Africa is a huge continent of 55 countries!
From Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital where I used to live, it took ten hours to fly to Dakar, Senegal’s capital on the western tip. From Cairo in the north to Cape Town in the south, it’s an 11-hour flight and a drive of more than 10,000 km across 10 – 12 countries.
Shared histories, liberation struggles, culture, people, commerce, communications have shaped strong bonds across Africa at so many levels. Regional and Pan-African cooperation and institutions are powering Africa’s political, economic and social development. The more time I spend in Africa, the more I see the similarities between my Egyptian roots and the rest of the continent. Maybe that’s why I’ve always felt at home in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Yet, from one country to another, one region to another, the diversity is dazzling. More than one billion people call the continent home. Between them, they speak (and often write) more than 2,000 languages and use 47 currencies. From landscapes, to food, music, culture, politics, the built environment, media, clothing – you name it – there’s as much that is unique as is shared.
Let’s start getting to know Africa – on the map. Maps tell us about history, geography, the environment, connections, barriers, politics, economies…. For me, maps raise as many questions as they answer, often more. Why is the centre of Africa one massive country? How did these crisscrossing boundaries come about, why and who decided? What’s the economy like in these very tiny countries fully surrounded by bigger ones? What are the trade routes, how were they developed, why and what is there impact? So many questions…
I love learning and sharing maps. On a road trip from Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, to Mutare in the east, my colleagues and I played one of my favourite games – naming all 55 countries in Africa, in geographic order, with their capitals. When we really wanted to dare each other, we tried naming the presidents… Now that was a challenge I failed! It got us all laughing, talking history, asking questions, having long political debates, arguing and googling too.
I wonder: how many African countries can you find on this map? Or are you up for a bigger challenge to name capitals? A great game for kids too… If you are testing yourself on Facebook, be sure to share in the comments how many countries you got right! (Sorry, this isn’t an FB friendly site but it’s much better for learning)