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Five Things You Don't Know About Africa

1. Africa is not a Country.

Okay. You do know this, but people frequently refer to Africa as though it were a country. Sometimes, people will actually say, “Countries like India and Africa…”, but more often they simply refer to Africa as though the entire continent faced similar problems or had similar cultures or histories. There are, however, 54 sovereign states in Africa plus the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

2. Africa is not all poor or rural or overpopulated…

Africa is an incredibly diverse continent politically, socially, and economically. To get an idea of how people’s lives and opportunities differ across Africa, consider that in 2013:

            (All data from the World Bank)

3. There were empires and kingdoms in Africa long before the modern era

The most famous ancient kingdom, of course, is Egypt, which existed in one form or another, from roughly 3,150 to 332 B.C.E. Carthage is also well-known due to its wars with Rome, but there were numerous other ancient kingdoms and empires, including Kush-Meroe in present-day Sudan and Axum in Ethiopia, each of which lasted for over 1,000 years.

Two of the more famous states of what is sometimes referred to as the medieval era in African history are the Kingdoms of Mali (c.1230-1600) and Great Zimbabwe (c. 1200-1450). These were both rich states involved in intercontinental trade. Archeological digs at Zimbabwe have revealed coins and commodities from as far away as China, and these are but a few examples of the wealthy and powerful states that flourished in Africa before European colonization.

4.  With the exception of Ethiopia, every African country has English, French, Portuguese, or Arabic as one of their official languages

Arabic has long been spoken widely in northern and western Africa, and then between 1885 and 1914, Europe colonized all of Africa with the exception of Ethiopia and Liberia. One consequence of this colonization was that after independence, the former colonies kept the language of their colonizer as one of their official

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