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International Publishers
African Countries: An Introduction
Relations Between Africans, African Americans and Afro-Caribbeans
The Sixties
Living in America: An Introduction for Foreigners
Africa and America in The Sixties: A Decade That Changed The Nation and The Destiny of A Continent
Africa and America in The Sixties....(2)
Africa and America in The Sixties...(3)
Tanzania: The Land and Its People
Africa is in A Mess: What Went Wrong and What Should Be Done
Tanzania under Mwalimu Nyerere: Reflections on an African Statesman
Africa After Independence: Realities of Nationhood
Black Conservatives in The United States
African Countries: An Introduction
Relations Between Africans and African Americans: Misconceptions, Myths and Realities
Kenya: Identity of A Nation
Investment Opportunities and Private Sector Growth in Africa
South Africa in Contemporary Times
My Life as an African: Autobiographical Writings (1)
My Life as an African.... (2)
My Life as an African....(3)
Author Profiles
Ethnicity and National Identity in Uganda: The Land and Its People
Tanzania and Its People
An Introduction to South Africa
Kenya and Its People
South Africa: The Land, Its People and History
An Introduction to Tanzania
The Union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar: Product of The Cold War?
South Africa and Its People
African Immigrants in South Africa
British Cities
Great Britain: A General Introduction
The United States and Its People
Great Britain: The Land, The People and The Culture
Botswana and Its People
Godfrey Mwakikagile, African Countries: An Introduction
ISBN-10: 0620348151
ISBN-13: 978-0620348157



THE term "Africa" usually evokes images of a continent inhabited by black people. That is generally true. The majority of the people in most African countries are black. Even when you say, “I saw an African,” people in general automatically assume that you're talking about a black person. It's a racial definition.

Yet many people probably don't know that there are a number of African countries whose inhabitants are not predominantly black.

Blacks constitute at least 70 percent of Africa's population of almost 800 million people.1 That means about 30 percent of all Africans, or more than 200 million people, are not black. They live mostly in north and southern Africa. Even in predominantly black countries, there are significant numbers of non-blacks.

In South Africa alone, there are at least 5 million whites or people of European descent. They constitute about 11 percent of the population. Blacks constitute about 77 percent of the country's population, while people of mixed white, Malayan, and black descent known as Coloureds make up 9 percent; and those of Indian descent, about 3 percent.2

The other countries in southern Africa which have significant numbers of non-blacks, mostly of European descent, are Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. Their numbers sharply declined after those countries won independence. But some of the people who left returned to those countries.

In terms of percentage, Namibia has the largest number of people of European descent on the continent, about 12 percent out of a total population of almost 1.5 million.3

Other black African countries which have large numbers of non-blacks are Ivory Coast (Cote d'Ivoire), mostly French and Arab; Gabon, mostly French; Kenya, mainly British, Asian (Indian and Pakistani), and Arab; Tanzania, mainly Asian (Indian and Pakistani), Arab, and a small population of people of European descent, mostly British; and Zambia, mainly British and a small population of people of Asian descent, mostly Indian and Pakistani.

The rest of the black countries also have people of European, Asian and Arab descent in varying degrees. For example, Uganda has a significant number of Asians, mostly from India and Pakistan, despite the fact that almost all – including citizens – were expelled by Idi Amin in 1972. After Amin was kicked out in April 1979, many of them returned to Uganda in the following years.

Altogether, there are 53 African countries. They include the island nations of Madagascar, Mauritius, Comoros, and Seychelles, all in the Indian Ocean; Sao Tome and Principe (one country), and Cape Verde in the Atlantic. Except for Sao Tome and Principe (the latter became autonomous in April 1995), none of the island nations is predominantly black.

Cape Verde's population is about 70 percent Creole – mulatto, of mixed African and European descent, mostly Portuguese – and about 28 percent of black African descent. Comoros' population is a mixture of people of African, Arab, and Asian - mostly Indian and Malay - descent. There are also a few people of European descent, mostly French since the country was a French colony.

Madagascar, the world's fourth-largest island, is inhabited by two main groups: those of Malay-Indonesian-Polynesian descent, mainly Indonesian; and those of black African and some of Arab descent. There are also a number of people of French origin in this former French colony.

