Short Overview of African Countries

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ntroduction

It isn't a secret that Republic of Armenia as well as other former socialist republics is at

the end of the list of countries in terms of economy, but almost everyone speaking about our country mentions that there are a number of countries having more troubles with economy then our. Listening to this kind of words makes listener think about Africa, Sahara the countries situated there. Algeria (which situated in north Africa), Angola, Botswana, Cameroon, Chad, Djibouti, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, Rwanda, Zaire (Democratic republic of Congo), Zambia, Zimbabwe and a lot of others are countries traditionally considered to be the poorest part of the world. This is the common image of Africa. in the following report I would try to introduce a little bit detailed picture of this object.

I think it will be better to begin with short historical overview of the region, which is the home of one of the human races. The historians have defined four periods of African history research.

1. This period is 2000 B.C. up to 6-th century A.D. During that time Egyptians were researching the north of the mainland. In 6th century B.C. Carthaginians travelled along the west coast. Roman travellers went far into Libyan desert.

2. 7-14 centuries A.D. This is a period of Arabian invasions. After conquering the north they moved to the south and reached Senegal and Niger rivers.

3. The third period of research is associated with the Europeans desire to find a sea way to the wealth of India. By the end of sixteenth century the continent has been outlined on maps.

4. This period of African history, which begins in eighteenth century is probably the most shameful part of European history. Europeans blinded with the magnificence of African wealth began sacking its territory, the same way as they did it in America.

Africa in postcolonial period

From this time and up to 20-th century African continent was a big colony of a number of European countries. After a century of rule by France, Algeria became independent in 1962. Angola - former Portugal colony got its freedom in 1975. Formerly the British protectorate of Bechuanaland, Botswana adopted its new name upon independence in 1966. The former French Cameroon and part of British Cameroon merged in 1961 to form the present country. Chad was a part of France's African holdings until 1960. The French Territory of the Afars and the Issas became Djibouti in 1977. Formed from the merger of the British colony of the Gold Coast and the Togoland trust territory, Ghana in 1957 became the first country in colonial Africa to gain its independence. Basutoland was renamed the Kingdom of Lesotho upon independence from the UK in 1966. Mozambique almost five centuries was a Portuguese colony came to a close with independence in 1975. Rwanda gains its independence in 1962. The territory of Northern Rhodesia was administered by the South Africa Company from 1891 until takeover by the UK in 1923. During the 1920s and 1930s, advances in mining spurred development and immigration. The name was changed to Zambia upon independence in 1964. The UK annexed Southern Rhodesia from the South Africa Company in 1923. A 1961 constitution was formulated to keep whites in power. In 1965 the government unilaterally declared its independence, but the UK did not recognize the act and demanded voting rights for the black African majority in the country (then called Rhodesia). UN sanctions and a guerrilla uprising finally led to free elections in 1979 and independence (as Zimbabwe) in 1980. But even after formal independence most countries are heavily dependant on Europe in terms of investitions and aids. After the "lost decade" of the eighties when tumbling commodity prices, debt, economic and political mismanagement brought African economies to near bankruptcy, the majority of African countries have embarked on International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and donor supported economic reform programmes. In December of year 2000, the World Bank gave US$155 million in credits to help seven African countries - Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Rwanda, Zambia, and Uganda - cope with an unexpected surge in oil prices and other losses in their terms of trade. These factors were causing serious hardship for the poor in terms of rising energy and transportation costs, which in turn were jeopardizing the success of the countries' reform programs. Still, poverty is higher in Africa than in any other region of the world. According to the latest data two out of five Africans subsist below a poverty line of less than $20 per month; the majority of these are women. This mean that some 300 million Africans live on barely 65 cents a day. Africa has the most unequal distribution of income of any region in the world. The richest twenty percent of Africans own 51 percent of total income, compared to 40 percent in western countries and in South Asia. The last report on Africa made by World Bank group also shows how civil conflict in the region has blunted and reversed growth prospects for war-torn countries. While the trend for many African countries during the 1990s was one of slow but steady economic improvement, those in conflict suffered negative growth and an alarming deterioration in basic conditions (Angola -0.2 percent, Burundi -2.4 percent, Democratic Republic of Congo, -4.6 percent, Rwanda, -2.1 percent, Sierra Leone, -4.6 percent). In essence, the present forecast is that the world's poverty will become even more concentrated in Africa.

But not only the economic problems were quaking the continent. Continuous warfares wouldn't give a chance to develop national economy of that region. But what is the present situation there? It seemed like the countries stepped on a way of democracy, but as a recent World Bank report on Africa notes, "a sharp distinction should be drawn between formal and real democratisation". During the 1990s, 45 out of 50 African countries held multiparty elections, in addition to the four African countries that had such a system at the start of the decade. But in only ten elections did these lead to a change of government. With the significant exception of Senegal, the trend in the most recent elections on the continent appears to be one of even fewer changes in government. According to the OAU (Organization of African Unity), 26 African conflicts have taken place since 1963, affecting 61 percent of the population. Today, 21 percent of Africa's peoples are in war and conflict (Algeria, Angola, Burundi, Comores, Congo, DRC, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda). It is comparable with Asia (Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Tibet) or even Europe (Balkans, Northern Ireland, Russia or Spain). According to a recent survey on political rights and civil liberties by Freedom House, 23 out of 50 African countries are classified as "not free". But overall, over the last decade Freedom House has moved Africa's status from "not free" to "partly free"- a significant improvement. Where there is conflict there is no democracy, there is hardly an economy, and- as we've seen in Somalia and Liberia - one may even question whether there is a state. Poverty, political instability and war go together.

African economy today

Economists use a number of indicators to measure a welfare of population of given country. Undoubtaly the most important of them are GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and GNP (Gross National Product). In order to make the comparision more expressive, these indexes are calculated not in absolute values but per capita. This method helps researchers to disengage themselves from the size of the country. Two of other important indicators are Life Expectancy at Birth and Illiteracy Rate.

In 1998 real GDP growth was higher in Africa than any other developing region, while inflation was slightly higher than in Asia and significantly lower than other developing regions. Half the world's ten fastest growing economies are in Africa, although growing off very low bases.

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