“Ears on Africa”

In pre-school, our teacher used to say that our ears are shaped like the African continent as a sign that we are Africans indeed! I never forgot that! With that in mind, here are some interesting facts to remind us how proud we ought to be of this beautiful continent #earsonafrica

Africa Revisited
flickr image by David Hopkins
  1. The entire human race is of African origin. The oldest human remains were excavated at sites in East Africa (also known as Azania).
  2. Sudan is Africa’s largest country (968,000 square miles). Nigeria has the largest population, followed by Ethiopia then Egypt.
  3. Africa has approximately 30% of the earth’s remaining mineral resources. Almost half of the gold ever mined on Earth has come from a single place – Witwatersrand, South Africa. #treasure
  4. Ethiopia is the only African country with its own alphabet. It’s also the world’s oldest living alphabets – Ethiopic – and probably one of the longest with its 345 letters.
  5. There are at least 3,000 distinct ethnic groups in Africa. Furthermore, there are over 2100 languages spoken in Africa. #diversity
  6. It is widely believed the African continent received its name from the ancient Romans. Upon defeating the ancient northern African city of Carthage, the Romans founded a province there they named Africa; named after the Afri tribe that inhabited the area.
  7. All of Africa was colonized except for Ethiopia and Liberia. Before colonial rule, Africa comprised up to 10,000 different states and autonomous groups with distinct languages and customs.
  8. Today, Libreville, Gabon is the 5th most expensive city in the world to reside. Tokyo is the most expensive city to live in.
  9. The oldest known possibly mathematical object is the Lebombo bone, which was discovered in the Lebombo Mountains of Swaziland.
  10. Ancient Egyptians scripted mathematics textbooks which included division and multiplication of fractions and geometric formulas to calculate the area and volume of shapes.

Pre-colonial Facts

In places like Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda, the advances in metallurgy and tool-making surpassed those in Europe.

The empire of Mali was once the richest in the world. I wonder if that’s why imali is the name used for money in the Xhosa and Zulu languages! #justathought

In the 12th century, there were hundreds of great cities in Zimbabwe and Mozambique made of massive stone complexes and huge castle-like compounds.

Kumbi Saleh, the capital of Ancient Ghana, flourished from 300 to 1240 AD. Located in modern day Mauritania, archaeological excavations have revealed large houses, almost habitable today, with underground rooms, staircases and connecting halls.

A visitor in 1331 AD considered the Tanzanian city of Kilwa to be of world class. He wrote that it was the “principal city on the coast the greater part of whose inhabitants are Zanj of very black complexion.”

The ruined mosque in the Kenyan city of Gedi had a water purifier made of limestone for recycling water. Sudan in the ninth century AD also had housing complexes with bath rooms, piped water and glass windows. Toilets and sewerage systems existed in ancient Egypt too. Even West Africa had walled towns and cities in the pre-colonial period. 

Ruins of a 300 BC astronomical observatory was found at Namoratunga in Kenya. East Africans were mapping the movements of stars such as Triangulum, Aldebaran, Bellatrix, Central Orion, etc. #howamazing

Evidence discovered in 1978 showed that East Africans were making steel for more than 1,500 years.

Evidence shows that international trade was first developed between Africa and Asia, and among these international trade contacts were the exchange of ideas and cultural practices that laid the foundations of the earliest civilizations of the ancient world.

Ethiopia minted its own coins over 1,500 years ago. An Arab geographer discovered a cheque of 42000 golden dinars written to a city merchant in Ancient Ghana #africanbanking

flickr image by Jose Rambaud

Various sources differ on the exact number, but about 47% of the African population is Muslim, accounting for a quarter of the world’s Muslim population. Islam spread in Africa from Southwest Asia.

Timbuktu university (one of the first universities in the world) was a teaching institution associated with  three mosques in the city of Timbuktu in what is now Mali: by the 12th century, students came from all over the world to study at Timbuktu.

According to the Guinness world records, the oldest existing, and continually operating educational institution in the world is the University of Karueein, founded in 859 AD in Fez, Morocco.

About 40% of the continent’s population is Christian. Records reveal that Christianity was brought from Jerusalem to Alexandria on the Egyptian coast by Mark, one of the four evangelists, in 60 AD. This was around the same time or possibly before Christianity spread to Northern Europe. Christianity in Sudan also spread in the early 1st century,

Ethiopia (one of the first countries mentioned in the Bible along with Libya) is one of the oldest nations in Africa to accept Christianity as well. Christianity entered the country in the fourth century – during the Axumite period – when the royal family became Christians – and the Christian faith gradually came to dominate the land.

Africa’s Inventions

  • Ancient Egyptians (who had Afro combs!) invented the wheel, the principle element in our present transportation.
  • Cameroonian engineer Arthur Zang invented the CardioPad, a touch-screen medical tablet that enables heart examinations like the electrocardiogram (ECG) to be performed in remote locations. 
  • Kenyan Anthony mutual invented charging shoe applied to charge phones using the power generated by pedestrians.
  • Malawian William Kamkwamab invented the electricity-generating windmill.
  • South Africans invented quiet cellular antenna technology.
  • South African Allan Cormack invented the CT scanner.
  • Moroccan scientist Rachid Yazami invented graphite anode of lithium ion used in batteries by companies such as Samsung, Nokia, and Apple.
  • Africans had the first known advances in agriculture. For example, ancient tools were recovered in Egypt: these were grindstones, milling stones, cutting blades, hide scrapers, engraving burins, and mortars and pestles
  • The earliest known surgery was performed in Egypt. Furthermore, autopsies and caesarean operations were routinely and effectively carried out by surgeons in pre-colonial Uganda. The surgeons routinely used antiseptics, anaesthetics and cautery iron. Paradoxically,  Africa is the victim of diseases that originated from outside it. For example, bird flu from Asia, swine flu (H1N1) from Mexico; TB from eastern Europe; influenza and whooping cough from from Eurasia (Europe and Asia); sleeping sickness and yellow fever from the global north.  
“African Renaissance” statue in Dakar, Senegal: Image by Steve Boyes from National Geographic

I hope these facts whet your appetite to learn more about the wonder that is this continent! Click here to find useful reads and references.

Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable. ~ African proverb

As Africans, we have within us the capability to accomplish amazing things – together! #africansloveoneanother

8 thoughts

  1. This is so incredibly informative Siba! Thank you for sharing and doing such an amazing job of commemorating our continent’s glorious history! 💛


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