The people of Malay-Indonesian-Polynesian descent are the dominant group. And traditional antagonism has existed between them and those of black African origin for many years in a society where blacks feel that they have been marginalized more than anybody else.

Mauritius' population also is predominantly Asian. About three-fifths of the people are of Indian descent, and the remaining two-fifths are of mixed French and African descent, French, and Chinese. There are also a few people of British origin in a country that was ruled by the French and by the British at different times.

And Seychelles is predominantly Creole. About 95 percent of the people are of mixed French and African descent. The rest are African, and Asian, mainly of Indian origin.4 A former British colony, the island nation also has a few people of British origin.

The island nations are not the only African countries which are predominantly non-black. All the countries of North Africa are mostly Arab. They are also separated from predominantly black sub-Saharan Africa by the Sahara desert although, in pan-African rhetoric, the great physical divide is seen as a bridge between the two. As Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah stated at the first conference of independent African states held in Accra in April 1958:

The former imperialist powers were fond of talking about 'Arab Africa' and 'black Africa'; and 'Islamic Africa' and 'Non-Islamic Africa'....These were all artificial descriptions which tended to divide us....If in the past the Sahara divided us, now it unites us. And an injury to one is an injury to all of us....Today the Sahara is a bridge uniting us.5

Five of the countries out of eight which attended the conference were Arab: Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco; and Sudan, whose southern and western parts are black in a country dominated by the Arab north. And three were black: Ghana, Liberia, and Ethiopia.

Those were the only independent countries in Africa during that time. However, in a true pan-African spirit, Nkrumah embraced them all as purely African in spite of the fact that the majority of them were Arab, while the term "African" is generally understood to mean black. As he put it in a national broadcast:

For the first time, I think, in the history of this great continent, leaders of all the purely African states which can play an independent role in international affairs will meet to discuss the problems of our countries....6

In spite of such high-flown pan-African rhetoric, the Sahara desert still symbolizes a gulf as much as it does a bridge between black and Arab Africa. And it probably always will in spite of several borderline countries which may serve as a bridge across the great divide.

The enslavement of blacks by the Arabs in Sudan and Mauritania, and the racist attacks on black Africans from West Africa and elsewhere in North Africa, for instance in Libya and Morocco, clearly demonstrate that a gulf exists between the two regions. For example, when about 150 black Africans including a diplomat from Chad were killed in Libya in 1998, the Arabs who attacked them said they they did not want to have anything to do with Africans; they did not want them in their country and made it clear that they were not Africans but Arabs, and that the term "African" applied only to blacks. The implication was obvious. "African" is a derogatory term when applied to Arabs.

In 2005, black African immigrants trying to go to Europe through Morocco were viciously attacked by the Moroccan authorities resulting in a number of deaths, and were dumped hundreds of miles in the Sahara desert without food, water, or transport to get back to their home countries in West Africa. They also complained about insults and the inhumane treatment in Morocco where many Arabs called them "monkeys" and other names.

Therefore in spite of all the pan-African rhetoric about the oneness of Africa, experience clearly demonstrates that a gulf exists between Arab North Africa and Black Africa which may not be bridged even with the best of intentions among some people on both sides.

It is true that North Africa has the largest number of people on the continent who are not black. But even all the borderline countries of Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Chad, and Sudan which are an integral part of the Sahara desert are either predominantly non-black or have significant non-black populations.

Mauritania is predominantly Arab and Berber, although there are disputes on the country's census figures and demographic composition with blacks contending that they constitute the majority of the population contrary to what the Arab-Berber authorities claim. Based on official figures, about 80 percent of the people of Mauritania are Moors – a mixture of Arab-Berber descent – while the rest are Arab, black African, and a mixture of people of Arab-Berber-African descent known as Haratins.

Sudan is predominantly Arab in the north, while the south is black African; the western Darfur region also is predominantly black with an Arab minority population of about 33 percent.

