Sub Saharan Africa

8 August 2016

During the period of 600 BCE to 600 CE, the Bantu-speaking Africans gradually began to interact with humans and the environment by settling into varying parts of West and East Africa and creating a network with their neighbors in order to receive new technologies and foods. The Bantu exchanged goods with local hunter-gatherers, and the people cut into forests and settled down into villages. The Assyrians first brought iron to Egypt around 600 BCE and it quickly spread to Sub-Saharan Africa.

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Around 200 CE, Indonesians settled on the coast bringing Asian bananas and, since they had a higher yield than African bananas, they spread inland and improved the food supply. People from southern Arabia established settlements on the coast near the Ethiopian highlands and through mixing with local residents, formed a new language known as Ge’ez (later Axum). In transitioning from the 600 BCE-600 CE period to the 600-1450 period, Sub-Saharan Africa changed due to migration of the Bantu, conquest of powerful empires, and widespread trading.

The Bantu migrations spread agriculture and iron metallurgy to most of Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa was a great place for commerce as it was full of valuable resources, such as salt and gold mines. Long-distance trade was introduced from West Africa to other parts of the continent. As the three main empires, Ghana, Mali and Songhai, gained wealth from trade, invasions from neighboring regions began to lead to their decline. Sub Saharan Africa changed drastically in shifting to the period of 1450 CE to 1750 CE due to migration primarily to North America, Latin America, and Europe as laborers.

This was a result of the slave trade, in which Europeans forced many Africans into slavery and traded them as if they were valuable goods. Adult males were more likely to be chosen as slaves and sent away, creating an unbalanced population in most African societies. The mass movement of the African population easily spread diseases across trading routes. In regards to new technology in the 1450-1750 period, the African peoples were introduced to European arms and weapons as a result of trade.

From 1750 to 1914, Sub Saharan Africa encountered many changes including the decline of established tribal structures caused by European expansion, mass migration as a result of Zulu conquests, and colonization in areas by the British and the French. The Slave Trade, and later the ivory trades, led to the wholesale end of established tribal structures and ways of life. In southern Africa, the increasing competition for land, caused by the expansion of European settlement, intensified these conditions and triggered the rise of the highly militarized Zulu kingdom.

The Zulu conquests set off a mass migration of other armed groups, the effects of which were also felt thousands of miles and more to the north. After the abolition of slavery in the Unites States in 1865, the Atlantic Slave Trade was in steep decline and European nations began to take a more assertive stance towards Africa. They became more involved in Egypt with the building of the Suez Canal, France colonized the coast of North Africa, and both France and Britain established colonial territories on the coasts of West Africa.

The period of 1914 to present in Sub Saharan Africa was heavily transformed through decolonization and the HIV/AIDS pandemic, though white minorities and the Portuguese continued colonial rule in specific parts of Africa. In the years since the Second World War, the European powers had begun withdrawing from Africa. This process of decolonization is in response to nationalist movements within Africa, international pressure from the USA and the Soviet Union, and the European countries’ own awareness of their economic weakness after two world wars.

Decolonization was mostly completed within a few years of 1960, though white minorities effectively continued colonial rule in South Africa, while the Portuguese remained in Angola and Mozambique for the most part. Since independence, African countries have experienced many issues such as political instability, corruption, harsh poverty, and the HIV/AIDS pandemic. With the end of the Cold War, however, rivalries in Africa began to condense and more constructive approaches to Africa’s problems have been evident, both on the part of the international community and within Africa itself.

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