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A satellite composite image of Africa showing the ecological break between North and Sub-Saharan regions
A satellite composite image of Africa showing the ecological break between North and Sub-Saharan regions
Sub-Saharan Africa, Africa south of the Sahara, is the term used to describe those countries of Africa that are not considered part of North Africa or some areas of West Africa. In 19th Century Europe and the Americas, sub-Saharan Africa commonly was known as Black Africa or as Dark Africa, partly due to the race of its indigenous inhabitants and partly because much of it had not been fully mapped or explored by Westerners (Africa as a whole was sometimes labeled "the dark continent"). These terms are now obsolete and often considered to be offensive. The neutral phrase African Uplands was preferred by Hegel and some other writers of the time; however, this was primarily intended to refer to the African interior as opposed to coastal regions.Since the end of the last Ice Age, the northern and sub-Saharan regions of Africa have been separated by the extremely harsh climate of the sparsely populated Sahara, forming an effective barrier interrupted by only the Nile River. The modern term sub-Saharan corresponds with the standard representation of North as above and South as below. Tropical Africa is an alternative modern label, related to the word Afrotropic, used for the distinctive ecology of the region. However, if strictly applied, this term would exclude South Africa, most of which lies outside the Tropics.This division of Africa into these two, broad regions has also arisen from historical and geopolitical considerations. North Africa's inhabitants have generally been perceived in the West to be predominantly Caucasoid. Even though such terms are now disputed by anthropologists and other scientists, on the whole North Africans have always been quite distinct from the mostly black Sub-Saharan Africans.The people of North Africa in addition have spoken closely related languages from the Afro-Asiatic language family, whereas Nilo-Saharan and Niger-Congo speaking populations have predominated in the rest of the continent. North Africa has been integrated within the Near East and the Eastern Mediterranean since antiquity; Egypt for instance is a transcontinental nation, wherein a small portion of the country (the Sinai Peninsula) is geographically located in Southwest Asia. The introduction of Eastern Christianity and Islam into the region further entrenched this perception and self-perception.The problematic grouping of African nations into geopolitical regions, however, and the perceptions associated with such divisions--particularly those based on notions of race and ethnicity--are fraught with inherent paradoxes. Sudan, for example, is considered a North African country, but its inhabitants are predominantly black Africans.With a few exceptions, such as Mauritius and South Africa, sub-Saharan Africa is, like the rest of Africa, one of the poorest regions in the world, still suffering from the legacies of colonial conquest and occupation, neocolonialism, inter-ethnic conflict, and political strife. The region contains many of the least developed countries in the world. (See Economy of Africa.)

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Nations of sub-Saharan Africa

Nations of sub-Saharan Africa - Contents

The exact position of the dividing line between the two regions is not clearly defined because of discontinuous and blurred break-points between national boundaries, ecologies and ethnicities. However, according to one classification of the two regions, sub-Saharan Africa includes forty-eight nations. Forty-two of these nations are on the African mainland. In addition, four island nations in the southwest Indian Ocean (Madagascar, The Comoros, Mauritius, and Seychelles) and two island nations in the Atlantic Ocean (Cape Verde and São Tomé and Príncipe) are considered part of sub-Saharan Africa. According to this classification scheme, the countries of sub-Saharan Africa are:

Central Africa

East Africa

North East Africa

Southern Africa

West Africa

African island nations

Territories, possessions, départements

Regions of the World
Africa: Central Africa | East Africa | Great Lakes | Guinea | Horn of Africa | North Africa | Maghreb | Northwest Africa | Sahel | Southern Africa | Sub-Saharan Africa | Sudan | West Africa
Americas: Andean states | Caribbean | Central America | Great Lakes | Great Plains | Guianas | Latin America | North America | Northern America | Pacific Northwest | Patagonia | South America | Southern Cone
Eurasia: Anatolia | Arabia | Asia | Balkans | Baltic region | Benelux | British Isles | Caucasus | Central Asia | Central Europe | East Asia | Eastern Europe | East Indies | Europe | Far East | Kurdistan | Levant | Mediterranean | Mesopotamia | Middle East | Near East | North Asia | Northern Europe | Scandinavia | South Asia | Southeast Asia | Southern Europe | Southwest Asia | Western Europe
Oceania: Australasia | Melanesia | Micronesia | Polynesia | Pacific Rim
Polar: Arctic | Antarctic
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