Arabs and people of mixed ancestry comprise about 70 percent of Sudan's total population, although Sudan's Arab-dominated government has been accused of manipulating statistics to drastically reduce the number of blacks whom some people contend constitute the majority of the country's population.

By contrast, other countries bordering the Sahara desert – Chad, Niger and Mali – are predominantly black. But they all have significant numbers of Arabs, Moors, and the Tuareg who are also known as Berbers of the Sahara. Racial conflict between blacks and non-blacks is a perennial problem in all those countries and it has erupted into civil wars in Sudan, Chad, Mali, Niger and Mauritania through the years.7

In the case of Sudan especially, there is a strong possibility that such racial antagonism and open warfare could lead to partition, probably the only viable solution in this case as much as it is in the case of Rwanda and Burundi between the Hutu and the Tutsi where many Tutsis with an inflated ego seem to be determined to be on top as if they have a divine mandate to rule the Hutu.

From all this survey across the continent which is mostly black, we therefore find that the following African countries are not predominantly black:

Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Western Sahara (illegally absorbed by Morocco), Mauritania, Sudan, Cape Verde, Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, and Seychelles. That is a total of 13 non-black African countries out of 53, although there's some dispute about the Comoros with some people contending that it's predominantly black.

And that leaves 40 African countries, all of them on the mainland except for the island nation of Sao Tome and Principe, which are predominantly black. They also constitute the majority of the continent's population: about 70 percent. Hence the use of the term "African" to mean black, although such equation or designation does not preclude non-Africans from the definition of "African" even if some of them don't want to be called "African."

Arab countries of North Africa, as well as Sudan and Mauritania, which constitute the largest non-black population on the continent have a total population of more than 160 million people. Egypt alone has a population of more than 65 million, almost all of them Arab.

It is common knowledge that black Africans are indigenous to the continent, what Professor Ali Mazrui calls "Africans of the blood" as opposed to "Africans of the soil" such as Arabs who originally came from outside Africa. But contrary to popular belief, black Africans are not the only people who are native to Africa.

Long before Arabs and Europeans came to Africa, there were non-blacks on the continent: Berbers. In fact, even the term “Africa” is of Berber origin.

Berbers are white in terms of skin pigmentation, but they did not come from Europe. Therefore they are not European; nor are they Arab. They are an aboriginal Caucasoid people who have lived in North Africa for thousands of years and constitute a substantial part of the populations of what is today Libya, Algeria, Morocco, and Mauritania. For example, Morocco's population is supposed to be about 80 percent Berber, although this is not always acknowledged by many Arabs and, if at all, in official circles where Arab interests are paramount.

Even ancient Egyptians who enslaved the Jews in early Biblical times before Christ were not black. Arabs conquered North Africa and supplanted the Berbers as the "owners" of the land about 1,300 years ago. They first conquered Egypt in 642 A.D. after they launched their crusades from their original homeland, the Arabian peninsula, and started conquering neighboring countries.

The Arabs in Egypt today are not descendants of the ancient Egyptians just as black Africans today in other parts of the continent are not.

The claim by some blacks, especially a number of Afrocentric scholars who claim "anything" and "everything" as ours, that ancient Egyptians were black is simply a fable, not a historical fact. Probably that is why they don't say they are the ones who enslaved the Jews in Egypt thousands of years ago. If ancient Egyptians were black, they might as well claim credit for enslaving the Jews. Even Jews don't say that. They know who enslaved them in Egypt.

There were, instead, black slaves in Egypt during that period, for example Ethiopians one of whom married Moses according to the Old Testament; although there is also a dispute here, in terms of identity, since Ethiopians are not "Negro" and therefore not "black."

Like many Somalis, many Ethiopians don't want to identify themselves with "Negroid" Africans as the same people. And they are not in terms of race. Even their physical features, like those of the Fulani in West Africa who probably originated from Ethiopia like the Somali did, clearly show that. And Ethiopian languages such as Amharic which is one of the country's main languages although of the Amhara minority, and Tigrinya as well as Tigre of the Tigray people of northern Ethiopia and central Eritrea, are Semitic related to Hebrew, the language of the Jews.

