Central Africa is a region of the African continent comprising various countries according to different definitions. Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Rwanda, and São Tomé and Príncipe are members of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).Six of those states (Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon) are also members of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC) and share a common currency, the Central African CFA franc. The African Development Bank defines Central Africa as Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon. Middle Africa is an analogous term used by the United Nations in its geoscheme for Africa. It includes the same countries as the African Development Bank's definition, along with Angola, and São Tomé and Príncipe.
The Central African Federation (1953–1963), also called the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, was made up of what are now the nations of Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Similarly, the Anglican Church of the Province of Central Africa covers dioceses in Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, while the Church of Central Africa, Presbyterian has synods in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. These states are now typically considered part of East or Southern Africa.
The basin of Lake Chad has historically been ecologically significant to the populations of Central Africa, especially with the Lake Chad Basin Commission serving as an important supra-regional organization in Central Africa.
Archeological finds in Central Africa have been discovered dating back, over 100,000 years. 60 km (37 mi) southwest of Lake Chad dating to the first millennium BCE.According to Zangato and Holl, there is evidence of iron-smelting in the Central African Republic and Cameroon that may date back to 3000 to 2500 BCE. Extensive walled settlements have recently been found in Northeast Nigeria, approximately
Trade and improved agricultural techniques supported more sophisticated societies, leading to the early civilizations of Sao, Kanem, Bornu, Shilluk, Baguirmi, and Wadai.
Around 1000 BCE, Bantu migrants had reached the Great Lakes Region in Central Africa. Halfway through the first millennium BCE, the Bantu had also settled as far south as what is now Angola.
The Sao civilization flourished from ca. the sixth century BCE to as late as the sixteenth century CE in northern Central Africa. The Sao lived by the Chari River south of Lake Chad in territory that later became part of Cameroon and Chad. They are the earliest people to have left clear traces of their presence in the territory of modern Cameroon. Today, several ethnic groups of northern Cameroon and southern Chad but particularly the Sara people claim descent from the civilization of the Sao. Sao artifacts show that they were skilled workers in bronze, copper, and iron.Finds include bronze sculptures and terra cotta statues of human and animal figures, coins, funerary urns, household utensils, jewelry, highly decorated pottery, and spears. The largest Sao archaeological finds have been made south of Lake Chad.
Note: BCE is the same as BC and CE is the same as AD.
The Kanem-Bornu Empire was centered in the Chad Basin. It was known as the Kanem Empire from the 9th century CE onward and lasted as the independent kingdom of Bornu until 1900. At its height it encompassed an area covering not only much of Chad, but also parts of modern southern Libya, eastern Niger, northeastern Nigeria, northern Cameroon, parts of South Sudan and the Central African Republic. The history of the Empire is mainly known from the Royal Chronicle or Girgam discovered in 1851 by the German traveller Heinrich Barth.Kanem rose in the 8th century in the region to the north and east of Lake Chad. The Kanem empire went into decline, shrank, and in the 14th century was defeated by Bilala invaders from the Lake Fitri region.
The Kanuri people led by the Sayfuwa migrated to the west and south of the lake, where they established the Bornu Empire. By the late 16th century the Bornu empire had expanded and recaptured the parts of Kanem that had been conquered by the Bulala.Satellite states of Bornu included the Damagaram in the west and Baguirmi to the southeast of Lake Chad.
The Shilluk Kingdom was centered in South Sudan from the 15th century from along a strip of land along the western bank of White Nile, from Lake No to about 12° north latitude. The capital and royal residence was in the town of Fashoda. The kingdom was founded during the mid-fifteenth century CE by its first ruler, Nyikang. During the nineteenth century, the Shilluk Kingdom faced decline following military assaults from the Ottoman Empire and later British and Sudanese colonization in Anglo-Egyptian Sudan.
The Kingdom of Baguirmi existed as an independent state during the 16th and 17th centuries southeast of Lake Chad in what is now the country of Chad. Baguirmi emerged to the southeast of the Kanem-Bornu Empire. The kingdom's first ruler was Mbang Birni Besse. Later in his reign, the Bornu Empire conquered and made the state a tributary.
