The Fortune of a Continent | A Short Story of Africa

The pharaohs and pyramids of Ancient Egypt have bedazzled the world not only because of the ingenuity of the civilisation and its nation builders, but because they are an enduring symbol of wealth, status and ancient urban planing.

This unsurpassable wealth, however, took generations–even millennia–for both the natural world and humans to create together. It happened neither accidentally nor serendipitously.

Since the advent of written history, the continent of Africa has long been coveted for its riches. Stories of Africa’s abundant wealth have endured for thousands of years. It is these stories that have drawn in explorers, conquerers and fortune seekers from far and wide.

Land was another factor. Africa is the world’s second-largest and second-most populous continent, after Asia. The Ancient Romans relied on North Africa for grain to feed the burgeoning population of Rome. Arab Invaders arrived after the Romans. The first wave arrived in the 7th century. The Europeans would follow suit in the 15th century.

Slavery was common in many African societies. Slaves were acquired by African leaders as both labourers and soldiers. The long-distance trade in slaves, which lasted more than a thousand years, added another layer to this practise. From the 9th century onwards, slaves were captured, taken and sold within the region. In the 16th century, Europeans merchants initiated the transatlantic trade to the Americas. Fortunes were made at both ends of the trade.

Despite the high level of risk, the allure of Africa’s riches remains as strong in the 21st century as it did in the past. There is an old proverb that says, “Out of Africa always something new.”

Africa was, is, and remains a continent of great diversity. It has in its possession a multiplicity of landscapes and cultures. The hazards it presents are equally diverse. The climate is harsh and variable. Rainfall is unreliable and droughts have been a known risk since antiquity. But what has always stood out are the vast range of natural resources that are available there.

The abundance of riches has played a significant role in shaping the fortunes of the continent for thousands upon thousands of years.


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