Yet, Ethiopians and Somalis are no less African than those of "Negroid" stock in spite of the denial by many of them that they have nothing to do with "Negroes." As one Somali woman – quoted by The Washington Post in the mid-1990s angrily responded in Britain when some people called her an African: "Do I look like a Nigerian"? To her and many others, the term "African" is an insult and synonymous with "black" or "Negro," the identity of an "inferior" people.

And in the case of Egypt, Jews don't even blame blacks for enslaving them. They don't say they were enslaved by black people in Egypt. That is because Egypt was not a black country then anymore than it is today. As one Egyptian official stated in response to the claim by Afrocentric scholars and others that ancient Egyptians were black: "Ramses II was neither black nor white but Egyptian."8 So are all the mummies we see.

We have yet to see one with typical black – Negro – features!

Yet some blacks claim that even Egyptians today are black people like the rest in the countries south of the Sahara. Some of them are, but not necessarily "Negro."

The debate on who and what Egyptians are even shifted into the diplomatic arena when one Egyptian diplomat in Washington, D.C., had to write a letter to the editor, in The Washington Post, in response to a series of claims by Afrocentric scholars that Egyptians were black. He refuted their claims with empirical evidence and a dose of common sense which is not always common.

Since some blacks claim that the entire African continent was black all the time until it was invaded by outsiders, they should also claim other people who are indigenous to the continent, the Berbers – not just the ancient Egyptians (who were also probably Berbers) – as fellow blacks. They have not done that for obvious reasons: Berbers are not black, although many of the Tuareg (Berbers of the Sahara) are partly or mostly black because of intermarriage.

If blacks concede that Berbers are not black, then they should also admit that there are other people in Africa, besides blacks, who are native to the continent. Those people are the Berbers of North Africa and the Sahara desert even in predominantly black countries of Mali, Niger, Senegal, Chad, and Burkina Faso which until August 1984 was known as Upper Volta.

The exact origin of the Berbers still is a mystery. Many theories have been propounded linking their origin to the Canaanites and the Phoenicians among others. But what is incontrovertible is that when Arabs and Europeans came, the Berbers were already there in North Africa. And they fought both to retain their independence. According to The Columbia Encyclopedia:

Despite a history of conquests, the Berbers have retained a remarkably homogenous culture, which, on the evidence of Egyptian tomb paintings, derives from earlier than 2400 B.C....Their native languages are of the Hamitic group (unlike Arabic which is Semitic like Hebrew, and Amharic and other Ethiopian languages which also have Semitc roots), but most literate Berbers also speak Arabic, the language of their religion (and conquerors)....The fiercely independent Tuareg - Berbers of the Sahara - resented European hegemony in Africa, and they long resisted conquest.9

Other scholars have also written about the fiercely independent spirit and distinct racial stock of the Berbers. As E.W. Bovill states in his book The Golden Trade of the Moors:

In the Maghrib, the Arabs were faced with a constant struggle against the Berbers....The persistence with which the Berbers have maintained their purity of race has constantly astonished ethnologists. In spite of the introduction into their country of Phoenician, Roman, Vandal, Jewish, and Arab blood, they show few traces of alien stock. Particularly striking is the way in which Berbers and Arabs have failed to amalgamate.

Although they have lived in the closest proximity for over a thousand years, during which the Arab has imposed his religion, language, dress and many of his customs on a large part of the Berber population, the latter have preserved their distinct racial type.10

And although Arabs are not indigenous to Africa, some black Africans now consider them to be native to the continent because they have been there for a long time since the 600s A.D. when they conquered North Africa even if many of them, for example in Egypt, are recent arrivals who came from the Middle East – Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and other countries – only during the past 200 years or so.

So what makes these particular Arabs native to Africa, as they mingle with their brethren whose ancestors came to Africa 1,300 years ago? For example, we talk about Native Americans as opposed to Black Americans – who are, after all, identified as African Americans, meaning they are of African origin, hence not native to America. We also talk about Native Americans contrasted with White Americans – or Euro-Americans – who came from Europe.

Neither White Americans nor Black Americans are said to be native to America. So why should it be different in the case of the Arabs in Africa?