The Wadai Empire was centered on Chad and the Central African Republic from the 17th century. The Tunjur people founded the Wadai Kingdom to the east of Bornu in the 16th century. In the 17th century there was a revolt of the Maba people who established a Muslim dynasty. At first Wadai paid tribute to Bornu and Durfur, but by the 18th century Wadai was fully independent and had become an aggressor against its neighbors.
Following the Bantu Migration from Western Africa, Bantu kingdomes and empires began to develop in southern Central Africa. In the 1450s, a Luba from the royal family Ilunga Tshibinda married Lunda queen Rweej and united all Lunda peoples. Their son Mulopwe Luseeng expanded the kingdom. His son Naweej expanded the empire further and is known as the first Lunda emperor, with the title Mwata Yamvo (mwaant yaav, mwant yav), the "Lord of Vipers". The Luba political system was retained, and conquered peoples were integrated into the system. The mwata yamvo assigned a cilool or kilolo (royal adviser) and tax collector to each state conquered.
Numerous states claimed descent from the Lunda. The Imbangala of inland Angola claimed descent from a founder, Kinguri, brother of Queen Rweej, who could not tolerate the rule of mulopwe Tshibunda. Kinguri became the title of kings of states founded by Queen Rweej's brother. The Luena (Lwena) and Lozi (Luyani) in Zambia also claim descent from Kinguri. During the 17th century, a Lunda chief and warrior called Mwata Kazembe set up an Eastern Lunda kingdom in the valley of the Luapula River. The Lunda's western expansion also saw claims of descent by the Yaka and the Pende. The Lunda linked Central Africa with the western coast trade. The kingdom of Lunda came to an end in the 19th century when it was invaded by the Chokwe, who were armed with guns.
By the 15th century CE, the farming Bakongo people (ba being the plural prefix) were unified as the Kingdom of Kongo under a ruler called the manikongo , residing in the fertile Pool Malebo area on the lower Congo River. The capital was M'banza-Kongo. With superior organization, they were able to conquer their neighbors and extract tribute. They were experts in metalwork, pottery, and weaving raffia cloth. They stimulated interregional trade via a tribute system controlled by the manikongo. Later, maize (corn) and cassava (manioc) would be introduced to the region via trade with the Portuguese at their ports at Luanda and Benguela. The maize and cassava would result in population growth in the region and other parts of Africa, replacing millet as a main staple.
By the 16th century, the manikongo held authority from the Atlantic in the west to the Kwango River in the east. Each territory was assigned a mani-mpembe (provincial governor) by the manikongo. In 1506, Afonso I (1506–1542), a Christian, took over the throne. Slave trading increased with Afonso's wars of conquest. About 1568 to 1569, the Jaga invaded Kongo, laying waste to the kingdom and forcing the manikongo into exile. In 1574, Manikongo Álvaro I was reinstated with the help of Portuguese mercenaries. During the latter part of the 1660s, the Portuguese tried to gain control of Kongo. Manikongo António I (1661–1665), with a Kongolese army of 5,000, was destroyed by an army of Afro-Portuguese at the Battle of Mbwila. The empire dissolved into petty polities, fighting among each other for war captives to sell into slavery.
Kongo gained captives from the Kingdom of Ndongo in wars of conquest. Ndongo was ruled by the ngola. Ndongo would also engage in slave trading with the Portuguese, with São Tomé being a transit point to Brazil. The kingdom was not as welcoming as Kongo; it viewed the Portuguese with great suspicion and as an enemy. The Portuguese in the latter part of the 16th century tried to gain control of Ndongo but were defeated by the Mbundu. Ndongo experienced depopulation from slave raiding. The leaders established another state at Matamba, affiliated with Queen Nzinga, who put up a strong resistance to the Portuguese until coming to terms with them. The Portuguese settled along the coast as trade dealers, not venturing on conquest of the interior. Slavery wreaked havoc in the interior, with states initiating wars of conquest for captives. The Imbangala formed the slave-raiding state of Kasanje, a major source of slaves during the 17th and 18th centuries.
