The Geography of Modern Africa

The Geography of Modern Africa

The Geography of Modern Africa

The Geography of Modern Africa


Africa has become in recent years one of the keystones of the world-wide struggle for independence. The rapid evolution from colonial status to independence has received the greatest attention in the flood of reports and scholarly documents focusing upon that great continent. The fact is, however, that the "struggle," for almost all countries, has been far less difficult than the problems of development that these countries now face. The demand for independence has been met for most of the continent; nobody knows the secret of achieving rapid economic advance for the peoples of Africa.

The purposes of this book are to present the major features of the economy of Africa, to analyze the handicaps and attributes that affect economic development, and to assess some of the potentialities for growth in the years ahead. Since variety is one of the keynotes of Africa, the continent is approached on a regional basis, with all but the first five background chapters being devoted to individual countries or groups of countries.

Africa has been changing with sometimes startling rapidity. This contributes to its fascination, but greatly increases the task of reporting on it. Assessments such as are attempted here require constant revision as knowledge of the continent is broadened and deepened. Nonetheless, many of the problems and conditions affecting economic development are more or less timeless and others will remain for many years to come.

It cannot be too forcefully noted that most African statistics must be approached with caution. Demographic data are often of highly questionable validity. Figures on such things as production or acreage of subsistence crops, numbers of livestock, and per capita incomes are especially suspect. Subjects that are more accurately covered include production and sales of export crops, output of minerals, and commodity exports and imports, but even here one runs into baffling contradictions and numerous missing links.

It is impossible to know the continent as well as one should to write a book such as this. The author's preparation has involved studying Africa since 1941, teaching courses about the continent since 1949, and four field trips including an extended one in 1962-63. All of the major countries have been visited at one time or another, and return visits to many of them have proved valuable in assessing the growth of various economic sectors and regions. The debt to others who have studied the continent and its parts is enormous, however, and is acknowledged with gratitude.

Many people have been generous in the help extended in preparation of this book. Academic colleagues, government officials, persons in business and industry, and citizens of African, European, Asian, and American origin have gone beyond the call of duty in attempting to supply the material requested. Their personal kindnesses and unfailing cooperation are deeply appreciated. I am indebted to the Rockefeller Foundation, the Graduate School of Business of Columbia University, and the Liberia Mining Company for research grants which made possible the latest field trip to Africa. I have enjoyed working with my friends at . . .

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