Yet, in spite of all that, the claim by African Arabs – as opposed to Middle-East Arabs – that they are indeed “indigenous” to Africa for the simple reason that they have been on that continent for so many centuries, still seems to have some merit. Not only did they settle in North Africa in the 600s A.D. but they also established permanent settlements in East Africa, especially in what is now Tanzania and Kenya mainly along the coast, from the 700s A.D., although some Arabs – and Persians – settled along the Tanzanian coast as early as the first century A.D.

Conquest or domination may not be a legitimate criterion for autochthonous status, but longevity or permanent residence especially over a span of centuries is considered to be one. As Professor Ali Mazrui, who is of Arab and black African origin, states in his book Towards A Pax Africana:

Arabs might be natives of Africa even if they are not fully 'Africans.' Yet by what criterion are they to be regarded as 'natives' of the continent? One answer which I have heard given in Ghana is the following: 'The Arabs by now must be recognized as natives of Africa because they have been in Africa since the seventh century'....This sort of answer was given by a Nigerian and by an Afro-American resident in Ghana in discussions in September 1964.11

The term "native" as it is used here with regard to Arabs in Africa can be validated in other contexts. We all came from somewhere, an area or region to which we were native, and again became native elsewhere mainly through migration. For example, Bantu ethnic groups are said to be native to eastern, central and southern Africa: the Kikuyu native to Kenya, the Baganda native to Uganda, the Sukuma native to Tanzania, the Bakongo native to Congo, the Bemba native to Zambia, the Shona native to Zimbabwe, the Ovimbundu native to Angola, and the Zulu and the Xhosa native to South Africa, to give only a few examples.

Yet they originated from west-central Africa about 2,000 years ago in southern Cameroon and the Nigerian-Cameroonian border region. They were native to that region many centuries ago, and now they are native to eastern, central and southern Africa.

The same criterion can be applied in the case involving Arabs and other non-blacks in Africa who have been on the continent for a long time, although how that time span is defined is problematic and may have to be resolved by common sense. And the difference between them and black Africans is that because Africa is a predominantly black continent, it is considered to be the original homeland of black people.

Ardent pan-Africanist leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Sekou Toure, Modibo Keita, Milton Obote and Kenneth Kaunda, to name a few, were among those who regarded Arabs in Africa as fellow Africans, unlike Obafemi Awolowo and Kamuzu Banda and others. As Dr. Banda, quoted in the 1969 edition of Africa Contemporary Record, bluntly stated in 1968: "There is no difference between the Arabs and the whites in South Africa. They are all foreigners and imperialists." And on another occasion he said they were "mere guests in Africa."

He also said the only thing that prevented him from sending troops to Sudan to helps blacks fight the Arabs was lack of money.

But there is no question that the oneness of Africa, the ideology of Pan-Africanism, and the strong Arab support for the liberation struggle in southern Africa and commitment to Third World solidarity were the primary reasons which led black African leaders such as Nkrumah, Nyerere, Lumumba, Sekou Toure, Modibo Keita, Kaunda, Obote and others to identify with the Arabs.

A number of other leaders who came after them felt the same way. They included Nelson Mandela, President Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Jerry Rawlings of Ghana and others. And as Professor Ali Mazrui stated in his article "Black Africa and the Arabs" in Foreign Affairs:

There were (several) factors behind black radical identification with the Arabs. One was the mystique of Pan-Africanism, according to which the African continent was viewed as a whole. People like Nkrumah and Nyerere genuinely regarded Algerians, for example, as fellow Africans.

The other stimulus to black radical identification with the Arabs was the place of the Arabs in the vanguard of anti-imperialism in the Third World. Countries like Egypt, Syria, and Algeria have been major participants in movements for Third World liberation. Even Libya - although animated more by Islamic fundamentalism than by modern revolutionary ideology - pursues the cause of greater autonomy for Third World peoples with an impatience that places it in the mainstream of Third World militancy.12

