Tag Archives: business

Africa and its 54 Countries

This is Africa

In recent years, an increasing number of students at my institution are either immigrants or children of immigrants from several different countries in Africa.  Some of them have discussed with me their concerns about what they perceive as an extreme lack of knowledge displayed not only by their fellow students but by staff and faculty about the continent of Africa and the 54 countries within that continent.   It also appears to these students that none of these individuals are particularly interested in improving their knowledge.

In large part, we can blame the educational system and the media which, intentionally or unintentionally, perpetuates the racism of the Colonial Era in which Africa was depicted, if depicted at all, as a place of exotic animals and backward, “uncivilized” humans.   Far too many people in the United States view Africa as a country (not a continent) dominated by poverty rather than as the second-largest landmass in the world filled with dynamism and an entrepreneurial spirit.  Too many in the United States do not care about Africa and do not see why they should care.

In my classes, I attempt to change this perception, but it is difficult when it begins in elementary school with students’ first exposure to world maps.   Below are several world maps.  Study the maps and choose the one that seems to be the most useful and accurate.

Political World Map

Political World Map

 

Social Science World Map

Social Science World Map

 

world map peters

World Map Peters Projection

 

Universal Corrective Map

Universal Corrective Map

 

You probably chose the one with which you are most familiar. Now watch this video.

The Boston, MA school system has realized that the world maps they were using in the classrooms are a problem.  They will now use the Peters Projection.

Given the indoctrination that diminishes the relative size of the African continent, True Size is both entertaining and educational in showing the true size  of countries and continents when compared to each other.   Note how tiny Greenland truly is in relation to the African continent.

Africa is a continent of 54 countries that differ dramatically from each other in terms of size, population, ecology, and economy.

Africa and its 54 Countries

Africa and its 54 Countries

While there are remote areas with little access to modern technologies, these are quickly becoming part of the past.  Even remote areas are gaining access to cell phones and the internet. Many of the cities are every bit as modern as those in the U.S.

Let’s focus on a few countries.  We will begin with Nigeria, the most-populous country in Africa where over 500 languages, in addition to English, are spoken.  In Nigeria, it is common to be multi-lingual.

Nigeria in Africa

Nigeria in Africa

Nigeria

Nigeria

Nigeria is larger than Texas.  Lagos, the world’s 10th largest city with a population of 21 million, is on the coast.  It is a dynamic center of trade, technology, and entertainment.  Nollywood produces more than 2000 films per year.

Lagos

Lagos

Our next country, Ghana, is a near-neighbor of Nigeria on the west coast of the African Continent.

Ghana in Africa Ghana-Map

Accra has a population of 2.3 million in a country of 26 million.  Ghana is about the size of Oregon.

Accra, Ghana

Accra, Ghana

Ghana will be at the forefront of making energy from ocean waves.  Young architects are infusing Ghanaian traditions into modern buildings.

Our next stop is Uganda, a Central-East African country.

Uganda in Africa

Uganda in Africa

Uganda Map

Uganda Map

Kampala is a city of 2 million in a country of 38 million.  Uganda is similar in size to Wyoming.

Uganda, “The Pearl of Africa”, has long been known for its dramatic and beautiful scenery.  The mountain forests provide sanctuary for gorillas which can be viewed on special treks.

One of the countries to the east of Uganda is Kenya, which is slightly smaller than Texas and has a population of over 46 million.

Kenya in Africa

Kenya in Africa

Kenya Map

Kenya Map

Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, has a population of around 3.5 million.

Nairobi, Kenya

Nairobi, Kenya

Nairobi  is the major tech center of East Africa.

‘ “The future will be built in Africa,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in Nigeria, before travelling to Kenya.’

The last stop on our tour will be the country of South Africa.

South Africa in Africa

South Africa in Africa

 

South Africa

South Africa

South Africa has a population of 54 million in an area about twice the size of Texas.  Johannesburg, with a population of about 4.5 million, is the largest city in South Africa.

Johannesburg, South Africa

Johannesburg, South Africa

However, for the current U.S. population, it may be best known as the home of Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show.

Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah

There are still another 49 countries for you to explore on the Continent of Africa.  The odds are high that you or your children will work for someone who is from Africa, is an immigrant from Africa, or is the offspring of an immigrant.

If you click on this site, you can see how well you do identifying the 54 countries of Africa.  You can retry multiple times.

According to The Next Africa by Jake Bright and Aubrey Hruby, African immigrants and their children are the most-highly-educated group in the United States.

In 2015, Harold Ekeh, son of Nigerian immigrants, was accepted at all 8 Ivy League schools.

Harold Ekeh

Harold Ekeh

In 2016, Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna, daughter of Nigerian immigrants, was accepted at all 8 Ivy League schools.

Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna

Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna

In 2017, Jude Okonkwo, son of Nigerian immigrants, was accepted at all 8 Ivy League schools.

Jude Okonkwo

Jude Okonkwo

In conclusion, please watch the following video and understand that it is important to become educated about the Continent of Africa and its 54 countries so that one does not appear ignorant to those individuals who are from any of those countries.

