persian and other Middle Eastern and South Asian loan words, developed as a lingua franca for trade between the different peoples.

In 1498, Vasco da Gama became the first European to reach the East African coast, and by 1525 the Portuguesemarker had subdued the entire coast. Portuguese control lasted until the early 18th century, when Arabs from Omanmarker established a foothold in the region. Assisted by Omani Arabsmarker, the indigenous coastal dwellers succeeded in driving the Portuguese from the area north of the Ruvuma Rivermarker by the early 18th century.

West Africa

Fortifications were significant in West Africa, the Wall of Benin was the second largest man made structure in the world

The Bantu expansion is a major migration movement originating in West Africa around 2500 BC, reaching East and Central Africa by 1000 BC and Southern Africa by the early centuries AD.

The Nok culturemarker is known from a type of terracotta figure found in Nigeria, dating to between 500 BC and AD 200.

There were a number of medieval kingdoms of the southern Sahara and the Sahel, based on trans-Saharan trade, including the Ghana Empire and the Mali Empire, Songhai Empire, the Kanem Empire and the subsequent Bornu Empire.

In the forrest zone, several states and empires emerge. The Ashante Empire arose in the sixteenth century, in modern day Ghana and Ivory Coast. Other major states included, the kingdoms of Ifẹmarker and Oyo in the western block of Nigeria became prominent about 700–900 and 1400 respectively, and center of Yoruba culture. The Yoruba's built massive mud walls around their cities, the most famous Songbo's Eredo, the largest man made structure in all of Africa. Another prominent kingdom in south western Nigeria was the Kingdom of Benin(1440–1897), whose power lasted between the 15th and 19th century. Their dominance reached as far as the well known city of Eko which was named Lagosmarker by the Portuguese traders and other early European settlers. The Edo speaking people of Benin are known for the Walls of Benin, which was the largest man-made structure(lengthwise) in the world, second only to the Great Wall of China, according to the Guinnes Book of World Records.

In the 18th century, the Oyo and the Aro confederacy were responsible for most of the slaves exported from Nigeria.Following the Napoleonic wars, the British expanded trade with the Nigerian interior. In 1885, British claims to a West African sphere of influence received international recognition and in the following year the Royal Niger Company was chartered under the leadership of Sir George Taubman Goldie. In 1900, the company's territory came under the control of the British Government, which moved to consolidate its hold over the area of modern Nigeria. On January 1, 1901, Nigeriamarker became a Britishmarker protectorate, part of the British Empire, the foremost world power at the time.

By 1960, most of the region received independence from colonial rule.

Central Africa

At Urewe, in the first half of the 1st millennium BC. There follow a series of southwards advances, establishing a Congomarker nucleus by the end of the 1st millennium BC. In a final movement, the Bantu expansion reaches Southern Africa in the 1st millennium AD.

During the 1300, the Luba Kingdom in Southeast Congo near Lake Kisale came about under a king, whose political authority came from religious spiritual legitimacy and is seen as a spiritual guardian. The kingdom controlled agriculture and trade in the region of salt and iron from the north, copper from the Zambian/Congo copper belt.

Rival kingship factions who split from the Luba Kingdom later moved among the Lunda people, marrying into its elite and laying the foundation of the Lunda Empire in the 1500s. The ruling dynasty centralised authority among the Lunda, under the Mwata Yamyo or Mwaant Yaav. The Mwata Yamyo's legitimacy, like the Luba king, came from being viewed as a spiritual religious guardian. This system of religious spiritual kings was spread to most of central Africa by rivals in kingship migrating and forming new states. Many new states kings received legitimacy by claiming descent from the Lunda dynasties.

Another significant kingdom in west central Africa was the Kingdom of Kongo, which existed from the Atlantic west to the Kwango river to the east. During the 1400s, the Bakongo farming community was united with the capital at Mbanza Kongo, under the king title , Manikongo.