During the Conference of Berlin in 1884-85 Africa was divided up between the European colonial powers, defining boundaries that are largely intact with today's post-colonial states.On 5 August 1890 the British and French concluded an agreement to clarify the boundary between French West Africa and what would become Nigeria. A boundary was agreed along a line from Say on the Niger to Barruwa on Lake Chad, but leaving the Sokoto Caliphate in the British sphere. Parfait-Louis Monteil was given charge of an expedition to discover where this line actually ran. On 9 April 1892 he reached Kukawa on the shore of the lake. Over the next twenty years a large part of the Chad Basin was incorporated by treaty or by force into French West Africa. On 2 June 1909, the Wadai capital of Abéché was occupied by the French. The remainder of the basin was divided by the British in Nigeria who took Kano in 1903, and the Germans in Cameroon. The countries of the basin regained their independence between 1956 and 1962, retaining the colonial administrative boundaries.
In 2011, South Sudan gained its independence from the Republic of Sudan after over 50 years of war. In the 21st century, many jihadist and Islamist groups began to operate in the Central African region, including the Seleka and the Ansaru.
Over the course of the 2010s, the internationally unrecognized secessionist state called Ambazonia gained increasing momentum in its home regions.
The main economic activities of Central Africa are farming, herding and fishing. At least 40% of the rural population of northern and eastern Central Africa lives in poverty and routinely face chronic food shortages.Crop production based on rain is possible only in the southern belt. Flood recession agriculture is practiced around Lake Chad and in the riverine wetlands. Nomadic herders migrate with their animals into the grasslands of the northern part of the basin for a few weeks during each short rainy season, where they intensively graze the highly nutritious grasses. When the dry season starts they move back south, either to grazing lands around the lakes and floodplains, or to the savannas further to the south.
In the 2000-01 period, fisheries in the Lake Chad basin provided food and income to more than 10 million people, with a harvest of about 70,000 tons.Fisheries have traditionally been managed by a system where each village has recognized rights over a defined part of the river, wetland or lake, and fishers from elsewhere must seek permission and pay a fee to use this area. The governments only enforced rules and regulations to a limited extent. Local governments and traditional authorities are increasingly engaged in rent-seeking, collecting license fees with the help of the police or army.
Oil is also a major export of the countries of northern and eastern Central Africa, notably making up a large proportion of the GDPs of Chad and South Sudan.
Following the Bantu Migration, Central Africa is primarily inhabited by Bantu peoples and Bantu languages predominate. These include the Mongo, Kongo and Luba peoples. Central Africa also includes many Nilo-Saharan and Niger-Congo Ubangian communities: in north western Central Africa the Nilo-Saharan Kanuripredominate. Most of the Ubangian speakers in Africa (often grouped with Niger-Congo) are also found in Central Africa, such as the Gbaya, Banda and Zande, in northern Central Africa.
Notable Central African supra-regional organizations include the Lake Chad Basin Commission and the Economic Community of Central African States.
The predominant religions of Central Africa and Christianity and traditional faiths. Islam is also practiced in some areas in Chad and the Central African Republic.
|Name||Capital||Currency||Official languages||Area (km2)||Population (2018)|
|Cameroon||Yaoundé||Central African CFA franc||French, English||475,442||25,216,267|
|Central African Republic||Bangui||Central African CFA franc||Sango, French||622,984||4,666,368|
|Chad||N'Djamena||Central African CFA franc||French, Arabic||1,284,000||15,477,729|
|Democratic Republic of the Congo||Kinshasa||Congolese franc||French||2,344,858||84,068,091|
|Republic of the Congo||Brazzaville||Central African CFA franc||French||342,000||5,244,359|
|Equatorial Guinea||Malabo||Central African CFA franc||Spanish, Portuguese, French||28,051||1,308,975|
|Gabon||Libreville||Central African CFA franc||French||267,668||2,119,275|
|São Tomé and Príncipe||São Tomé||São Tomé and Príncipe Dobra||Portuguese||964||211,028|
Due to common historical processes and widespread demographic movements between the countries of Central Africa before the Bantu Migration into much of southern Central Africa, the cultures of the region evidence many similarities and interrelationships. Similar cultural practices stemming from common origins as largely Nilo-Saharan or Bantu peoples is also evident in Central Africa including in music, dance, art, body adornment, initiation and marriage rituals.
