Regional Geography 105
Subsaharan Africa


Dominant physiographic feature:
Lacks a major mountain range.
Sahara Desert
East African Rift Valley

Plate Tectonics Theory

The Earth's crust is composed of individual, rigid plates that are free to move about the surface of the Earth.
Plates are free to move. They:
1. collide together (Convergence)
2. slide past each other (Transform)
3. move apart (Divergence)
Divergence forms a rift valley.

Red Sea

Rift valley between Africa and Arabia.
Valley flooded with ocean water.
Atlantic Ocean: rift valley between Americas and Europe/Africa.

East African Rift Valley

East Africa: slowly rifting away from the Africa.
Still a rift valley, not a linear sea.
Evidence for rifting:
1) chain of lakes from Ethiopia to Mozambique.
2) stair-step and fractured terrain.

Why a Lack of Mountains

Why is there a lack of major mountain ranges in Africa?

Physiography of Africa

Characterized by highlands and basins.
Three basins:
– located in N. Africa andtransition zone.
Kalahari Basin:
– Subtropical desert
Congo Basin:
– Located in central Africa.
– Similar to Amazon Basin.
– High temperatures; high humidity; heavy rainfall.

Darkest Africa - The Dark Continent


Cultural Landscape

Africa is a constantly changing realm.
Political, social, cultural and economic unrest have characterized the realm.

European Involvement

European involvement and colonization has influenced the world's perception of Africa.
Africa is viewed as homogenous - disregards diversity that exists.

European Exploitation

For many Europeans, Africa was:

Earliest Contact

Ancient Greeks and Romans had contact with north Africa
Portuguese established trading settlements in 1400's.
Slow early development: directed towards trade, not colonization.

Earliest Contacts

By 1890, much of Africa was still "unexplored" by Europeans.
By 1910, SubsaharanAfrica was under European control.
Largest Influence: Britain, France, Belgium
Since 1910, colonies gained independence from Europe.

Berlin Conference of 1884

Many African states are not based on cultural or physiographic divisions.
November 1884, Germany's Otto von Bismarck convened a conference of 14 powerful states.
The purpose was to settle the economic and political partitioning of Africa.
Set ground rules for political division of Africa, without regard for indigenous populations or physical features.
As a result, many African nations have deep rooted ethnic tensions between rival or neighboring tribal groups.