One of the five defined sub-regions of Africa is Central Africa. This region is the heart or the core zone of the continent. In total, there are nine countries that fall within this region under the classification of the United Nations. Of the nine countries, only one of them, Chad, is landlocked. One of them, the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe, is an island. The rest of the countries are Angola, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and the Republic of the Congo. The following countries are known as Central Africa:
- Central African Republic
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Equatorial Guinea
- Republic of the Congo
- São Tomé and Príncipe
Initially, there was the Central African Federation between 1953 and 1963, which included Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. Similarly, the Anglican and the Presbyterian churches have or had dioceses and synods in some countries that are presently regarded as being part of Southern or Eastern Africa.
History Of Central Africa
Archaeologists have found evidence of objects that date as far back as 100,000 years. There is also evidence of activities such as iron smelting that goes even further back to between 3000 and 2500 BCE. Improved agricultural techniques and trading activities in the past are what led to the establishment of initial civilizations of Wadai, Sao, Bornu, Kanem, Baguirmi, Shilluk, and Bornu.
The Sao civilization is the earliest known civilization in the region with their existence dating as far back as the sixth century BCE. The people lived around the Chari River, which is the present-day region of Chad and Cameroon. Based on the evidence, they were skilled in using copper, iron, and bronze.
The Kanem Empire is also another ancient civilization that began around the ninth century CE all the way to around 1900. During its peak, the empire spread from Chad to parts of nations like Libya, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic. Other kingdoms and empires came later.
During the Scramble for Africa in 1884 and 1885, much of the region was shared between France, Britain, and Belgium. The Lake Chad basin was later forcefully added by the French to be a part of French West Africa with Britain getting parts of the basin as well. The Germans took parts of Cameroon until the nations around the basin retook their independence. Most recently, South Sudan became independent from the Republic of Sudan after five decades of war.
Demographics Of Central Africa
After the Bantus migrated into the region, they occupied the land en masse. Consequently, people of Bantu roots and languages now dominate the region. Some of the tribes include the Mongo, Luba, and the Kongo. There are also other communities such as the Nilo-Saharan tribes. The majority of people who speak Ubangian in Africa also live in the region such as the Bande and the Zande peoples.
Some of the more prominent regional organizations in the region are the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the Lake Chad Basin Commission. The Lake Chad Basin Commission is particularly crucial due to its management of the massive basin of Lake Chad, which is crucial to the survival of millions. Religiously, traditional African religions and Christianity dominate. Other religions such as Islam are practiced as well but not in many countries.
French is the dominant language in the area. Of the nine countries in the region, seven of them, such as the Central African Republic and Cameron, have French as their national language. Of the seven, only three, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo, and Gabon, have French as the exclusive national language. French, Portuguese, Sango, and Spanish are the other national languages in the region. The dominance of French can be traced back to the colonial times when France and Belgium occupied most of the area.
Economy Of Central Africa
There are three main economic activities in the region namely farming, fishing, and herding. The agriculture is insufficient in fulfilling all the dietary needs of the population. An estimated 40% of the population of the eastern and the northern parts of the region are experiencing severe food shortages and poverty.
The only places that have the ability to sustain crop production are located in the southern belt, the riverine wetlands, and the areas around Lake Chad. Due to the unavailability of arable land, most of the population has decided to engage in nomadic herding activities. During the rainy season, which is usually short, the nomads move their herds to the north and deplete the nutritious grass. In the drier season, they move back to the south to graze around the lakes, the savannas, or around floodplains.
The fishing sector in the Lake Chad region was able to produce a harvest of around 70,000 tons in the 2000 – 2001 period. This produce was enough to feed and provide income to over 10 million people. The management of the fishing activities is through traditions. Each tribe has a certain river or lake that “belongs” to them. For other people to use the designated regions, they have to ask for permission or pay a certain fee. In this system, the government has had very little control over the natural resources in the past. However, in recent times, the authorities are increasing their efforts of exerting control over the resources by using the military or the local constabulary. Aside from the fish, two of the countries in the region, South Sudan and Chad, have large oil reserves that play a huge role in the economy.
Culture Of Central Africa
Historically, the region has experienced a lot of movement from within and outside. Consequently, it has experienced a lot of intermingling of different cultures. A good example of such an intermingling was during the Bantu migration into the region. Similar cultural activities that exist are seen in activities such as music, adornment of the body, marriage rituals, initiation, art, and dance.
In terms of size, the two major ethnic groups in Central Africa are the Mongo and the Luba peoples. Both of these communities are estimated to have members numbering between 10 and 15 million. The Kongo and the Kanuri also have significant estimates of around 10 million members. Other communities with considerable sizes include the Sara, Gbaya, Zande, and the Banda. Interestingly, all of these communities live within the Chad Basin and the Sub-Equatorial Basin.