Besides length of stay spanning centuries since the 600s A.D., it is the involvement of the Arabs in those causes, especially in the liberation struggle in southern Africa, which led even some reluctant black Africans to embrace them as fellow Africans and therefore as fellow "natives," "indigenous" to Africa. And Mandela's visit to Libya in 1997 despite international sanctions against that country imposed by the United Nations, underscored the importance black Africans place on the support they got from Arab countries during the liberation struggle in southern Africa and in Guinea-Bissau in West Africa. According to a report on Mandela's trip to Libya in The Christian Science Monitor:

South African President Nelson Mandela was due to arrive in Tripoli for a meeting with Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi. The US, which accuses Libya of sponsoring terrorism, expressed disappointment over the two-day vist. Mandela was to travel by road from neighboring Tunisia to avoid violating UN air sanctions imposed after Libya refused to hand over two suspects in the 1988 bombing of a Pan-Am airliner. Before Mandela's arrival, South Africa's foreign minister (Alfred Nzo) said the sanctions 'ought to be done away with.'13

On the following day, the same newspaper reported that Mandela had taken an emphatic stand on the subject of sanctions against Libya. The South African president's refusal to capitulate to Western pressure showed that world powers should learn to live with the fact that, in spite of her weakness, Africa is determined to assert her independence as a third force to be reckoned with in the international arena. Tired of being manipulated by outsiders, it is a matter on which probably most Africans agree. And Mandela boosted his moral stature by taking such a stand as shown by the accolades he won during his visit to Libya:

South African President Nelson Mandela called for an end to UN sanctions against Libya. He spoke before a meeting in Tripoli with Libyan leader Muammar Qadaffi, who described Mandela as a 'saint.' The sanctions were imposed under US pressure in 1992 because of Qadaffi's refusal to extradite two Libyans wanted for the bombing of a Pan-Am jet over Scotland.14

Mandela himself once said black people in South Africa are not going to forget who their true friends were when they were fighting for their freedom, regardless of whose enemies those friends were, a remark in pointed reference to Western countries which supported the apartheid regime. None of the Arab countries in North Africa broke ranks with their black compatriots south of the Sahara in their support for the liberation struggle in southern Africa and in Portuguese Guinea which was renamed Guinea-Bissau during the struggle for independence.

Although Arabs have been in Africa for about 1,300 years, they are not the only non-indigenes who settled on the continent many centuries ago. Some of the inhabitants of Madagascar are another group. And they are the ones who have dominated the island for centuries except for the period when it was under French rule.

Immigration to Madagascar from the southwest Pacific began before the Christian era and continued until the 1400s A.D. The immigrants were mostly of Malay-Indonesian and Polynesian descent, especially Indonesian. They settled mainly in the central highlands of Madagascar and later came to be known as Merinas.

The western coastal regions of Madagascar were taken by black African immigrants mainly from what is now Mozambique and Tanzania but especially Mozambique. A significant number of Arabs also settled in the same coastal regions. In the 1500s and 1600s, the Merina kingdom became the strongest on the island and eventually imposed its rule over most of the island.

Some Indonesian immigrants also reached the East African mainland, mostly what is Tanzania today, long before the coming of the Portuguese. As Gervase Mathew says about the history of the East African coast dating back to the first century in his study "The East African Coast until the Coming of the Portuguese" in the History of East Africa:

The Periplus of the Erythrean Sea is the earliest surviving description of the coast of East Africa. This is a Greek commercial handbook of the late first or early second century. Its most likely date is approximately A.D. 110....The next African emporium, that of Rhapta, (is) somewhere on the Tanganyika coast,...long organised as an entrepot of the ivory trade by Arab merchants....There was an Indonesian element (in Rhapta and elsewhere along the coast) derived from a wave of emigration that seems to have reached Madagascar from Indonesia.15

The emigration from Indonesia to Madagascar continued through the centuries. So did the spread of Indonesian influence on the East African coast from Madagascar. In fact, it had lasting impact not only on the East African coast but also in the interior:

At the beginning of the Middle Ages...there was a second considerable Indonesian settlement in Madagascar. Indonesian influences have been found on the East African coast...and seem to have echoed far into the interior.

