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Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire  

Elizabeth Heath

The cultural and economic center of the Côte d’Ivoire, Abidjan surrounds the Ébrié Lagoon on the Atlantic Ocean's Gulf of Guinea. Historians are not sure when people first inhabited the area, but modern settlement dates from the early sixteenth century. Later in the century the Ébrié people selected the area as the site for three fishing villages—Locodjo, Anoumabo, and Cocody. Portuguese traders explored the area for a brief period in the seventeenth century, but Europeans largely ignored it until French Colonial rule in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In 1903 the French chose the settlement as the endpoint for a railway connecting Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) to the coast, and a small town soon developed around the train station. The lack of a viable port, however, initially stifled the town's growth.

In 1934 shortly after the completion of the rail link to the Upper ...

Article

Asmara, Eritrea  

David P. Johnson

Asmara is located in a highland region of Eritrea that was settled roughly 700 years ago. It is believed to have been the site of four small, feuding villages, which, under pressure from the villages’ women inhabitants, finally made peace and united around 1515. The name Asmara comes from Arbate Asmara, which in the Tigrinya language means “the four villages of those [women] who brought harmony.” Sixteenth-century Italian sources describe Asmara as a caravan trading center.

Shortly afterward Asmara was sacked by Islamic warriors and went into decline. Few historical records even mention Asmara again until the late nineteenth century, when the Italians began their colonial conquest of the region. After occupying Aseb in 1882 and Massawa in 1885, the Italians pushed into the highlands, where they encountered resistance. However, in exchange for weapons Ethiopian Emperor Menelik II signed a treaty in 1889 acquiescing to Italian control ...

Article

Bamako, Mali  

Elizabeth Heath

The administrative, economic, and cultural center of Mali, Bamako lies on the left bank of the Niger River in the southwestern part of the country. Little is known about Bamako before the eleventh century, when it achieved prominence as a center of Islamic scholarship in the Mali empire. After the fall of Mali in the sixteenth century, the Bambara occupied the town, which became a fishing and trading center. In 1806 Scottish explorer Mungo Park estimated Bamako’s population to be less than 6,000. By 1880 the town had fallen under the domination of the Mandinka warrior Samory Touré, whose kingdom covered an expanse of territory to the south.

In 1883 French Lieutenant Colonel Gustave Borgnis Desbordes occupied Bamako and used it as a base for military campaigns against Touré Bamako took on new importance under the French who valued the town s position on the navigable ...

Article

Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe  

Located on the southwestern coast of Basse-Terre Island in the Caribbean Sea, the port town of Basse-Terre is the capital of the island cluster Guadeloupe The city s leading industries are tourism and the shipping of locally grown coffee cacao and vanilla Nearby is a large national park that ...

Article

Benneh, George  

Samson Akanvose Aziabah

Professor Emeritus of Geography and Resource Development, University of Ghana, received his elementary education at Berekum Catholic Primary School from 1941 to 1949 and continued to Achimota Secondary School for the period of 1950 to1956. In 1957, he was one of four students who won the Shell Ghana Independence Scholarship and was subsequently admitted into the University College of Ghana in October of the same year to study for a bachelor’s degree in geography. Upon completion of his degree program, he taught geography briefly at the Achimota School, and in October 1961 he left for the London School of Economics to pursue his postgraduate education. Benneh obtained his Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in 1964.

In 1964 he was appointed lecturer in the Department of Geography at the University of Ghana. He became a senior lecturer in 1973, an associate professor in 1976 and a full professor ...

Article

Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso  

Susanne Freidberg

The city of Bobo-Dioulasso is located in one of the greener areas of Burkina Faso, and has long benefited from the fertility of the surrounding countryside. According to the legends of the Bobo people, their ancestors migrated from present-day Mali sometime between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries c.e.. and became the first inhabitants of what Bobo folk songs call “the plateau of abundance” in the southern Volta region. Over the following centuries, long-distance traders settled among the Bobo peasants on this plateau and established a community known as Sya on the banks of the Houet River. Located at the crossroads of trans-Saharan and east-west trade routes, Sya was a lively market town by the time European colonization began in the late nineteenth century. French troops, facing fierce resistance from Sya’s Zara warriors, conquered the town in 1895 They renamed it Bobo Dioulasso in Dioula house of the ...

