The Evolution of Africa's Major Nations

Africa, with its rich natural resources and its incredible poverty, is a continent of contradictions. Each book in this series examines the historical and current situation of a particular African nation. Readers will learn about each country's history, geography, government, economy, cultures, and communities.


ISBN 978-1-4222-2175-4
The entire series is not available in hardcover. There are 22 out of 26 volumes available.
26 volumes
10 and up
8 x 8 inches
Professor Robert I. Rotberg is Director of the Program on Intrastate Conflict and Conflict Resolution at the Kennedy School, Harvard University, and President of the World Peace Foundation. He is the author of a number of books and articles on Africa, including A Political History of Tropical Africa and Ending Autocracy, Enabling Democracy: The Tribulations of Southern Africa.
"This series is a needed collection for high school media centers. It fills a void by supplying up-to-date books on African countries that incorporates both an historical and modern perspective." "Each book covers the land, government, economy, culture, people, religion, holidays, and festivals. In addition, unique recipes are provided as well as project /report ideas." "These books will be useful for researchers and browsers alike."
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Africa: Facts & Figures
by William Mark Habeeb

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Africa, the world's second-largest continent, is home to more than 50 countries. Africa has valuable resources, from large reserves of oil to minerals such as diamonds and gold; as well as an incredible variety of wild animals, plants, and trees. From the bustling cities of Egypt to the warm grasslands of Kenya, Africa is filled with diverse cultures and peoples. Yet Africa is also a continent with many problems. African countries are among the world's poorest. Hunger is common, and jobs are rare. Many countries are torn by ongoing wars. Others are devastated by disease--it is estimated that nearly 10 percent of Africans are infected with the virus that causes AIDS, for example. Africa: Facts & Figures gives an overview of the natural features, history, economy, and cultures of this fascinating continent.

by Daniel E. Harmon

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The vast North African country of Algeria became independent in 1962 after a brutal eight-year-long war against France. Unfortunately, Algeria has not had a stable history, as various leaders have seized power through military coups. In 1991 a rising Islamist movement in the country led to a civil war that lasted for more than a decade and resulted in over 150,000 deaths. Algerians are still attempting to put the tragedies of the past behind them and rebuild their country. Algeria is fortunate to control many important resources, including vast reserves of oil and national gas. However, since 2011 there have been numerous protests against the government, with people demanding more jobs, better housing, and a more open and transparent political system. Much work must be done to ensure a peaceful and prosperous future for all Algerians.

by Rob Staeger

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The modern state of Angola was established in 1975, when it won its freedom from Portugal. However, peace did not accompany Angola's independence. Instead, fighting between nationalist groups launched the country into nearly three decades of civil war. Although the civil war ended a decade ago, its effects are still being felt. Angola's people are among the poorest in the world, and it is home to more land mines than any other country. Angola does have some advantages, including vast reserves of diamonds and oil. Angolans hope to use the wealth from these resources to rebuild their shattered society.

by Kelly Wittman

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The combination of breathtaking scenic beauty, fabulous wildlife, and peace-loving citizens makes Botswana a favorite of tourists from all over the world. This country in the heart of southern Africa is also the homeland of a proud people, the Batswana, who have created a vibrant democracy. Since Botswana won its independence in 1966, it has become one of Africa's leading economies. In particular, Botswana's diamond industry provides many people with a comfortable life. However, the AIDS epidemic has hit Botswana particularly hard, as a high percentage of people are infected with the disease. Today, the government is working with all Batswana to end this threat to their beloved country.

by Kristine Brennan

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Beset by war, disease, famine, human rights abuses, and numerous other problems, Africa today is a continent in need of good leadership. Many people believe the only way Africa will be able to solve its many challenges is by uniting the more than 50 nations on the continent. To that end, the African Union was formed in 2002 as a successor to the largely ineffective Organization of African Unity. The purpose of the African Union is to turn Africa into a political and economic power. The new organization faces many challenges, and the solutions to Africa's problems will not be easy to find. Yet on its shoulders the African Union carries the hopes and dreams of a continent.

by Diane Cook

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If Cameroon is "Africa in miniature," then understanding this California-sized coastal nation takes one closer to capturing the story of this remarkable continent. Serving as a European trade portal, Cameroon boasts a rich, cross-cultural history that has fostered a society with a wide range of lifestyles and belief systems. As early as the fifth century B.C., curious travelers sailed along the coast to watch Cameroon's volcano erupt. But it wasn't until the Portuguese arrived on the coast in 1472 that the country became a launching point for the slave trade. In the 19th and early 20th centuries Germans, and later French and British colonists, occupied and westernized Cameroon. Cameroon gained its independence in 1960. Today it is among the most stable countries of West Africa.

