The Middle East might be the cradle of civilization, but Africa is the birthplace of humanity, where the first early humans evolved around two million years ago. Although Asia is bigger in landmass, Africa has the largest number of countries of any continent, many with complex histories. There are more than three thousand recognized ethnic groups in Africa and more than two thousand spoken languages or dialects. For much of recorded history, starting with the ancient Greeks and Romans, Europeans colonized large areas of Africa. In the nineteenth century’s age of colonization, France, Britain, Germany, and Spain claimed swaths of land that were home to many previously independent tribal nations now forced to live under one colonial flag. So once European countries granted former colonies independence in the twentieth century, there was often a struggle between ethnic groups looking to stake out their own sovereign land. Over the centuries, Islamic, Catholic, and Protestant faithful have come to different areas of Africa hoping to convert its people. For as important as political and religious colonization was in the evolution of African culture, nothing trumps Mother Nature. Due to its vast size, Africa has five distinct ecosystems: ocean and seacoasts, deserts, mountains, woodland-grasslands (savanna), and forests/ rainforests. Some countries have multiple ecosystems, and over the millennia, Africans have adapted to those specific conditions, which determine local agriculture and resources—or lack thereof. The five regions and their countries are:  The North: Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Western Sahara (Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic), and Tunisia.  The South: Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.  The West: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire,



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