Monday, 6 February 2006

Caring About Africa

Africa is all too easily ignored by much of the world, especially the United States, and in particular Presidents in their State of the Union addresses.

One of my favorite resources on the web is O.T. Ford's Stewardship Project, which ignores no place. While I've occasionally disagreed with some particulars of his opinions, such as his willingness to accept Bush's Iraq war as better than simply leaving Saddam in power, I have nothing but the greatest respect for the thoroughness and seeming accuracy with which he portrays the Political Status of the States of the world, with respect to the extent to which they exhibit majority control by the people or not.

While certainly there is a wide range between the most oppressive states and the most liberal democratic states, I am inclined to accept Ford's quick categorization of most states into one realm or the other. He is not prone to the typical temptation of assigning status based on their claimed or putative ideology. Africa tends to be a continent where autocratic or oligarchic regimes are the norm, though there has been some encouraging movement of late in nations such as Nigeria, Liberia, Malawi, and Burundi. The reader of the map should be warned that significant oppression, especially of certain minorities, may linger in many of the "blue" nations, while some of the "orange" nations do show some movement toward liberalization. Overall the state of human rights remains awfully bleak across the continent.

I've never seen this type of information captured on a map before, so I have used Ford's analysis to create a first glimpse of Africa as it stands today. Eventually I am interested in furthering this analysis. For instance we might subdivide those nations where some regions are acting autonomously, or more finely designate the status of the states, or look at recent or historical trends. But until now, I've never even seen a snapshot.

[UPDATE: An excellent diary, What's the Matter with Africa, appeared today on DailyKos which is well worth the read. I added my map in the comments, since lots of maps were included in the diary and the comments.]

1 comment:

-epm said...

Good reference/resource, Walker.

I've always wondered why we treat Africa -- the second largest continent on the planet -- as a singularity. Doesn't that over simplify and dilute our ability to look closer? To see individual nations, distinct cultures, and unique problems?

I'm just sharing my own confusion of how to address "Africa."