Article

Bophuthatswana  

Covering a total area of 44,000 sq km (16,988 sq mi), Bophuthatswana consisted of seven fragments of land scattered throughout Orange Free State, Cape Province, and Transvaal, which were three of the four provinces in South Africa at that time. Bophuthatswana, which means “that which binds the Tswana together,” was established as a so-called homeland for the Tswana people, although it had significant Pedi, Basotho, Shangaan, and Zulu minorities. Bophuthatswana’s capital was Mmabatho. The territory also included the towns of Mafikeng, Onverwacht, Phalaborwa, Phuthaditjhaba, Sun City, and Thaba Nchu. In 1994, when South Africa was divided into nine new provinces, most of Bophuthatswana was incorporated into North-West Province; the remaining fragment was included in the province of Free State.

Tswana peoples lived in the region from about the thirteenth or fourteenth century c.e.., but they lost most of their land in the nineteenth century to Afrikaner ...

Article

Caprivi Strip  

Eric Young

In 1890 an Anglo-German agreement ceded to Germany a sliver of land, 500 kilometers (300 miles) long and (at most) 117 kilometers (73 miles) across, located between Angola, Botswana, and Zambia. It was named the Caprivi Strip after German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck’s successor, Count George von Caprivi. At its easternmost tip the Caprivi Strip provides access to the Zambezi River, which Germany sought to use as a link between German Southwest Africa and German East Africa (now Tanzania). In 1915, after South Africa occupied what is today Namibia it established a military base on the strip in order to intercept armed nationalists attempting to enter South Africa via Botswana The western Caprivi has always been sparsely populated while the east holds approximately three quarters of the population on its floodplain between the Okavango Zambezi and Kwando rivers A violent secessionist movement spearheaded by ...

Article

Ciskei  

One of ten territories assigned to the black majority population of South Africa in the 1950s as part of government’s Apartheid policy, Ciskei, covering 8,495 sq km (3,280 sq mi) between the Keiskamma and Kei rivers in southern South Africa, was one of two so-called homelands set aside for the Xhosa people. The other region was Transkei. Ciskei’s capital was Bisho, and the territory also included the towns of Alice, Mdantsane, Middledrift, Peddie, Sada, Whittlesea, and Zwelitsha. In 1994, when South Africa was divided into nine new provinces, Ciskei was incorporated into the province of Eastern Cape.

From at least the beginning of the sixteenth century, the region was inhabited primarily by Xhosa-speaking peoples such as the Ndlambe, Nqgika, and Mfengu These peoples established chiefdoms in the eighteenth century but in the nineteenth century British colonizers conquered the region in a series of wars The name ...

Article

Conakry, Guinea  

Kate Tuttle

Conakry is on Guinea’s Atlantic coast and is the nation’s largest deep-water port. It originally comprised only Tombo Island, but today includes the Los Islands and the tip of Kaloum Peninsula, to which Tombo is connected by a causeway. The climate is tropical; much of the surrounding area is swampland.

The city’s name comes from the language spoken by the Soso ethnic group that has dominated coastal Guinea since the seventeenth century. Conakry was originally a Soso fishing village. The French chose the site for a town in 1880. The town became the capital of French Guineawhen the French declared Guinea a colony in 1891.

When the country gained independence under Sékou Touré in 1958 Conakry remained its capital and became increasingly important as a processing and trading center for the iron ore and bauxite mined in the surrounding regions Today Conakry is Guinea s ...