Other significant states and peoples included the Kuba Kingdom, producers of the famous raffia cloth, the Eastern Lunda, Bemba, Burundimarker, Rwandamarker, and the Kingdom of Ndongo.

Southern Africa

Great Zimbabwe: Tower in the Great Enclosure.
Settlements of Bantu-speaking peoples, who were iron-using agriculturists and herdsmen, were already present south of the Limpopo Rivermarker by the 4th or 5th century (see Bantu expansion) displacing and absorbing the original Khoi-San speakers. They slowly moved south and the earliest ironworks in modern-day KwaZulu-Natal Province are believed to date from around 1050. The southernmost group was the Xhosa people, whose language incorporates certain linguistic traits from the earlier Khoi-San people, reaching the Fish Rivermarker, in today's Eastern Cape Province.

Monomotapa was a medieval kingdom (c. 1250–1629) which used to stretch between the Zambezimarker and Limpopomarker rivers of Southern Africa in the modern states of Zimbabwemarker and Mozambiquemarker. It enjoys great fame for the ruins at its old capital of Great Zimbabwemarker.

In 1487, Bartolomeu Dias became the first European to reach the southernmost tip of Africa. In 1652, a victualling station was established at the Cape of Good Hopemarker by Jan van Riebeeck on behalf of the Dutch East India Company. For most of the 17th and 18th centuries, the slowly-expanding settlement was a Dutch possession.

Great Britainmarker seized the Cape of Good Hopemarker area in 1795, ostensibly to stop it falling into the hands of the French but also seeking to use Cape Townmarker in particular as a stop on the route to Australia and India. It was later returned to the Dutch in 1803, but soon afterwards the Dutch East India Company declared bankruptcy, and the British annexed the Cape Colony in 1806.

The Zulu Kingdom (1817–79) was a Southern African tribal state in what is now Kwa-Zulu Natal in south-eastern South Africa. The small kingdom gained world fame during and after the Anglo-Zulu War.

During the 1950s and early 1960s, most sub-saharan African nations achieved independence from imperialist rule.

Demographics and economy

Sub-Saharan Africa is the poorest region in the world, suffering from the effects of economic mismanagement, corruption in local government, and inter-ethnic conflict. The region contains most of the least developed countries in the world. The sub-Saharan African countries form the bulk of the ACP countries. Malaria is a chronic impediment to economic development. The disease slows growth by about 1.3% per year through lost time due to illness and the cost of treatment and prevention measures. According to the World Bank, the region's GDP would have been 32% higher in 2003 had the disease been eradicated in 1960.

The population of sub-Saharan Africa was 800 million in 2007. The current growth rate is 2.3%. The UN predicts for the region a population of nearly 1.5 billion in 2050.

Sub-Saharan African countries top the list of countries and territories by fertility rate with 40 of the highest 50, all with TFR greater than 4 in 2008. All are above the world average except South Africa. Figures for life expectancy, malnourishment, infant mortality and HIV/AIDS infections are also dramatic. More than 40% of the population in sub-Saharan countries is younger than 15 years old, as well as in the Sudanmarker with the exception of South Africa.

Sub-Saharan Africa has a very high child mortality rate. While in 2002, one in six (17%) children died before the age of five, by 2007 this rate had declined to one in seven (15%). The leading cause of death was malaria infection.

Besides bad news in Zimbabwe, Congo, Sudan, and Kenya, most African governments have become more transparent and democratic. Most African governments were elected by the people and enjoys the support of the populace. Last year 54 million Africans voted in 19 peaceful presidential and parliamentary elections.

Foreign direct investment in Africa has grown at an average of 146 per cent a year over the last 22 years to reach US$36billion in 2007, while trade between Africa and the rest of the world particularly Asia has been steadily increasing. Most notable, bilateral trade between China and Africa jumped 45 per cent in 2008 to reach US$107 billion, the bulk of which went to sub-saharan Africa.

