Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Historical review of Africa

A well executed blend of genetic, anthropological and archaeological studies unveils that Africa is the cradle of humanity. Scientists have uncovered crucial evidence to attest that the human race, generally alluded to as Homo Sapiens, took birth in Africa about 200.000 years ago, and later dispersed to other parts of the world; with their now observed respective forms, subsequently shaped by various factors. It is held that in the ancient era, around 100.000 BC, inhabitants of Africa employed stone tools to engage in subsistence activities; such as gathering. By 5.000 BC, farming had become a prominent activity in North Africa, in an era when the present-day Sahara Desert was still a very fertile and highly productive land.

The Egyptians utilised bronze to produce farming tools and other implements. Meanwhile in about 3.200 BC, writing was invented in Africa’s North-East nation of Egypt. From 1567 to about 1085 BC, Ancient Egypt had attained its pinnacle in wealth, power and territorial conquest; a period generally known as the New Empire. Ancient Egypt was indigenously known as Kemet, which essentially entailed ‘Land of the blacks and Ta-Meri.” The present day Pyramids and Pharaoh Khufu, are outstanding living attestations of Egypt’s eminence in that era. By 600 BC, the production and utilisation of iron tools in Africa had become common place, not only in North Africa, but right through to South Africa. Egypt’s influence stretched along the River Nile; and modern-day Sudan was then pioneered, as the kingdoms of Nubia and Kush. By 100 AD, the kingdom of Axum in Ethiopia was a flourishing civilisation, which traded with Rome, Arabia and India. Meanwhile, the then powerful Roman Empire continued to widen its influence. In 30 BC, Egypt became a province of the Roman Empire; while Morocco followed suit in 42 AD.

Nonetheless, the vast Sahara Desert prevented the Romans from exerting their influence in the more Southern territories of Africa. During the Middle Ages in about 642 AD, the Arabs conquered Egypt; followed by Tunisia between 698 and700 AD. They soon introduced Islam in the entire coast of North Africa; and engaged in trade with these territories. Soon, this trade embraced other parts of Africa, resulting in the propagation of Islam in the continent. One of the earliest African kingdoms was ancient Ghana, which included parts of Mali, Mauritania and modern-day Ghana.

By the 11th Century, the city of Ife in South-West Nigeria was the headquarters of an immense kingdom. Around the 13th century, the kingdom of Benin became very powerful and rich. Meanwhile the kingdom of Mali was pioneered in the 13th century; and became very powerful and affluent by the 14th century; with Timbuktu constituting one of its illustrious trading centres. Meanwhile the Arabs sailed down the coast of East Africa, and founded a territory like Mogadishu; while some of them settled on the Island of Zanzibar in Tanzania. West Africa constituted a cardinal trading route, with the emergence of very powerful empires in the region; such as Mali Empire, Kanem Bornu Empire, Fulani Empire, the Dahomey Oyo, Ashanti and Songhay empires. Around 1000 AD, Bantu-speaking entities commenced spreading in present-day Zimbabwe and South Africa. Zimbabwe emerged as a key empire, and exercised control over the trading route from South of Africa, right through to Zambezi. These commercial operations were mostly conducted with Arab Swahili traders.

The Swahilis are held to be descendants of Persian traders, who carried out trading activities in East Africa. In the 15th century, Prince Henry, son of King John I of Portugal, opted to conquer African territories; and to that effect, the Portuguese commenced their exploration of the continent. In 1488, the Portuguese sailed around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. Meanwhile between 1500 and 1800, European nations established a presence in Africa. In the 16th century for instance, the Portuguese settled in Angola and Mozambique; while in 1662, the Dutch founded a colony in South Africa. Subsequently, a multitude of African countries came under the annexation of several other European countries, among them, the British, French, German, Spanish, Belgian, etc. These annexation regimes persisted in Africa until around the middle part of the 20th century, when these political schemes were quashed, and governance reverted to nationals. Following the cessation of these annexation systems, Africa was ruled by both conscious statesmen and ruthless tyrants. With the advent of the 21th century, Africa is progressively shifting to stable democracy.

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