Article

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania  

Elizabeth Heath

The administrative, commercial, and manufacturing center of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam is located on the East African coast southwest of Zanzibar. Originally a small farming and fishing village named Mzizima, it began changing rapidly during the late nineteenth century when the sultan of Zanzibar, Majid ibn Sa’id, made the town his summer residence. Attracted by the safe harbor of the neighboring lagoon, the sultan renamed the town Dar es Salaam (Arabic for “haven of peace”), constructed a port, and made plans to move his capital from Zanzibar to the town. But Majid died before his plans were completed, and his successor, Barghash ibn Sa’id, attempted to control the city from Zanzibar through alliances with the local Swahili chiefs, or jumbes.

Although successful for several years, Barghash’s absentee rule collapsed when the German East Africa Company took possession of the city in 1887 The company made ...

Article

Douala, Cameroon  

Eric Young

The town of Douala first developed on the southeastern shore of the Wouri River estuary in the 1700s as a station for the transatlantic slave trade. Dutch merchants initially dominated the transatlantic trade, but the town was also frequented by ethnic Duala traders, many of whom acted as middlemen in the human traffic. British influence slowly usurped the Dutch until 1884, when Germany, after signing a treaty with two Duala chiefs, formally colonized Cameroon. With a good harbor, Douala quickly became the colony’s largest trading center, attracting African migrants as well as German and, later, French and British colonists. During World War II (1939–1945), it briefly served as the colonial capital.

Although Yaoundé is now the capital of Cameroon post independence infrastructure projects have solidified Douala s role as a national and regional economic hub Today Douala handles approximately 95 percent of the country s ...

Article

Edward, Lake  

Lake Edward, located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda, has an area of about 2,150 square kilometers (about 830 square miles) and lies 912 meters (2,990 feet) above sea level. It is connected on the northeast with Lake George (or Lake Dweru) in Uganda, by means of the Kazinga Channel. Lake Edward is fed by the Rutshuru River, a headstream of the White Nile. The lake has only one outlet, the Semliki River, which links it with Lake Albert to the north. High escarpments run along the western shore of the lake and mountains rise on the northwestern shore. The water is brackish with mineral salts. Many fish and crocodiles live in the lake, and waterfowl abound on its shores. The Anglo-American explorer Sir Henry Morton Stanley discovered the lake in 1889. The lake was formerly called Albert Edward Nyanza.

See alsoGeomorphology, African ...

Article

Fouta Djallon  

Now mainly a geographic reference to the central Guinean highlands, Fouta Djallon also refers to an independent state that existed within the borders of present-day Guinea from the mid-1700s to the late 1800s. The region had been home to the Yalunka (Jallonke) people since around the eleventh century. The Yalunka, who were mostly farmers, were part of the Mandinka or Malinke ethnic group. They practiced a traditional religion. In the fifteenth century, members of another ethnic group, the Fulani, began to enter the region peacefully. Starting in the seventeenth century, Fulani people (also known as Fulbe, or Peul) from the Futa Toro empire in the area presently known as Senegal began entering the Fouta Djallon, bringing with them the Islamic faith.

The Muslim Fulani gradually conquered the entire Fouta Djallon and despite their inferior numbers became the dominant group using both Yalunka and non Muslim Fulani as slaves In ...

Article

Gaborone, Botswana  

Andrew Hermann

Located in southeastern Botswana near the Notwani River, Gaborone was founded in 1890 by Cecil Rhodes’ British South Africa Company (BSAC). Originally the site was a fortified white settlement that protected railway and telegraph lines built by the BSAC linking the Cape Colony, later a part of South Africa, with the mines of present-day Zimbabwe. At that time the administrative headquarters of the Bechuanaland Protectorate (present-day Botswana) was located at Mafeking (now Mafikeng), a small town actually located within the borders of the Cape Colony. As Bechuanaland neared independence in the 1960s, its leaders determined to establish a capital within the country’s borders. They chose Gaborone as the site because of its proximity to both the country’s main rail line and a water source, the Notwani River. Construction at the site, including a dam on the Notwani, began in 1963. In 1965 the new city was ...