Real economic growth in 2 out of 5 sub-Saharan countries was triple that of the US economy last year, on a pace that rivals that of Southeast Asia in 1980. African economies from Senegal to Benin to the Democratic Republic of Congo are more diversified. Growth in the region is expected to hit 6.5 percent.

Sub-Saharan Africa’s economy will probably expand 1.3 percent this year, down from 5.5 percent in 2008, and compared with a forecast of 1.5 percent made by the IMF in July. Growth will rebound to 4.1 percent in 2010 as global trade improves.

Health care

In 1987, the Bamako Initiative conference organized by the World Health Organization was held in Bamakomarker, and helped reshape the health policy of sub-Saharan Africa. The new strategy dramatically increased accessibility through community-based healthcare reform, resulting in more efficient and equitable provision of services.A comprehensive approach strategy was extended to all areas of health care, with subsequent improvement in the health care indicators and improvement in health care efficiency and cost.

As of October 2006, many governments face difficulties in implementing policies aimed at tackling the effects of the AIDS pandemic due to lack of technical support despite a number of mitigating measures.

Oil and Minerals

Sub-Saharan Africa is rich in minerals. The region is a major exporter to the world of gold, uranium, chrome, vanadium, antimony, coltan, bauxite, iron ore, copper, and manganese. South Africa is a major exporter of manganese. Sub-saharan Africa produces 33% of the world's bauxite with Guinea the major supplier. Zambia is a major producer of copper.

Sub-saharan Africa produces 49% of the world's diamonds.


Agriculture has always been an integral activity in Sub-saharan Africa. Sub-saharan Africa has more variety of grains than anywhere in the world. Between 13,000 and 11,0000 BCE wild grains began to be collected as a source of food in the cataract region of the nile, south of Egypt. The collecting of wild grains as source of food spread to Syria, parts of Turkey and Iran by the eleventh millennium BCE. By the tenth and ninth millennia southwest Asians domesticated their wild grains, wheat and barley after the notion of collecting wild grains was spread from the Nile.

Numerous crops have been domesticated in the region and spread to world. These crops included sorghum, castor beans, coffee, cotton okra, black-eyed peas, watermelon, gourd, and pearl millet. Other domesticated crops included teff, enset, African rice, yams, kola nuts, oil palm, and raffia palm..

Domesticated animals included the guinea fowl and the donkey.

Agriculture represent 20% to 30% of GDP in Sub-Saharan Africa. Agriculture represent 50% of exports. In some cases, 60% to 90% of the labor force are employed in Agriculture .

Most agricultural activity in Sub-Saharan Africa is subsistence farming. This has made agricultural activity vulnerable to climate change and global warming. Biotechnology has been advocated to create high yield, pest and environmentally resistant crops in the hands of small farmers. The Bill and Malinda Gates foundation are strong advocates and donors to this cause. Biotechnology and GM crops have met resistance both by Sub-Saharan Africans and Environmental groups.

Cash crops include cotton, coffee, tea, cocoa, sugar, and tobacco.

The OECD says Africa has the potential to become an agricultural superbloc, if it can unlock the wealth of the savannahs by allowing farmers to use their land as collateral for credit.Recently, there have been a trend to purchase large tracts of land in Sub-sahara for agricultural use by developing countries.Earlier in 2009, legendary hedge fund speculator George Soros highlighted a new farmland buying frenzy caused by growing population, scarce water supplies and climate change. Chinese interests bought up large swathes of Senegal to supply it with sesame. Aggressive moves by China, South Korea and Gulf states to buy vast tracts of agricultural land in Sub-Saharan Africa could soon be limited by a new global international protocol.

Languages and ethnic groups

Sub-saharan Africa displays more diversity than anywhere in the world. This is more apparent in the number of languages spoken. The region speaks 2000 languages, which is 1/3 of the world's total.The Niger-Congo language family covers much of Sub-Saharan Africa and is probably the largest language family in the world in terms of different languages.

