Subsaharan Africa

This area stretches west to east

from the Cape Verde islands on the Atlantic to the Horn of Africa on the Indian Ocean’s shore, and north to south from the Upper Nile and the Sahara desert to the Cape of Good Hope on Africa’s tip, where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet. The Sahel zone is an arid corridor south of the Sahara that extends to the Nile valley and the highlands of Ethiopia to the east. Beyond is the parched Horn of Africa and the Indian Ocean.

West and Central Africa are wet tropical areas. The Cape area featuresa pleasant, Mediterranean-type climate.

European colonization began in the 17th century on the Cape and certain coastal ports. Arab influence was important in East Africa. In the 19th century, Sub-Saharan Africa, with the exception of Ethiopia, was parceled into colonies by the European powers. Rushed decolonization took place in the 1960s.

Africa is a continent of rich ethnic and religious variety. The boundaries of the present states were drawn by foreign powers and do not reflect indigenous territorial and ethnic structures. Such aspects did not inform the colonization and decolonization process. Later on, the outside powers, the United Nations in particular, cemented the existence of these arbitrarily designed states. This legacy is at the root of the tragedy of the Democratic Republic of Congo, for instance. The western-style governance systems left by the colonial powers also do not help the Africans. Such systems ought to be derived from the local needs instead of forcing them into an alien institutional corset. Africa needs to resolve its governance challenge by itself. 

This legacy is Africa’s tragedy. Even so, the continent has a wealth of natural resources. Not the least is its population. Africa’s high fertility rate is not a curse, as many like to proclaim, but a source of strength in a world whose overall population is about to decline.  

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See our reports on Subsaharan Africa

  • Report
  • Scenarios

The costs of Brexit for Africa

Now that the United Kingdom is no longer part of the European Union, it will have free rein to set its own terms when dealing with African countries. So far, the British government seems to be determined to foster close ties with the continent through foreign direct investment and private sector partnerships. However, Africa’s rising geopolitical importance means that Britain will have to compete with other powers for influence in the area.

Teresa Nogueira Pinto
  • Report
  • Scenarios

Guinea-Bissau: Little hope for a peaceful transition

After decades of institutional fragility, Guinea-Bissau appears to be facing another political thunderstorm. Presidential candidate Umaro Sissoco Embalo has seized the reins of the country, but neither the supreme court nor the National Assembly recognize his victory. Meanwhile, pressured by the pandemic, the Economic Community of West African States has recognized the Sissoco Embalo administration, but only under certain conditions.

Teresa Nogueira Pinto
  • Report
  • Scenarios

The EU’s new, more practical strategy for Africa

The EU’s new strategy for Africa focuses on areas that are of crucial importance in the eyes of African governments: green transition and energy access, digital transformation, sustainable growth and jobs, peace and governance, and migration and mobility. However, a lack of political cohesion on the European side could prevent Brussels from offering terms that would satisfy its African counterparts.

Teresa Nogueira Pinto
  • Report
  • Scenarios

Burundi: Turmoil ahead?

In May 2020, President Pierre Nkurunziza will step down and the successor chosen by the regime will likely become the new leader of Burundi. However, these developments could trigger significant upheavals. Armed militias operating from Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo could decide to interfere, especially if the election results lead to widespread protests.

Teresa Nogueira Pinto