Some major ethnic groups in Central Africa are as follows:
|Sara||Nilo-Saharan, Central Sudanic||Sara||Chad Basin||Chad, Cameroon, Central African Republic||3.5|
|Gbaya||Niger-Congo, Ubangian||Gbaya language||Chad Basin||Central African Republic||1.5|
|Zande||Niger–Congo, Ubangian||Zande||Chad Basin||South Sudan, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo||1-4|
|Kanuri||Nilo-Saharan, Western Saharan||Kanuri||Chad Basin||Eastern Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, Chad||10|
|Banda||Niger-Congo, Ubangian||Banda language||Chad Basin||Central African Republic||1.5|
|Luba||Niger-Congo, Bantu||Luba language||Sub-Equatorial||Democratic Republic of Congo||10-15|
|Mongo||Niger-Congo, Bantu||Mongo language||Sub-Equatorial||Democratic Republic of Congo||10-15|
|Kongo||Niger-Congo, Bantu||Kongo language||Sub-Equatorial||Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Republic of Congo||10|
The history of Africa begins with the emergence of hominids, archaic humans and—at least 200,000 years ago—anatomically modern humans, in East Africa, and continues unbroken into the present as a patchwork of diverse and politically developing nation states. The earliest known recorded history arose in the Kingdom of Kush, and later in Ancient Egypt, the Sahel, the Maghreb and the Horn of Africa.
The Kanem–Bornu Empire existed in areas which are now part of Chad and Nigeria. It was known to the Arabian geographers as the Kanem Empire from the 8th century AD onward and lasted as the independent kingdom of Bornu until 1900. The Kanem Empire was located in the present countries of Chad, Nigeria and Libya. At its height it encompassed an area covering not only most of Chad, but also parts of southern Libya (Fezzan) and eastern Niger, northeastern Nigeria and northern Cameroon. The Bornu Empire (1380s–1893) was a state in what is now northeastern Nigeria, in time becoming even larger than Kanem, incorporating areas that are today parts of Chad, Niger, Sudan, and Cameroon. It existed from 1380s to 1893. The early history of the Empire is mainly known from the Royal Chronicle or Girgam discovered in 1851 by the German traveller Heinrich Barth.
The Kanuri people are an African ethnic group living largely in the lands of the former Kanem and Bornu Empires in Niger, Nigeria and Cameroon. Those generally termed Kanuri include several subgroups and dialect groups, some of whom identify as distinct from the Kanuri. Most trace their origins to ruling lineages of the medieval Kanem-Bornu Empire, and its client states or provinces. In contrast to the neighboring Toubou or Zaghawa pastoralists, Kanuri groups have traditionally been sedentary, engaging in farming, fishing the Chad Basin, and engaged in trade and salt processing.
The Sahelian kingdoms were a series of kingdoms or empires that were centered on the Sahel, the area of grasslands south of the Sahara. The wealth of the states came from controlling the trade routes across the desert. Their power came from having large pack animals like camels and horses that were fast enough to keep a large empire under central control and were also useful in such kind of battle. All of these empires were also quite decentralized with member cities having a great deal of autonomy.
The pre-colonial history of the Democratic Republic of the Congo encompasses the political, economic and social history of the territory of the modern-day Democratic Republic of the Congo before the arrival of European colonial rule in the late 19th century.
The Far North Region, also known as the Extreme North Region, is the northernmost constituent province of the Republic of Cameroon. It borders the North Region to the south, Chad to the east, and Nigeria to the west. The capital is Maroua.