Speakers of Bantu languages (part of the Niger-Congo family) are the majority in southern, central and east Africa proper. But there are also several Nilotic groups in East Africa, and a few remaining indigenous Khoisan ('San' or 'Bushmen') and Pygmy peoples in southern and central Africa, respectively. Bantu-speaking Africans also predominate in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, and are found in parts of southern Cameroon and southern Somalia. In the Kalahari Desertmarker of Southern Africa, the distinct people known as the Bushmen (also "San", closely related to, but distinct from "Hottentots") have long been present. The San are physically distinct from other Africans and are the indigenous people of southern Africa. Pygmies are the pre-Bantu indigenous peoples of central Africa.

South Africa has the largest populations of whites, Indians and Coloureds in Africa. The term "Coloured" is used to describe persons of mixed race in South Africa and Namibiamarker. People of European descent in South Africa include the Afrikaner and a sizeable populations of Anglo-Africans and Portuguese Africans. Madagascarmarker's population is predominantly of mixed Austronesian (Pacific Islander) and African origin. The area of southern Sudanmarker is inhabited by Nilotic people.

List of major languages of Sub-Saharan Africa by region, family and total number of native speakers in millions:

East Africa

West Africa

Southern Africa

Central Africa


Traditional African religions can be broken into linguistic cultural groups, with common themes. Among the Niger-Congo are the belief in a creator God; ancestor spirits; territorial spirits; evil caused by human ill will and neglecting ancestor spirits; priest of territorial spirits. Among the Nilo-Saharan are the belief in Divinity; evil is caused by divine judgement and retribution; prophets as middlemen between Divinity and man. Among Afro-Asiatic speakers is henotheism (belief in one's own gods but accepting the existence of other gods); evil is caused by malevolent spirits. Khoisan religion is non-theistic but a belief in a Spirit or Power of existence which can be tapped in a trance-dance; trance-healers.

North Africa is strongly dominated by Islam, while Sub-Saharan Africa—with the exception of the predominantly Muslim Horn of Africa, Sudanmarker, Swahili coast, and the Sahel -- is mostly Christian or home to many traditional African religions.

Traditional Sub-saharan African religion displays very complex ontology, cosmology, and metaphysics.Mythologies for example demonstrated the difficulty fathers of creations had in bringing about order from chaos. Order is what is right and natural and any deviation is chaos. Sub-saharan cosmology and ontology is neither simple or linear. It defines duality, the material and immaterial, male and female, heaven and earth. Common principles of being and becoming are widespread: Among the Dogon, the principle of Amma(being) and Nummo(becoming), among the Bambara Pemba(being) and Faro(becoming),

West Africa

Central Africa

East Africa

Southern Africa


Traditional Sub-Saharan African music is as diverse as her people. The common perception of Sub-Saharan African music is that it is rhythmic music centered around the drums. It is partially true. A large part of Sub-Saharan music, mainly among Niger-Congo linguistic groups is rhythmic and centered around the drum. Sub-Saharan music is polyrhythmic, usually consisting of multiple rhythms in one composition. Dance involves moving multiple body parts. These aspect of Sub-Saharan music has been transferred to the new world by enslaved Africans and can be seen in its influence on music forms as Jazz, Rhythm and Blues, Rock & Roll, Salsa, and Rap music.

But Sub-Saharan music involves a lot of music with strings, horns, and very little poly-rhythms. Music from the eastern sahel and along the nile, among the Nilo-Saharan, made extensive use of strings and horns in ancient times. Among the Afro-Asiatics, we see extensive use of string instruments. Dancing involve swaying body movements and footwork. Among the Khoisans extensive use of string instruments with emphasis on footwork.

Modern Sub-saharan African music has been influence by music from the New World (Jazz, Salsa, Rhythm and Blues etc.) vice-versa being influenced by enslaved Sub-saharan Africans. Popular styles are Mbalax in Senegal and Gambia, Highlife in Ghana, Zoblazo in Ivory Coast, Makossa in Cameroon, Soukous in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kizomba in Angola, and Mbaqanga in South Africa. New World styles like Salsa, Rap, Reggae, and Zouk also have widespread popularity.