Democratic Republic of Congo
by Rita Milios

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The name Democratic Republic of the Congo is a misnomer: the country has never been truly democratic or a republic. For decades this country in central Africa, which was once known as Zaire, was ruled by a brutal and corrupt dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko. Since the mid-1990s, when Mobutu's government was overthrown, various groups within Congo have been fighting for power. Although a peace agreement was signed in 2003 and a new constitution adopted in 2006, fighting has continued in the eastern part of the country. Overall, the Second Congo War involved nine African nations and caused more than 5.4 million deaths, making it the deadliest conflict since World War II. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the second-largest country in Africa and possesses a wealth of natural resources. However, the government still has no control over large areas of the country, and the years of fighting have devastated the economy. Although the prospects for peace have improved, it will take years for Congo to fully recover from its devastating civil war.

by William Mark Habeeb

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The Egyptian civilization along the Nile River was one of the ancient world's earliest and most influential empires. From pyramids to mummies to hieroglyphs, the unique and mysterious lore of this region in northeastern Africa still engages the imagination. While much has changed over the centuries, Egypt remains a fascinating place. Traditionally, Egypt's moderate political stance in the Arab world has given the country a strategic place on the world stage and made it a stabilizing force in the Middle East. However, in 2011 Egypt underwent a revolution that ousted longtime president Hosni Mubarak from power. Today, Egypt faces political and economic uncertainty, as its newly elected government attempts to rule under the country's new constitution.

by Jim Corrigan

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Ethiopia, unlike most African countries, remained mostly free from European colonial influence. This landlocked country in East Africa had been the site of a powerful ancient kingdom, which was overthrown by a military coup in 1974. A socialist government was established, under which millions of Ethiopians starved during the famines of the 1970s and 1980s. Rebel groups initiated a civil war and overthrew the government in 1991. Although Ethiopia adopted a new constitution in 1994 and held democratic elections the next year, the country is not truly a democracy. Instead, Ethiopia's government has been recognized as an authoritarian regime that uses force to stifle dissent. Ethiopia's economy grew rapidly in the late 2000s, but the country's people are among the poorest in Africa. In addition, a terrible drought in 2011--12 has caused a food crisis that threatens the lives of many people.

by Barbara Aoki Poisson

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Ghana, located on the Atlantic coast of West Africa, was once known as the Gold Coast because of its vast deposits of this precious mineral. In the 14th and 15th centuries Ghana was the home of powerful African kingdoms that traded both gold and slaves. Ghana's wealth attracted Europeans, and the British eventually incorporated the land into their empire. In 1957 Ghana became one of the first African countries to win independence--an event that inspired nationalist movements throughout the rest of the continent. Although most of Ghana's history as an independent nation has been marked by political strife, the situation seems to be improving. The country is now considered to be a stable democracy, as government power has been peacefully transferred several times since 2001.

Ivory Coast
by William Mark Habeeb

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The name of the Ivory Coast (also known as Cote d'Ivoire) comes from its history; at one time, Europeans came to the region to hunt elephants for their valuable ivory. Today, the people of Ivory Coast are careful to preserve their country's ecology, which is rich in rare plants and wildlife. During the 1970s, the Ivory Coast was one of the wealthiest African countries, but in recent years the country's economy has suffered because it is subject to fluctuating market prices for its most important exports, such as cocoa and coffee. Although Ivory Coast was long considered one of the most stable states in West Africa, since 1999 it has been beset by internal political tensions. Like many African countries, the leaders of Ivory Coast must figure out how to create a fair and equitable society composed of citizens from various ethnic groups and religions.

by Jim Corrigan

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Many anthropologists believe the human species originated in Kenya's Great Rift Valley, where hominid skulls more than 2 million years old have been discovered. That fact alone would make Kenya an important place. But this East African nation has many other extraordinary characteristics: diverse terrain, a remarkable variety of plant and animal life, and a fascinating blend of cultures and languages among its people. The political system in Kenya is far from ideal. Historically, government corruption has been a major problem. However, the country adopted a new constitution in 2010 and is considered one of the most stable in Africa. Kenya has a free press and multiple political parties that compete in national elections. The country has also been fortunate to escape the chaos that has affected many neighboring countries in East Africa.

