Monday 1 April 2024

What’s Exactly is sub Saharan Africa ?

Why do we still use the term 'sub-Saharan Africa, the term is "confusing" and "historically loaded." Evidence that it is "confusing" is that the UN Development Program lists 46 of Africa’s 54 countries as "sub-Saharan" whereas the World Bank puts 48 countries in the Sub-Sahara.

The term ‘sub-Sahara Africa’ to refer to all of Africa except the five predominantly Arab states of north Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt) Djibouti and Sudan a north-central African country. Even though its territory is mostly located south of the Sahara Desert, the Sudan is excluded from the ‘sub-Sahara Africa’ tagging by those who promote the use of the epithet because the regime in power in Khartoum describes the country as ‘Arab’ despite its majority African population.

The example of South Africa is appropriate here. Prior to the formal restoration of African majority government in 1994, South Africa was never designated ‘sub-Sahara Africa’, unlike the rest of the 13 African-led states in southern Africa, which were also often referred to at the time as the ‘frontline states’. South Africa then was either termed ‘white South Africa’ or the ‘South Africa sub-continent’ (as in the ‘India sub-continent’ usage, for instance), meaning ‘almost’/‘partially’ a continent - quite clearly a usage of ‘admiration’ or ‘compliment’ employed by its subscribers to essentially project and valorise the perceived geostrategic potentials or capabilities of the erstwhile regime.

But soon after the triumph of the African freedom movement there, South Africa became ‘sub-Sahara Africa’ in the quickly adjusted schema of this representation. What happened suddenly to South Africa’s geography for it to be so differently classified? Is it African liberation/rule that renders an African state ‘sub-Sahara’? Does this post-1994 West-inflected South Africa-changed classification make ‘sub-Sahara Africa’ any more intelligible? Interestingly, just as in the South Africa ‘sub-continent’ example, the application of the ‘almost’/‘partially’ or indeed ‘part of’/‘partly’ meaning of prefix ‘sub-’ to ‘Sahara Africa’ focuses unambiguously on the following countries of Africa: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, each of which has 25-75 per cent of its territory (especially to the south) covered by the Sahara Desert. It also focuses on Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and the Sudan, which variously have 25-75 per cent of their territories (to the north) covered by the same desert. In effect, these 10 states would make up sub-Sahara Africa.

Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, the five Arab north Africa countries, do not, correctly, describe themselves as Africans even though they unquestionably habituate African geography, the African continent, since the Arab conquest and occupation of this north one-third of African territory in the 7th century CE. The Western governments, press and the transnational bodies (which are led predominantly by Western personnel and interests) have consistently ‘conceded’ to this Arab cultural insistence on racial identity. Presumably, this accounts for the West’s non-designation of its ‘sub-Sahara Africa’ dogma to these countries as well as the Sudan, whose successive Arab-minority regimes since January 1956 have claimed, but incorrectly, that the Sudan ‘belongs’ to the Arab world.

The campaign to abolish the Sub-Saharan term:

In 2010, Nigerian-born Chika Onyeani, Chairman of the Celebrate Africa Foundation, led a petition to rid the world of the"Sub-Saharan" term. Why?

He claimed, "Sub-Saharan Africa is a pejorative term. It is a euphemism for contemptuousness employed by the continent's detractors to delineate between the five Arab countries that make up north Africa from the other 42 countries and the islands that make up the rest of Africa." #africa

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