The Kotoko kingdom was an African monarchy in what is today northern Cameroon and Nigeria, and southwestern Chad. Its inhabitants and their modern descendants are known as the Kotoko people.
The Kanembu are an ethnic group of Chad, generally considered the modern descendants of the Kanem-Borno Empire. The Kanembu number an estimated 655,000 people, located primarily in Chad's Lac Prefecture but also in Chari-Baguirmi and Kanem prefectures. They speak the Kanembu language, from which is derived the Kanuri language, with many speaking Arabic as a second language.
The Wadai Sultanate was an African sultanate located to the east of Lake Chad in present-day Chad and the Central African Republic. It emerged in the seventeenth century under the leadership of the first sultan, Abd al-Karim, who overthrew the ruling Tunjur people of the area. It occupied land previously held by the Sultanate of Darfur to the northeast of the Kingdom of Baguirmi.
The Bilala are a Muslim people that live around Lake Fitri, in the Batha Prefecture, in central Chad. The last Chadian census in 1993 stated that they numbered 136,629 persons. Their language, Naba, is divided in four dialects and is in the Nilo-Saharan group; it is shared by two of their neighbours, the Kuka and the Medogo. These three peoples are collectively known as Lisi and are believed to be descendants of main ethnic groups of the Sultanate of Yao.
The Sao civilisation flourished in Central Africa from ca. the sixth century BC to as late as the sixteenth century AD. The Sao lived by the Chari River basin in territory that later became part of Cameroon and Chad. They are the earliest people to have left clear traces of their presence in the territory of modern Cameroon. Sometime around the 16th century, conversion to Islam changed the cultural identity of the former Sao. Today, several ethnic groups of northern Cameroon and southern Chad, but particularly the Sara, Kotoko, claim descent from the civilization of the Sao.
Omar ibn Idris, or Umar Idrismi, Idris Dunama III, was the ruler of the Kanem Empire from 1372 to 1380. He moved the capital from Njimi, Kanem to Kaga, located on the western edge of Lake Chad in present day Borno State, Nigeria.
The colonial history of Angola is usually considered to run from the appearance of the Portuguese under Diogo Cão in 1482 (Congo) or 1484 until the independence of Angola in November 1975. Settlement did not begin until Novais's establishment of São Paulo de Loanda (Luanda) in 1575, however, and the Portuguese government only formally incorporated Angola as a colony in 1655 or on May 12, 1886.
African empires is an umbrella term used in African studies to refer to a number of pre-colonial African kingdoms in Africa with multinational structures incorporating various populations and polities into a single entity, usually through conquest.
The population of Chad has numerous ethnic groups. SIL Ethnologue reports more than 130 distinct languages spoken in Chad.
M'banza-Kongo, is the capital of Angola's northwestern Zaire Province with a population of 145,000 (2014). M'banza Kongo was founded some time before the arrival of the Portuguese in 1483 and was the capital of the Kilukeni dynasty ruling at that time. The site was temporarily abandoned during civil wars in the 17th century. It lies close to Angola's border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is located at aroundand sits on top of an impressive flat-topped mountain, sometimes called Mongo a Kaila because recent legends recall that the king created the clans of the kingdom and sent them out from there. In the valley to the south runs the Luezi River. In 2017, Mbanza Kongo was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Makary is a town in Logone-et-Chari, Far North Region, Cameroon, West Africa. The town is located on the right (east) bank of a distributary of the Chari River in the delta just before it enters Lake Chad. The people are known as Kotoko, and the local language is Mpade, Fulani (Fulfulde) is the trade language. The primary economic activity was and is fishing.
The Chad Basin is the largest endorheic basin in Africa, centered on Lake Chad. It has no outlet to the sea and contains large areas of desert or semi-arid savanna. The drainage basin is roughly coterminous with the sedimentary basin of the same name, but extends further to the northeast and east. The basin spans eight countries, including most of Chad and a large part of Niger. The region has an ethnically diverse population of about 30 million people as of 2011, growing rapidly.
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