by Brian Baughan

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The early history of Liberia was promising. Under the auspices of white Americans, freed slaves had been offered a new home in the West African region during the early 19th century. In 1847 the settlers founded the continent's first independent republic--a full century before the rest of Africa began to shake off colonial rule. Although the new republic modeled itself on the United States--and even named its cities after U.S. leaders--it has nevertheless endured sluggish development, class division, and a brutal civil war during the 1990s that resulted in 200,000 deaths. In their struggle for stability, the Liberian people have forged peace agreements between the warring political parties and established a new, freely elected government in 2006, becoming the first African country to elect a woman as president.

by Judy Hasday

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Libya is the third-largest state in Africa by area. Located in North Africa, it has no permanent rivers or streams, as the Sahara Desert covers most of the country. Yet just beneath the land's surface lie huge reserves of oil, which have provided vast wealth for Libya's political elite. Unfortunately, little of this wealth has reached the country's approximately 6 million residents. For more than 40 years, Mu'ammar al-Gadhafi ruled Libya as an authoritarian state. The hostile foreign policies of the controversial leader, including support for international terrorist groups, caused Libya to become politically and economically isolated from the rest of the world during the late 20th century and early 21st century. In February 2011, a civil war began in Libya that resulted in the overthrow of Gadhafi's government--and eventually, the dictator's execution. Today, Libya remains in turmoil politically, as various factions squabble for power in the newly forming government.

by Dorothy Kavanaugh

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For centuries the Kingdom of Morocco, located in the northwest corner of Africa, has been a crossroads for trade between Europe and sub-Saharan Africa. Today this country is known for its exotic mix of Arab, African, and Western cultures and traditions. Since Morocco gained its independence in 1956, the country has struggled to emerge from its colonial past. The country's current ruler, the young King Mohammed VI, has taken steps toward developing democratic political institutions and protecting the human rights of Moroccan citizens. Many experts believe that if Morocco succeeds in achieving its goal of a more modern and stable society, it may serve as an example for African and Arab countries alike.

by Tanya Mulroy

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In 1498 Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama became the first European to set foot on the shores of Mozambique. By the next century, this region along the southeastern edge of Africa had become a colony of Portugal. For almost 500 years the region remained under Portuguese rule, until years of armed conflict and struggle brought independence in 1975. The warfare did not end, however, as the brutal civil war that followed lasted until the early 1990s. Although peace has come to Mozambique, its people continue to face many challenges, including severe droughts and devastating cyclones. However, the fledgling democracy has made economic progress. Today, the government is working to alleviate poverty and increase the standard of living for the people of Mozambique.

by Ida Walker

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With more than 170 million people, Nigeria is Africa's most populous country. Military leaders have ruled Nigeria for much of its history as an independent country, and it was not until 1999 that a civilian government was restored. However, this has not ensured peace. Conflicts have broken out between Muslim extremists and other Nigerians over the imposition of sharia, a series of religious rules and laws that Muslims are supposed to follow. Sharia carries penalties that most observers consider to be harsh violations of human rights, such as the amputation of thieves' hands. Although Nigeria controls great reserves of oil, and is one of the largest exporters of oil to the United States, most Nigerians are very poor. Government corruption has been a constant problem. Education and economic investment are needed to help improve the future prospects of Nigerians.

by Andy Koopmans

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Even before the country became independent in 1962, Rwanda's two largest ethnic groups, the Hutu and Tutsi, were often at war. In the spring of 1994, tensions between the two groups culminated in nationwide massacres of approximately 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu. The genocide drew international attention to the problems of this small state in central Africa. Since the genocide ended, Rwanda has made slow but steady progress. In 2003, a new constitution was adopted that would prevent future human- rights abuses. The country's economy, devastated by years of civil war, is also improving. However, much work must still be done to ensure Rwanda's stability.

by Tanya Mulroy

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Located on the westernmost point of Africa, Senegal is a land of stunning coastlines, semi-desert sands, fertile river valleys, grassland plains, and tropical rainforests. Since winning independence from France in 1960, Senegal has gained a reputation as one of Africa's most modern and progressive countries. Senegal is also one of the few states on the continent that has continued to see peaceful transfer of governmental powers through democratic elections. Although mostly rural, the former French colony features a mixture of modern urban communities and colonial towns, which attract a growing tourist industry. Senegal also has a strong manufacturing sector and foreign investment. However, despite its steady economic growth, Senegal continues to be plagued by poverty and high unemployment.