Sub-Saharan African art is the oldest in the world. The oldest abstract form of art is found in the Blombos Cavemarker at the cape in South Africa, dated 77,000 years. The Blombos Cavemarker represent what is referred to as rock art, man's earliest art form. Sub-saharan Africa has some of the most varied style of rock art in the world.

Although Sub-saharan African art is very diverse there are some common themes. One is the use of the human figure. Second, the preference for sculpture. Sub-saharan art is meant to be experience three dimensionly, not two dimensionly. A house is meant to be experience from all angles. Third, Art is meant to be performed. Sub-saharan Africans have specific name for mask. The name incorporates the sculpture, the dance, and the spirit that incorporates the mask. The name denotes all three elements. Fourth, art that serves a practical function, utilitarian. The artist and craftsman are not separate. A sculpture shaped like a hand can be used as a stool. Fifth, the use of Fractals or non-linear scaling. The shape of the whole is the shape of the parts at different scales. Before the discovery of fractal geometry, Louis Senghor, Senegal’s first president, referred to this as “dynamic symmetry.” William Fagg, the British art historian, compared it to the logarithmic mapping of natural growth by biologist D’Arcy Thompson. Lastly, Sub-saharan art is visually abstract, instead of naturalistic. Sub-saharan art represents spiritual notions, social norms, ideas, values, etc. An artist might exaggerated the head of a sculpture in relations to the body not because he does not know anatomy but because he wants to illustrate that the head is the seat of knowledge and wisdom. The visual abstraction of African art was very influential in the works of modernist artist like Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Jacques Lipchitz.


Sub-saharan African cuisine like everything about Africa is very diverse. A lot of regional overlapping occurs, but there are dominant elements region by region.
A plate of fufu accompanied with peanut soup
West African cuisine can be described as starchy, flavorfully spicey. Dishes include fufu, kenkey, couscous, garri, foutou, and banku. Ingredients are of native starchy tubers, yams, cocoyams, and cassava. Grains include millet, sorghum, and african rice, usually in the sahel, are incorporated. Oils include palm oil and shea butter(sahel). One finds recipes that mixes fish and meat. Beverages are palm wine( sweet or sour) and millet beer. Roasting, baking, boiling, frying, mashing, and spicing are all cooking techniques.

East African cuisine reflects its islamic, geographical Indian Ocean cultural links. Dishes include ugali, injera, wat, sukumi wiki, and halva. Spices such as curry, saffron, cloves, cinnamon, pomegranate juice, cardamon, ghee, and sage are used, especially among muslims. Meat includes cattle, sheep, and goats, but is rarily eaten since its viewed as currency and wealth. In the Horn of Africa, pork and non-fish seafood is avoided by Christians and Muslims. Dairy products and all meats are avoided during lent by Ethiopians. Maize(corn) is a major staple from Sudan to southern Africa. Cornmeal is used to make ugali, a popular dish with different names from Sudan to southern Africa. Teff is used to make injera or canjeero(Somali) bread. Other important foods include enset,noog, lentils, rice, banana, leafy greens, chiles, peppers, cocconut milk and tomatoes. Beverages are coffee(domesticated in Ethiopia), chai tea, fermented beer from banana or millet. Cooking techniques include roasting and marinating.

Central African cuisine connects with all major regions of Sub-saharan Africa: Its cuisine reflects that. Ugali and fufu are eaten in the region. Its cuisine is very starchy and spicy hot. Dominant crops include plantains, cassava, peanuts, chillis, and okra. Meats include beef, chicken, and sometimes exotic meats called bush meat (antelope, warthog, crocodile). Widespread spicy hot fish cuisine is one of the differentiating aspects. Mushroom is sometimes used as a meat substitute.

