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Appreciating the heterogeneity in the unity of Africa: A socio‐ecological perspective on Africa’s geographies.


Year published: 2019
Categories: Journal Article

Author / Authors:

  • Lwasa, S.


The African continent is known by various metaphors and geographies, but for many there are also unknowns about the continent. Geopolitically, Africa is a continent that is considered remote—an economically emerging continent seen as entangled in persistent challenges of wars, political dictatorship, poverty, disease, and more recently migration. Given these predispositions it is typical to stereotype events, practice, and behaviour as “African.” There is, however, now recognition of the continent as emerging economic power house. But unpacking the diversity of Africa reveals a huge potential with respect to resource endowments, diversity of ecology, socio‐cultural economic advancement, politics, language, and demographics. Colonial history coupled with traditional Africa shaped the geopolitical boundaries that have added to the confusion about this massive and diverse continent. Intellectual discourses either amplify the differences due to specificities of geographical focus or generalizations such as the contested notion of “African.” However, using socio‐ecological lenses, Africa is unified by these very differences in addition to being a massive landmass with several big and small island states. Appreciating these differences is useful to understanding the observed patterns of social, economic, and political systems that unify the continent. This paper illustrates the notion of “African” to describe the heterogeneous nature of a “unified” continent. Some illustrative examples between Africa and other continents are used.

The Canadian Geographer/Le Géographe canadien. doi:10.1111/cag.12576 (online November 2019)


  • Journal Article