Sierra Leone
by Judy Hasday

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Although graced with picturesque beaches, lush rain forests, and abundant diamond mines, the tiny West African nation of Sierra Leone is a land haunted by tragedy. It is the region from which the first slaves in North America were brought during the 1600s. A century later, thousands of freed slaves would establish a settlement called Freetown, which later became part of the British colony of Sierra Leone. Despite its diamond resources, Sierra Leone remained a poverty-stricken nation after achieving independence in 1961. During the 1990s, its people were devastated by horrific atrocities that occurred during a brutal civil war. Since peace came to the troubled nation in 2002, Sierra Leone has begun the slow process of rebuilding. However, much work must still be done before Sierra Leone can become a stable and prosperous nation.

South Africa
by Sheila Smith Noonan

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The beautiful terrain of South Africa is home to some of the most abundant wildlife in Africa. Each year millions of tourists visit the country, hoping to catch a glimpse of elephants, lions, and other animals. Beneath the ground are great deposits of such minerals as platinum, gold, and diamonds. Unfortunately, South Africa's history is less beautiful than its landscape and its diamonds. For most of the 20th century, the state operated under a policy of apartheid, which separated racial groups and treated black Africans as second-class citizens. After years of discrimination, apartheid was abolished after the 1994 election of Nelson Mandela as president of South Africa. Today this highly diverse country continues to move beyond its troubled past, as it is one of the most stable countries in Africa both politically and economically.

Sudan and Southern Sudan
by Dorothy Kavanaugh

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Even before the East African country of Sudan became independent from British rule in 1956, the people of this region were fighting among themselves. For nearly all of Sudan's modern history the country has been devastated by civil wars. The first war between the Arab-dominated government in the North and rebel groups in the South lasted from 1955 to 1972. The second began in 1983 and ended in 2005, when a power-sharing agreement was signed. As part of that agreement, a referendum was held in January 2011 in which the residents of Southern Sudan voted to break away and form a new country. On July 9, 2011, the country officially became independent as the Republic of South Sudan. Despite the optimism of independence, today both the countries of Sudan and Southern Sudan have many problems. Most of the people of Sudan and Southern Sudan are desperately poor and suffer from famines, fighting, and human-rights abuses by government and rebel forces.

by Joan Vos MacDonald

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The United Republic of Tanzania was created in the 1960s by the merger of two independent countries: Tanganyika, a territory on mainland East Africa, and the Zanzibar islands in the Indian Ocean. Tanzania has been a stable and relatively peaceful democracy, although in recent years religious clashes have touched off disputes over election results. Tanzania has many natural resources, including the rare gemstone tanzanite, but it is one of the poorest countries in the world. This is due in part to a huge public debt the government incurred over the previous three decades. The AIDS epidemic has also weakened the economy by taking growing numbers of people out of the workforce. Since 2000, Tanzania's government has taken positive steps toward lessening poverty, reducing debt, growing the economy, and attempting to slow the spread of AIDS.

The African Union
by Russell Roberts

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Beset by war, disease, famine, human rights abuses, and numerous other problems, Africa today is a continent in need of good leadership. Many people believe the only way Africa will be able to solve its many challenges is by uniting the more than 50 nations on the continent. To that end, the African Union was formed in 2002 as a successor to the largely ineffective Organization of African Unity. The purpose of the African Union is to turn Africa into a political and economic power. The new organization faces many challenges, and the solutions to Africa's problems will not be easy to find. Yet on its shoulders the African Union carries the hopes and dreams of a continent.

by Lauri Kubuitsile

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Uganda is sometimes called the "land of lakes," because almost one-third of its territory is covered by water. The greatest Ugandan body of water is Lake Victoria, the second-largest freshwater lake in the world. The world's longest river, the Nile, also has its source in Uganda. Uganda has faced a great deal of turmoil since becoming independent in 1962. During the rule of Idi Amin in the 1970s, some 300,000 Ugandans-- mostly from the Acholi and Lano tribes--were massacred. Political instability and unrest in the country continued into the next decade. However, since the 1986 election of Yoweri Museveni, Uganda has made great progress socially and economically. In recent years the country has forged closer ties with the United States and other foreign nations.

by Michael Baughan

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Rhodesia, a country in southern Africa, was a fairly prosperous British colony until the mid-1960s; however, the black African majority of Rhodesia was ruled by a handful of white leaders. The country fought Great Britain in a 15-year war for independence, which it ultimately achieved in 1980. Zimbabwe, as the new country became known, saw its prosperity decline dramatically under Robert Mugabe, its first ruler. He seized total control over the country and persecuted his political enemies. In recent years, Mugabe policies--such as military involvement in the Congolese civil war and a land redistribution program--as well as government corruption have devastated the country economically. Although Mugabe's agreed to a power-sharing arrangement in 2009, many political issues remain unresolved. As a result, the future of Zimbabwe is uncertain.

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