Both the outrigger canoe and the banana have been traced to Indonesia....Breadfruit, coconut, certain kinds of yam, taro, and banana have been listed as of Indonesian origin. If this is so, they could well have been introduced by the first wave of Indonesian emigration and have been diffused in the first centuries A.D. through the expansion of the Bantu peoples....Parallels have been found between Sanje ya Kati group of ruins in Tanganyika and those at Kedah and Kotor Tinggi in Malaya.16

This short survey provides a general background to the racial identities of the earliest non-black inhabitants of Africa who have lived on the continent and its islands for many centuries.

As we have seen, not all the people indigenous to Africa are black, and not all non-black Africans are new to the continent. The history of some of them on the continent goes back to the distant past. And they all claim to be "indigenous" to Africa; with non-indigenes such as the Arabs and the people of Malay-Indonesian-Polynesian descent on Madagascar island claiming such status because they have lived on the continent continuously for hundreds of years.

But the racial contrast between black Africans and these "immigrants," as well as between blacks and Berbers who are probably native to Africa as much as black people are, is not as great in terms of variety as the ethnic and cultural-linguistic diversity is among black people themselves. Berbers, Arabs, and people of Malay-Indonesian and Polynesian origin in Madagascar are only three groups.

It is true that racial differences between black Africans and members of each of those racial groups are profound. So are the racial differences between those groups as well; for example between the Berbers and the people of Madagascar who originally came from the southwest Pacific. But they are still only a few groups.

By contrast, black Africans – this writer being one of them – are split along ethnic lines into more than 1,000 different ethnic groups. And they speak just as many languages. And many of those languages are different from each other as much as English is from Chinese or Russian from Arabic. Such is the diversity of Africa, racial and ethnic, cultural and linguistic. But that is not the end of the story.

The geography of Africa itself is just as stunning in its bewildering complexity and diversity. So is the continent's size, and even its shape which looks like a question mark in reverse, raising even more questions about what Africa really is. Africa also is a paradox: land of poverty in the midst of plenty, potentially the richest yet poorest continent.

Why? And how much potential wealth does Africa really have and which can be harnessed to propel it forward? It is a subject that is beyond the scope of this work and which I have addressed in another book, Economic Development in Africa, just as many other people have.


1. African Union (AU) census figures for the continent, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. See other sources including demographic studies conducted by African universities; 2005 Almanac (New York: Houghtn Mifflin, 2004). See also the South African census figures in The New York Times, and the International Herald Tribune, October 1998: 77 percent of all South Africans are black, and 11 percent white, after the first door-to-door count in the nation's history.

2. Columbia Encyclopedia (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), p. 2568. See also 1997 Almanac (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1996), pp. 264 - 265; Reader's Digest 1986 Almanac and Yearbook (Pleasantville, New York: The Reader's Digest Association, Inc., 1985), p. 649; and The New American Desk Encyclopedia (New York: New American Library, 1984), pp. 23, and 1102.

3. Reader's Digest 1986 Almanac, op. cit., p. 615; Columbia Encyclopedia, op. cit., p. 1876.

4. Columbia Encyclopedia, op. cit., pp. 448, 615, 1653, 1725, 2487; Reader's Digest 1986 Almanac, op. cit., pp. 523, 533, 602, 609, and 645.

5. Kwame Nkrumah, "Hands Off Africa!!!" (Accra, Ghana: Ministry of Local Government, 1960), p. 23; Ali A. Mazrui, Towards A Pax Africana (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1967), pp. 62, and 254. See also Kwame Nkrumah, I Speak of Freedom: A Statement of African Ideology (New York: Praeger, 1961), p. 125.

6. Ibid.

7. Columbia Encyclopedia, op. cit., 497, 1671, 1725, 1945, and 2644; "Rigged Polls Deal Further Blow to Democracy in Mauritania," in Africa Analysis, No. 259, London, November 1, 1996, p. 3:

"The poll was marred by widespread vote-rigging and fraud....There were allegations of discrimination against 'Black Africans,' the country's large non-Arab-speaking minority....

