Africa has traditionally been divided into geographical regions, with many processes involving integration. At present, however, in terms of economic and human development there are two major areas: North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa.


The Maghreb

This territory covers the entire northwest quadrant of the continent. It encompasses the states of Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania and Libya. The population in this part of Africa is mostly Arabic by origin and Islamic by religion, although there are substantial Berber minorities, especially in Algeria. In 1989, the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) was established, although there has been little progress since 1994. 

The valley of the Nile

This region, also called the Mashriq or the East, includes Egypt and Sudan. Both countries have the Nile as a means of living. Egypt is the most significant country in the area and the most populous, with a predominantly Muslim Arabic population though it has a large Coptic minority. Like other North African countries, people’s revolts in Egypt have given rise to a process of democratic transition that is taking its first steps. Sudan is the largest country in Africa and one of the poorest on Earth. Its economy has been badly damaged by the effects of a seemingly endless civil war. In Sudan, a part of the population is Arabic (north) and the other is black (south). The north is predominantly Muslim while the southern part is mainly Christian or animist. In January 2011, a new state was created: South Sudan.

Sub-Saharan Africa

This is the name given to the African region between the southern edge of the Sahara and the tropical areas of Africa. The population is mostly black and the predominant religion is Islam, although many ancestral African rites survive. The climate of the region (dry tropical) and natural features make this an area suitable for agriculture and livestock farming. However, the lack of technical means makes production very sensitive to seasonal changes (drought), so that famines are frequent in this region, which is also often ravaged by civil war. The main countries of this region, also known as the Sahel, are Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad.

The Horn of Africa

This region is known by this name because of its peculiar shape created by the East African region located at the mouth of the Red Sea opening into the Indian Ocean. It is a strategically significant territory that was disputed between the great powers when they shared out their areas of influence. The countries in the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia) are among the poorest on the continent due to armed conflict, drought and lack of technical resources and raw materials. Christianity and Islam are the religions most people follow.

The Gulf of Guinea

This territory on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean is a region divided into a patchwork of countries, many of which are very small as a result of the old colonial boundaries. The population is black and traditional religions coexist with Christianity and the growing influence of Islam. The Gulf area is extremely rich in all kinds of resources, including oil, but social conflict and war mean that, paradoxically, this is one of the poorest regions in the world, especially in countries like Sierra Leone or Liberia. The countries in this area are: Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea.

Central Africa

The central area of ​​the continent has a predominantly black population. Although there are countries with some degree of wealth, most of Central Africa is very poor, despite having significant natural resources. The territory is divided into the following areas:

  •  Valley of the Congo (or Zaire): This area is dominated by the presence of the vast Democratic Republic of the Congo, though it also includes the states of Congo, Gabon, the Central African Republic and Angola. Conflict, especially in the late nineties after the civil war in the DRC, has marked this region’s development.
  • Great Lakes: this area includes the countries of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia. Kenya has a certain level of prosperity thanks to its policy of fostering tourism, but the region in general is poor and often shaken by bloody civil wars such as those in Mozambique, Rwanda and Burundi.

The area of influence of ​​South Africa

The tip of the continent is under the economic and political influence of the Republic of South Africa. This country, which suffered under apartheid until the early nineties, is the great economic and military power of Africa. It has enormous influence over the immediate neighbouring countries (Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Swaziland). South Africa has significant resources in terms of industry, energy, agriculture and livestock, but the production of gold, uranium and diamonds form the bedrock of its strong economy. The area's population is mostly black, but there is a significant white minority, especially in South Africa and Namibia.



This island country is located in south-eastern Africa. Its population is of the Malagasy race, which is ethnically related to the original inhabitants of various islands in Oceania.



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