Article

Gallin-Douathé (Galingui), Michel  

Richard A. Bradshaw and Juan Fandos-Rius

Central African Republic (CAR) diplomat, was named Galingui at his birth on 4 June 1920 at Limassa, a town next to the Ubangi River in what is now Mbomou prefecture in southeastern CAR. His parents were members of the Yakoma ethnic group, one of several communities on both sides of the Ubangi River who speak dialects of the Ngbandi language, which belongs to the Adamawa-Ubangi branch of the Niger-Congo family. As French explorers and colonists moved up the Ubangi River at the turn of the 20th century, they took many Yakoma into their employ and the descendants of these Yakoma auxiliaries often had privileged access to French education and assimilated French culture to a greater degree than most Central Africans. Galingui’s life exemplifies this process.

Galingui attended École urbaine (urban primary school) in Bangui, the capital of Ubangi-Shari, and then École Edouard-Renard in Brazzaville from December 1936 to 1939 ...

Article

Harare, Zimbabwe  

Eric Young

Despite the absence of a port or river access, Harare has become one of Africa’s most modern and prosperous cities. In 1890 Rhodesian settlers established what is today Harare at the base of a kopje (small hill) that rises abruptly out of the rolling plain in present-day Zimbabwe. Originally named Fort Salisbury, for a British member of Parliament, the settlement was proclaimed a municipality in 1897 and a city in 1935. The town slowly became the commercial and political hub of the settler colony, outpacing the southern town of Bulawayo as it drew on the agricultural productivity of the rich land surrounding the city and the rail link to Beira, Mozambique. As part of the Rhodesian government’s racial and land policies, inhabitants were increasingly segregated according to race and class. The division remains today, although unofficially.

At independence Salisbury s name was changed to Harare to honor the ...

Article

Johannesburg, South Africa  

Kate Tuttle

One of the largest cities in southern Africa, Johannesburg’s population is slightly more than 3.8 million (2007 estimate). Its area, around 800 sq km (310 sq mi), consists of not only the city itself but also more than 400 suburbs, as well as the townships where nonwhites were forced to live under the government’s policy of Apartheid.

Situated on the Witwatersrand mountain range, the Johannesburg area was home only to scattered Tswana settlements before 1886 when the discovery of gold deposits spurred the rapid immigration of speculators and diggers from other parts of southern Africa as well as from Europe Within a decade Johannesburg had grown from a mining camp into an industrialized city of some 100 000 people an estimated three quarters of whom worked in the mines For many years far more men than women migrated to Johannesburg and many of them lived in workers ...

Article

Kabwe, Zambia  

Ari Nave

Known as Broken Hill before Zambia gained independence in 1964, the town of Kabwe grew around Broken Hill Mine, opened in 1902, an important source of zinc, vanadium, sulfuric acid, and lead ores. The mine prompted construction of the region’s first railroad, which passed through Lusaka on its route to present-day Zimbabwe. The railroad was extended north into the Copperbelt region soon thereafter. In 1924 a hydroelectric dam was built over the Mulungushi River to the southeast. Following the construction of major trunk roads after the turn of the century, small numbers of European colonizers began to settle the region surrounding Broken Hill in order to grow maize and tobacco. The earlier inhabitants were displaced and forced to work as miners or tenant farmers. Migrants from a variety of ethnic groups arrived seeking employment; the town began to grow rapidly by 1927 when copper mining reached ...

Article

Kabylia  

Marian Aguiar

By the late nineteenth century, the Berber people who lived and farmed in the mountain region of eastern Algeria had enjoyed centuries of local governance. Even during the more than 250 years of rule by the Islamic Ottoman empire based in Turkey, Kabylia villages largely governed themselves, with decisions made by assemblies of adult men based on a fusion of local tradition and Islamic law. But as the French moved into the region in the 1850s, leaders, such as Bu Baghla and, later, Lalla Fatima, led the Kabylia in a struggle to resist conquest. Although they were unable to stop French forces, the spirit of resistance endured, culminating in the Great Revolt of 1871–1872 when leader Muhammad al Hajj al Muqrani proclaimed a jihad or holy war against the Christian invaders About 150 000 Kabylias joined the rebellion which spread toward Algiers The French responded with military action killing ...