Economic Geography of Sub-Saharan Africa Summary Name



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Economic Geography of Sub-Saharan Africa Summary Name: _________________________

The Industrial Revolution brought mass production to Europe and with it the need for more raw materials. Raw materials are the basic material that can be used to make or create something. Africa was rich in these natural resources like coal, copper, gold, diamonds, rubber, etc. European countries divided Africa between themselves at the Berlin Conference in order to have access to these raw materials. In addition to supplying Europe with natural resources, African countries also grew cash crops to be shipped back to Europe.

Much of Africa’s economy is still being affected by this colonial structure. Sub-Saharan Africa is a peripheral world region. Peripheral regions supply raw materials, food, and cheap labor to the core industrial countries like European countries. African countries never invested in building their own factories or industrial economies because their colonizers forced them to just sell the raw products back to them. African countries typically export these raw materials and import expensive finished products such as televisions, cars, etc.

While there are many resources in Sub-Saharan Africa, its physical geography has negatively impacted it ability to develop economically. Much of the land is arid and has been depleted of nutrients, so the soil is not very fertile. More than half of Africa’s farmland is used for subsistence farming. Most of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa works in subsistence agriculture to make a living and feed their families.

Arable land that is used for commercial farming typically involves crops like tea, coffee, or cotton. These are cash crops or plantation economies, as opposed to food crops. Countries continue to trade these cash crops with their former colonizers and do not trade with their neighboring countries. European development of the infrastructure was designed to move goods to the coast and then out of the country. Infrastructure is:  the basic equipment and structures (such as roads and bridges) that are needed for a country, region, or organization to function properly. Roads and railroad links were not designed to help develop regional trade.

Families tend to be large in Sub-Saharan Africa. In recent decades, there has been enormous rural-to-urban migration to the major cities, which are extremely overcrowded. Sub-Saharan Africa has more than 750 million people, and most earn the US equivalent of only $1–3 per day.

Many of cities are improving their technology and infrastructure and entering into the globalized economy. Even so, as much as 70 percent of the people still work in agriculture, leaving little time to develop a large educated group of professionals to assist with social services and administrative responsibilities. Africa depends heavily on outside support for technical and financial assistance. Computers, medical equipment, and other high-tech goods are all imported.

Subsaharan Africa has nearly forty urban areas of more than one million people. At the center of the central business districts (CBDs) are modern high-rise business offices that are well connected to the global economy. Outside of these CBDs, however, are slums with no services and miserable, unsanitary conditions. The informal sector of the economy is not regulated, controlled, or taxed by the government. The lack of government regulation and control prevents taxes from being collected, which in turn diminishes support for public services or infrastructure. In spite of the misery and unhealthy conditions of the slums where millions of people already live, more migrants from the countryside continue to shift to the city in search of jobs and opportunities. African cities are growing rapidly, many without organized planning.



  1. Explain how the Africa’s imperialistic past contributed to each of the following economic conditions today:

    1. African countries do not make anything with their raw materials.



    1. African countries do not trade with each other very much.



  1. What do most of Africa’s people do for a living?



  1. How is the population density shifting in Africa in recent years?



  1. REVIEW: As the reading told you, there are many slums gathered around economic centers in cities. These are similar to the slums we talked about in the Latin America unit. What is the name given to these slums in Latin America?

    1. Maquiladoras

    2. Favelas

    3. Gauchos

    4. Tenochtitlan

  2. Why is it hard to provide city services to the slum cities in Africa?



  1. Much of the African economy is devoted to farming. Which economic sector or category of economic development is would farming fall under? (See extra notes at bottom for review of this information if needed)

    1. Primary

    2. Secondary

    3. Tertiary

    4. Quaternary

  2. Many Africa countries also have a large mining economy. Which economic sector or category of economic development would mining fall under?

    1. Primary

    2. Secondary

    3. Tertiary

    4. Quaternary

  3. Much of Africa’s raw resources are used by European companies to produce goods like television and computers. Which economic sector or category of economic development would mining fall under?

    1. Primary

    2. Secondary

    3. Tertiary

    4. Quaternary

  4. Which sector of the economy makes the least amount of money?

    1. Primary

    2. Secondary

    3. Tertiary

    4. Quaternary

Primary Economic Activity:This level includes anything and everything that involves extracting or harvesting a natural resource or commodity (a good that’s useful or profitable) from the earth

Secondary Economic Activity: This involves the processing of everything you got from the primary economic activities. All secondary activity consists of is producing, manufacturing, manipulation, altering, refining, making better, doing something to the raw material you got from the primary activities.

Tertiary Economic Activity: Tertiary activities are also known as service sector activities. At this level, we take raw commodities or finished commodities and do something with them. Sometimes this involves transporting them or selling them. Police, doctors, teachers, salespeople, people in the army, navy, air force, or marines all provide a service.

Quaternary sector provides something new. It’s not a natural resource, nor a processed commodity, and not really a service either. In essence, the quaternary sector deals with the creation and manipulation of information.


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