Half the Sky

We ignore women, their needs, their rights, their abilities, at the peril of our future.  Their issues are not ‘women’s issues’, they are humanity’s issues. The attempts to marginalize and/or ignore women may well be major factors in why the world is in such trouble economically and politically.  Gayle Tzemach Lemmon in her recent TED talk points out that women are marginalized in financing: they get micro-loans rather than entrepreneurial loans.  Granted, a micro-loan is better than no loan, but her point is that when a woman creates a business it is viewed as less important and less economically valuable than when a man creates one.  Treating women as ‘less than’ negatively affects all aspects of not only their lives, but their children’s lives, and, although the men generally do not recognize it, the lives of men, too.  Simple reasoning makes this obvious: women make up half of humanity; or, as in the Chinese proverb that provided the title for Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book Half the Sky, “Women hold up half the sky.”

As I write this, it is reported in the news that an Afghani women was strangled by her mother-in-law because she gave birth to a third daughter and not a son.  Her husband also appears to have been involved in her murder.  Sons are valued so much more than daughters that failure to give birth to one can lead to a woman’s death.  A woman can destroy her family’s honor by being raped.  The ‘solution’ is for her to marry her rapist, or to be put to death.  Being jailed for being raped actually protects the woman from abuse and/or death.  The girl’s hymen is no longer intact, so she no longer has value and has thus dishonored her family. As Kristof and WuDunn state, “The paradox of honor killings is that societies with the most rigid moral codes end up sanctioning behavior that is supremely immoral: murder.” (p. 82)

Young girls are ‘sold’ into marriages where they become virtual slaves.  Choosing your own boyfriend can result in your death. These examples all involve Afghanis, but any culture that does not value woman equally with men will find ways to demean, mistreat, and abuse women.  For instance, a judge in Canada (and he is not alone in this, as similar views have been expressed by judges in the United States) gave a mild (no jail time) sentence to a rapist because he, the judge, felt the woman had asked for it. These actions are done to keep women in their place, a place that is well below that of men.

Kristof and WuDunn have written a moving book highlighting the many, many ways women suffer from oppression throughout the world.  But they have also written about the women who have fought back against oppression and who are making better lives for themselves and other women.  For this to happen, the women must see themselves as valuable and as equal to men.  Education is the key.  Cultures that oppress women seek to deny girls access to education.  But cultures can change.  This is something that is too often ignored.  Simply because it has ‘always’ been done this way does not mean that it always will be done that way.  Holding back girls and women results in holding back the future.  Clinging to the culture of the past not only marginalizes women, but marginalizes that culture in an interconnected and globalized world.  Cultures can and do change.  Education is the first, vital step.

Education gives girls knowledge and with knowledge they begin to realize that they should have a voice in their lives; a say in what happens to them. With knowledge comes the power to fight back against injustice.  The first girls and women in their communities to come to this realization are very courageous.  They frequently must endure great abuse and hardship.  But they and their stories, as told by Kristof and WuDunn, serve as examples to other women and girls that change is possible, and change begins to happen.

Enmeshed with education are the healthcare needs of girls and women.  Girls who do manage to attend grade school often disappear from school when they begin to menstruate because the schools lack the facilities the girls need during their period.  A husband and brother in India realized just obtaining pads for menstruating girls and women was a problem, so he set out to solve this.  Girls are also often forced into marriage at that time, which also ends their education.  They need a way to manage their menstrual cycle and to obtain birth control so that they can continue their education.  Denying birth control to girls and women because of religious reasons (as has been done with US foreign aid) in effect denies them a future of their own choice.

When a large percentage of women in a particular country are educated and enfranchised, their political power is harder to ignore.  Issues that had been ignored, such as public health and children’s health, move to the political mainstream.  When women become the majority in the government, massive cultural change is certain.  In 1994, Rwanda was the scene of a bloody genocide.  When peace was restored, a new government decreed that women had to hold at least 30% of the seats in all legislative bodies.  Women now hold 56% of the seats in Parliament.  Rwandan culture has changed dramatically.  Rwanda is leap-frogging into the 21st century because the country realized that women are as valuable as men.

China has a long history of valuing sons more than daughters, so much so that with the one child policy and elective abortion, the country now has an unbalanced male/female ratio.  However, the government now realizes that a better policy is to educate girls and women.  When women are well-educated, they want to use their skills in the workplace.  This delays marriage and child-bearing while also improving the economy. Parents now realize that daughters can be just as valuable as sons. A win-win for China: slowed population growth along with rapid growth in gross domestic product. India also sees the value of educating women.  Bunker Roy created the Barefoot College which educates the poor to become technicians and engineers, among other occupations.  According to Roy, men are untrainable.  Instead, the Barefoot College trains grandmothers.

In the 21st century, women in all cultures must be equal participants in all aspects of life and business if we are to deal with the challenges the world will face.  Corporations are discovering that those boards of directors with a higher percentage of women are significantly more profitable than those with the lowest number of women on their boards.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide should be read by anyone who cares about the future.  The tales the authors have collected in their journeys around the world are moving, enlightening, and uplifting.  While oppression is common and severe, it is possible for change to occur.  The book concludes with a plan of action and a long list of things that the reader can do to contribute to the change that must occur.  The website (linked to above) also provides opportunities for action.  “Women are half the sky.”  We cannot succeed in the 21st century without equality for all women and men.