Traditional Southern African cuisine surrounds meat. Traditional society typically focused on raising, sheep, goats, and especially cattle. Dishes include braai (barbecue meat),sadza, bogobe, pap (fermented cornmeal), milk products (buttermilk, yoghurt). Crops utilized are sorghum, maize (corn), pumpkin beans, leafy greens, and cabbage. Beverages include ting (fermented sorghum or maize), milk, chibuku (milky beer). Influences from the Indian and Malay community can be seen its use of curries, sambals, pickled fish, fish stews, chutney, and samosa. European influences can be seen in cuisines like biltong (sausages), potjies(stews of maize, onions, tomatoes), french wines, and crueler or koeksister (milk tart).


man wearing boubou and woman wearing kaftan
Like most of the world, Sub-saharan Africans have adopted Western style clothing. In some country like Zambia used Western clothing have flooded markets, causing great angst to the retail community. Sub-saharan Africa boast its own tradional clothing style. Cotton seems to be the dominant material. It was domesticated in Nubia and spread.
In east Africa, one finds extensive use cotton clothing. Shemma, shama, and kuta are types of Ethiopian clothing. Kanga are Swahili cloth that comes in rectangular shapes, made of pure cotton, and put together to make clothing. Kitenges are similar to kangas and kikoy, but are of a thicker cloth, and have an edging only on a long side. Kenyamarker, Uganda, Tanzania, and Sudanmarker are some of the African countries where kitenge is worn. In Malawimarker, Namibiamarker and Zambiamarker, kitenge is known as Chitenge. One of the unique materials, which is not a fiber and is used to make clothing is barkcloth, an innovation of the baganda people of Uganda. It came from the Mutuba tree (Ficus natalensis).On Madagascar a type of cloth called Lamba Mpanjaka, made out of silk, was worn like a toga.

In West Africa, again cotton is the material of choice. In the Sahel mainly and other parts of West Africa we have the boubou(male) and kaftan(female) style of clothing. Kente cloth created by the Akan people of Ivory Coast and Ghana, from silk of the various moth species in West Africa. It is sometimes used to make dashiki and kufi. Adire is a type of Yoruba cloth that is starch resistant. Raffia cloth and barkcloth are also utilized in the region.

In Central Africa, the Kuba people developed raffia cloth from the raffia plant fibers. It was widely used in the region. Barkcloth was also extensively used.

In Southern Africa one finds numerous use of animal hide and skins for clothing. The Ndau in central mozambique and the Shona mixed hide with barkcloth, cotton cloth. Cotton cloth was referred to as machira. Xhosa, Tswana, Sotho, and Swazi, also made extensive use of hides. Hides came from cattle, sheep, goat, and elephant. Leopard skins were coveted and was a symbol of kingship in Zulu society. Skins were tanned to form leather, dyed, and embedded with beads.

List of countries

Only six African countries are not geographically a part of Sub-Saharan Africa: Algeriamarker, Egyptmarker, Libyamarker, Moroccomarker, Tunisiamarker, Western Saharamarker (claimed by Morocco). Together with the Sudanmarker, they form the UN subregion of Northern Africa. Mauritaniamarker and Nigermarker only include a band of the Sahel along their southern borders. All other African countries have at least significant portions of their territory within Sub-Saharan Africa.

Central Africa



ECCAS (Economic Community of Central African States)

CEMAC (Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa)


  • (autonomous region of Sudanmarker with independence referendum in 2011)

East Africa



East African Community

  • (also in SADC)
  • (also in ECCAS)
  • (also in ECCAS)

Horn of Africa

Southern Africa / SADC



  • (also in ECCAS)
  • (sometimes included, not part of the African continent)

West Africa


ECOWASmarker (Economic Community of West African Statesmarker)

UEMOA (West African Economic and Monetary Union)

Science and Technology


Forty percent of African scientists live in OECD countries, predominantly western countries. This has been described as an African brain drain. Even with the drain, Sub-saharan Africa generates lots of growth in enrollment in higher education. Enrollments in sub-Saharan African universities tripled between 1991 and 2005, expanding at an annual rate of 8.7 percent, which is one of the highest regional growth rates in the world. In the last 10 to 15 years increase mobility to pursue university level degrees abroad has increased. In some OECD countries, like the United States, Sub-saharan Africans are the most educated immigrant group.