Some are predicting a return to the ethnic violence of the late 1980s and 1990s between Beydanes - the light-skinned Moors who dominate Mauritania - and Black Africans. The solitary opposition MP (Member of Parliament), Abdoulaye Kebe, is supplied by Action for Change (AC). AC was formed less than a year ago and represents Black Africans and Haratins - the black-skinned, Moorish-speaking former slaves. Their electoral platform consisted of the main concerns of each group: a return of the 80,000 Black Africans deported to Senegal and Mali during racial conflicts and an end to slavery which was officially abolished in 1981 but which still exists."

See also Mark Doyle, "Mauritania: Nouakchott's New Nationalism," in Africa Report, September - October 1989, p. 37:

"Mauritania's current number-one political preoccupation (is) how Mauritanian Arabs and Africans can peacefully co-exist in the wake of the recent bloody violence between Arabs and Africans in Mauritania and in Senegal....The ethnic violence was followed by mass repatriations of Senegalese to Senegal and Mauritanians back home to Mauritania....The conflict has provided Nouakchott with an excuse to deport its black citizens...and to re-emphasize Arab/Moorish nationalism....A member of the Ba'athist party told Africa Report in thinly veiled terms that 'the Africans' would have to be dealt with 'firmly'....

Some observers have even gone as far as to predict a complete 'denigrification' of Mauritania, although this thesis is complicated by the fact that many Moors are as negroid in physical features as any 'true African' from Senegal....

Broadly at the top of Mauritania's social heap are white Moorish Arabs of various tribes....Alongside the white Moors are black Moors, also Arabic - Hassaniya - speaking, and who have assimilated into Arabic culture over many years....The third group (at rock bottom), are black Africans, living mainly in the south of the country along the Senegal River basin." See also Africa Report, ibid., pp. 38 - 40.

See also "Africa's Bizarre Borders," in The Economist, January 25, 1997, p. 17.

8. Quoted by Elizabeth Sherman in her book review of Black Athena Revisited in The Wilson Quarterly, Spring 1996, p. 79. See also Mary R. Lefkowitz and Guy Maclean, editors, Black Athena Revisited (Durham: University of North Carolina Press, 1996); and Mary Lefkowitz, Not Out of Africa: How Afrocentrists Became an Excuse to Teach Myth as History (New York: Basic Books, 1996).

9. Columbia Encyclopedia, op. cit., pp. 274, nd 2795.

10. E.W. Bovill, The Golden Trade of the Moors (London: Oxford University Press, 1968), pp. 59 - 60.

11. A. Mazrui, Towards A Pax Africana, op. cit., pp. 111, and 265. See also Kwame Nkrumah, Africa Must Unite (New Yok: Praeger, 1963); Julius Nyerere, "A United States of Africa," in The Journal of Modern African Studies, Vol. I, No. 1, March 1963; and Nyerere, "A New Look at Conditions for Unity," his speech to the National Assembly of the United Arab republic (Egypt), Cairo, April 9, 1967, in Freedom and Socialism: A Selection from Writings and Speeches, 1965 - 1967 (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Oxford University Press, 1968), pp. 291 - 300.

12. Ali A. Mazrui, "Black Africa and the Arabs", in Foreign Affairs, July 1975, p. 733. See also Houari Boumedienne, "The Problems of Third World Development," in The Black Scholar: Journal of Black Studies and Research, Vol. 6, No. 8, Sausalito, California, May 1975, pp. 2 - 10; Okon Udokang, "The Third World as A Political Force," in The Black Scholar, ibid., pp. 11 - 22; and O. Udokang, editor and contributor, African Politics and Foreign Relations (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1975).

13. Nelson Mandela, cited in The Christian Science Monitor, October 23, 1997, p. 2.

14. Mandela, in The Christian Science Monitor, October 24, 1997, p. 2.

15. Gervase Mathew, "The East African Coast Until the Coming of the Portuguese," in Roland Oliver and Gervase Mathew, editors, History of East Africa, Vol. I (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1963), pp. 94, 95 - 96, 108, and 110; G.P. Murdock, Africa: Its Peoples and Their Culture History (New York, 1959), p. 208.

     16. Ibid.


Godfrey Mwakikagile, African Countries: An Introduction

ISBN-10: 0620348151
ISBN-13: 978-0620348157