The lack of a well-functioning communication system is
one of Africa's major development problems.
The rail network has a total length of 64,500 km, which
corresponds to 5% of the world's total rail network. Most of
the railways were built during the early colonial era (c.
1890-1930), and they often extend from a port city into a
mineral or commodity producing area. Their main purpose has
been to export raw materials for export. Only in northern
and southern Africa is there a reasonably well-branched
railway network connecting different countries.
The road network covers 1.6 million km, of which only 10%
are so-called all-weather roads, ie. can be used in all
seasons. River transport is largely limited by rapids. The
most extensive are the transports on the Nile and Niger.
Some traffic also occurs on the lakes of East Africa. The
airports are relatively well developed and the passenger
traffic extensive. The busiest airports in 2009 were
Johannesburg, Cairo, Cape Town, Sharm ash-Shaykh, Hurghada
Economy and resources
Africa plays a relatively modest role in the world
economy; the continent's total gross domestic product (GDP)
was US $ 2660 billion in 2013. This represented about 3.5
per cent of the world's gross domestic product. Since the
turn of the millennium, however, the continent as a whole
has experienced stronger growth than any other continent.
Africa has great natural wealth, but many countries lack
capital and expertise. Except in certain areas of North and
South Africa, most of the exports are products such as
coffee, cocoa, peanuts, timber and minerals. Oil and gas
dominate exports from North Africa. In southern Africa,
several countries export minerals such as gold, diamonds and
The majority of Africa's people live in the countryside
and are employed in agriculture. This is mainly based on
small farming and often primitive cultivation methods. About
six percent of Africa's land is cultivated. In Morocco,
Tunisia and South Africa, where much fruit is grown, wine is
After World War II, the production of wood has increased
significantly, especially of wood species such as mahogany,
okumé and African nut trees.
The largest deep sea fishing takes place off the coast of
South Africa, but also on banks off Morocco, Senegal and
Angola. There is fishing and fish farming in the big lakes
There are rich mineral deposits; Countries such as South
Africa, Angola, Zambia and Congo are among the most
important. The most profitable minerals are gold, oil and
diamonds. Zambia, Zimbabwe and Congo are major copper
producers. In Congo, a large part of the world's coltan is
also extracted. Gold is mined especially in West Africa and
southern Africa, and diamonds especially in southern Africa,
Central Africa and West Africa. In southern Africa,
including Namibia, and in West Africa, Niger, there are also
reserves of uranium.
Sub-Saharan oil production is most significant in Algeria
and Libya, sub-Saharan Nigeria and Angola.
Since 2000, the continent as a whole has experienced
economic growth, some of the countries with the strongest
economic growth are commodity producing countries such as
Equatorial Guinea, Botswana and Angola. Other countries,
such as Ethiopia and Rwanda, are experiencing growth without
being associated with any particular commodity. In 2019,
these two countries had the fastest growing economy in the
world. Similarly, four out of ten countries with the fastest
economic growth in the world are African.
But even though growth has been high in many countries,
it does not benefit everyone. Examples of countries with a
strong economy but high levels of poverty are Nigeria and
Companies from countries such as China, India and Brazil
have invested heavily in recent years to capture share of
growth. Corruption at all levels is a major hindrance to the
development of many African countries' economies.
Africa - cooperation
The idea of African unity and cooperation is closely
linked to Africa's struggle for independence and
independence. Ghana's first president, Kwame Nkrumah, was
one of the most eager advocates for increased cooperation
between the many young states that resulted from the
Despite great difficulties, in 1963, the Organization of
African Unity (or OAU, see
Abbreviationfinder) succeeded, headquartered in Addis
Ababa. All independent states in Africa have the right to be
a member; also the five North African countries, which are
otherwise more oriented towards the Arab world, are members.
One of the OAU's main objectives is "to promote unity and
unity between the African states". However, the organization
has been unable to reconcile the many views that have
characterized the continent since decolonization. In
addition, the OAU has been plagued by the fact that many
heads of state have assigned the organization so little
importance that they are not present at the annual summits.
However, it should be mentioned that the OAU has
successfully maintained that national borders are firm; they
are not for discussion or revision despite their background
in colonial power.
The idea of African unity and cooperation has also led
to the establishment of a number of regional cooperation
organizations. Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda formed in 1967 the
East African Community (EAC); however, it dissolved 10 years
after due to contradictions between member states. In West
Africa, in 1975, 16 states created a West African Common
Market (ECOWAS), which aimed to foster economic cooperation
and create a common market. However, the results of ECOWAS
have been rather limited, which can be explained both by
political disagreement and by the different development
strategies of the countries.
In southern Africa, the independence of Zimbabwe in 1980
enabled the creation of a regional cooperation organization,
SADCC, for the countries of the region, but not South
Africa. SADCC has had some success in attracting foreign
development assistance to the area; on the other hand,
cooperation between the states has not really succeeded.
A number of former French colonies in West Africa have
entered into currency cooperation in the so-called Franc
zone. France guarantees the states a fixed exchange rate for
their currencies as well as full exchange rates.