Energy and Power

50% of Africa is rural, with no access to electricity. Africa generates 47 MW of electricity that is less than 0.6% of global market share. Many countries are besieged by power shortages.

Because of rising prices in commodities such coal and oil, thermal sources of energy are proving to be too expensive for power generation in Sub-saharan Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to build additional hydropower generation capacity of at least 20,165 MW by 2014. The region has the potential to generate 1,750 TWh of energy, of which only 7 per cent has been explored. African governments are taking advantage of the readily available hydro resources to broaden their energy mix.Hydro Turbine Markets in Sub-Saharan Africa generated revenues of $120.0 million in 2007 and is estimated to reach $425.0 million. Asian countries, notably China and Japan, are playing an active role in power projects across the African continent. The majority of these power projects are hydro-based because of China's vast experience in the construction of hydro-power projects and part of the Energy & Power Growth Partnership Services programme.

With low electrification numbers, Sub-saharan Africa with access to the Sahara and being in the tropical zones(365 days of sun) has massive potential for solar photovoltaic(PV) electrical potential. 600 million people could be served with electricity based on its PV potential. China is promising to train 10,000 technicians from Africa and other developing countries in the use of solar energy technologies over the next five years. Training African technicians to use solar power is part of the China-Africa science and technology cooperation agreement signed by the Chinese science minister and African counterparts during premier Wen Jiabao's visit to Ethiopia last December.


Radio is the major source of information in Sub-saharan Africa though that might change.

Cell phone usage in Sub-saharan has brought about a revolution. In Sub-saharan Africa, average penetration stands at more than a third of the population. Sub-saharan countries such as Gabon, Seychelles, and South Africa now boast almost 100% penetration. Only five Sub-saharan African countries -- Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia -- still have a penetration of less than 10%. Cellphones are used to transfer money using the SMS feature and searching for best prices for farmer's produce. For example in Niger delivery of the best price information for produce has resulted in lower prices for the consumer and increased profits for traders. Broadband penetration outside of South Africa has been limited and where it is exorbitantly expensive.

Television is the second major source of information for most Sub-saharan Africans.Due to power shortages, the spread of television viewing has been limited. 1 in 13 have television in Sub-saharan Africa a total of 62 million. But those in the television industry view Sub-saharan Africa as an untapped green market. Digital television and pay for service are on the rise.


Less than 40 percent of rural Africans live within two kilometers of an all-season road, the lowest level of rural accessibility in the developing world. Spending on roads in Sub-Saharan Africa averages just below 2 percent of GDP with varying degree among countries. This compares with the 1 percent of GDP that is typical in industrialized countries, and the 2–3 percent of GDP found in fast-growing emerging economies. Although the level of effort is high relative to the size of Africa’s economies, it remains little in absolute terms, with low-income countries spending an average of about US$7 per capita per year.

See also


  2. Sub-Saharan Africa
  3. Arab League Online: League of Arab States
  4. UNESCO - Arab States
  5. Centre for Marketing, Information and Advisory Services for Fishery Products in the Arab Region
  6. Khair El-Din Haseeb et al., The Future of the Arab Nation: Challenges and Options, 1 edition (Routledge: 1991), p.54
  7. Halim Barakat, The Arab World: Society, Culture, and State, (University of California Press: 1993), p.80
  8. John Markakis, Resource conflict in the Horn of Africa, (Sage: 1998), p.39
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  • Taking Action to Reduce Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa, World Bank Publications (1997), ISBN 0821336983.

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