Central Africa is a very interesting part of Africa. There are some fascinating countries in there with ongoing history and an illustration of the depth and depravity of colonialism, past and present. Lets talk about it a little bit.
Here is a “fun” list of interesting stuff about Central Africa
1. The description of who is Central African is often very difficult to place, but the countries included in it are Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. Sometimes Angola and Equatorial Guinea and Gabon are included in that, although the latter two are considered west Africa most of the time.
2.Central Africa is home to the Congo River, the second largest river in the world by discharge and the world’s deepest river. It flows through the Congo rainforest which is the second largest rainforest in the world. The river was made famous by the some European explorers who called it the heart of darkness, and perpetuated stories of pygmies, mythical beasts, dreadful plagues, and cannibals.
3. The colonizers could not really decided who takes what in Central Africa so you have an interesting mix of, Belgian, French and British influence in the region. There are countries in Central and West Africa that were, one part British, one part French. Nigeria and Niger are one example. They were technically one people but one part ended up under French control and the other under British control and so was Cameroon. The Congo was divided between the French and the Belgians.
4.Central Africa is one the most resource rich areas of Africa. The Democratic Republic of Congo is widely considered to be one of the world’s richest countries in natural resources; its untapped deposits of raw minerals are estimated to be worth in excess of US$24 trillion. The Congo has 70% of the world’s coltan, a third of its cobalt, more than 30% of its diamond reserves, and a tenth of its copper. Chad has a ton of oil and the Central African Republic has a lot of oil, gold, diamonds and uranium reserves.
5.Despite being the richest part of Africa, these countries are also the poorest ones. This is due to the political unrest, corruption and never ending civil wars there. Much like the ones in East Africans, the reasons folks are at war in Central Africa have evolved, and there is a lot of involvement of western countries ( everyone is in it for the oil and the diamonds). There is also a lot of overspill of conflict from the eastern country borders into the central African countries. Chad has been at war since 1965. It’s ironic that the Congo’s official name is Democratic Republic of Congo coz all of their leaders to date have been placed by coups.
6.Speaking of western powers, I will take the opportunity to talk about the historical and present day impact of French colonialism in Africa because it was a much different brand of colonialism that the others. I view it as the British were about economic dominance first then white supremacy, but the French were in it for eternal supremacy. Francophone countries are still some of the most screwed up countries in Africa and have their economies largely still controlled by France. They still pay “colonial” tax to France, as a thank you for developing their countries. When you look across the continent you see that former French colonies are worse off than the others, and there are some super interesting dynamics to that phenomenon that we will explore in the article The (insert expletive) French!
7. A related sentiment I strongly hold is that in all my travels, before 2 years ago, I have been to many places, continents even, around the world except for Europe. When I was going to study abroad in graduate school, everyone chose to Europe and i walked into the study abroad office and shocked them by saying I want to go to India( one of my best travel experiences yet :)). The running joke with my friends was that I will never set foot on that continent because I resent them for the whole colonization thing. I thought I could not enjoy the Eiffel tower or the super efficient trains, or the free health care coz I will be too busy seeing the blood of my people on all of it! I know weird pet peeve, but well not all pet peeves are rational! Also fast forward to now, I have lived in Europe for a year and I kinda love it lol!
Check out the other snippets on Central Africa here.