Maps of Africa: Correcting History for the Future

Important Facts

Boundary Tips

Thematic Maps

Because European countries divided Africa up as they wished, they did not consider the African people or their physical regions.  The primary goal in creating Africa’s political boundaries was to acquire as much territory as possible so that more African resources could be utilized in as efficient a manner as possible.  The result was a continent with some very illogical boundaries.

Some boundaries divided tribes. Some countries combined people who were cultural enemies or total strangers. Some countries are very small, while others are very large.  Many are landlocked which hurts their ability to trade.  Some countries have almost no economic base on which  support a country.


Access to Open WatersLandlocked countries have difficulty with trade because shipping is the cheapest way to move bulky commodities.  Trade affects the economy, which affects the wealth of the government, which affects the amount and quality of the services it provides the people. All of this can affect nationalism within a country.

Land Area and Population:  A country needs enough land and people to be economically competitive in the world. If a country has a lot of land, it has a better chance of having a variety of climates, landforms, and minerals.  This will improve its chances of having a mixed economy. Which means having a variety of ways to make money.  If a country depends on a single economic source, its chances of failure increase greatly.  Self-defense is also a factor. If borders are too large, this can become a problem.

New Names for Countries: You must give new countries a name.  New names should reflect something about a country’s history, geography, cultures, or natural resources.  Do not just give the new country a random name or some combination of student names from your group!  Be thoughtful, do some investigating about the areas involved.

Culture:  One of the key difficulties in Africa today is that the borders were placed with little regard to the location of tribes, kingdoms, or ethnic groups.  It will be very difficult to solve this problem because there are so many tribes in Africa. Sometimes European boundaries have split tribal groups by creating national boundaries that divided them.  Sometimes tribes that did not get along or barely knew each other were put together in the same country.  If they at least had something in common like language, religion, race or occupations, they would have a better chance of getting along!

Mineral Wealth:  Every country would like to have mineral wealth.  However, minerals are frequently clumped in certain areas, while other regions have none or almost none.  The uneven distribution of minerals in Africa makes it very difficult to create countries with reasonably equal amounts of minerals.  You should expect some countries to be considerably wealthier than others, no matter how you try to avoid it.  If you do distribute minerals fairly evenly, you might create another problem, because other cultural or physical factors had to be slighted to do so.


Good Boundaries Poor Boundaries

- Mountains and coastlines because they already divide people from each other.

- Lakes, depending upon the size of the lake and the amount of available fresh water.

- Cultural borders such as those formed by racial groups, religious groups, or language groups; because they promote nationalism within countries.

- Borders that are relatively rectangular; close to the geometric center of the country (avoid protruded or elongated areas).

- Boundaries that  pass through large concentrations of people.

- Latitude or longitude lines would generally be bad for Africa (many diverse nations), but it depends upon how many large population centers they pass through.

-  Rivers are often used, but for convenience,  not for good boundary making.  High population concentrations are usually found along rivers. Water is a valuable resource that will cause disputes (e.g., over access & quality).


What is the land like? Physical Map (Relief)

Natural Vegetation



What about the population? Population Density

Population in 1800

Major Languages

Languages & Religions

Islam in Africa

African Religions

Traditional Religions Over Time



What types of natural resources are there in Africa? Minerals

Economic Activity

Major Rivers


Where are the cultural-political boundaries located?

Kingdoms & Empires

African states (15th - 17th c.)

African states (prior to 1870)

Sub-Saharan African Culture Regions


How was Africa divided up in the past? Historical Map of Africa - 1630 A.D.

Historical Map of Africa - 1885 A.D.

Political Entities Before 1885

European Colonial Partitions

European Colonial Possessions


How is Africa currently divided up? Current Map of Africa - 2005 A.D.


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