Southern Africa. Countries, Geography, & Climate

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1 Countries, Geography, & Climate The Southern African region consists of the following countries: Angola Zambia Malawi Mozambique Zimbabwe Botswana Namibia Swaziland Lesotho South Africa Comoros Madagascar Mauritius Southern Africa is located between the Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean. The region is prone to frequent droughts and uneven rainfall distribution. The region has two distinct seasons a wet season roughly from November to April, and a dry season roughly from May to October. Oceans play an important role in the region s climate. The east coast is influenced by a southward-flowing current, which brings warm water and humid air from the Equator and creates a humid, warm climate. In contrast the west coast is influenced by a cold current from the Atlantic Ocean, which produces a drier climate. The terrain in Southern Africa is varied, ranging from lush coastal plains, high snow-covered mountains, savannah, high plateaus, and air deserts. Three major river systems drain the region. All of these rivers originate in highland areas and flow to the ocean. In Southern Africa, human activity has impacted the natural vegetation. For example, the natural environment of the eastern coastal area of Southern Africa is coastal forest; however, if you visit the area today there is very little coastal forest remaining. Most of the coastal plain is under intensive agriculture, most predominant being high sugar cane plantations. The region has the world s largest resources of platinum and the elements of chromium, vanadium, cobalt, uranium, gold, titanium, iron, and diamonds. These minerals and the promise of quick and great riches attracted investment and settlers from Europe in the late 1800s, which led to colonization of the area.

2 Government & Politics The individual governmental systems of the Southern African countries fall into the following categories: Presidential republic/multi-party system o Angola o Zimbabwe o Comoros Presidential democratic republic/multi-party system o Zambia o Malawi o Mozambique Parliamentary democratic republic/multi-party system o Botswana o South Africa Semi-presidential democratic republic/multi-party system o Namibia o Madagascar Absolute monarchy o Swaziland Parliamentary democratic constitutional monarchy/multi-party system o Lesotho Parliamentary democracy o Mauritius The region developed the Southern African Development Community (SADC) which is a governmental organization headquartered in Botswana. The SADC was established in The goals of the SADC are to achieve development, peace, security, and economic growth, and to alleviate poverty and enhance the quality of life of the people in the region. Countries in the SADC have chairpersons and/or executive secretaries to represent the population in their countries. The SADC establishes plans and treaties to have common protocols among the various countries. The SADC also coordinates national activities and policies together regarding trade and economics.

3 Economy Thirty-six percent of the region s population lives in urban areas, and sixty-four percent live in rural areas. South Africa and Botswana are the most urbanized countries, with urban population at fifty percent each. Malawi is the least urbanized with just twenty-four percent of its population living in urban areas. The region s main exports include platinum, diamonds, gold, and uranium. European colonization in the late 1800s helped to develop Southern Africa s economy; however, poverty, corruption, and disease are some of the biggest factors delaying today s economic growth. The region is pursuing economic and political stability as one of its goals. In terms of economic strength, the country South Africa is by far the dominant power of the region. South Africa's GDP (gross domestic product) is many times greater than the GDPs of all other countries in the region. Only a few Southern Africa countries produce enough food to meet their own needs (e.g. South Africa), making the rest dependent on their capacity to purchase imported food (e.g. Namibia and Botswana) or on food aid (e.g. Lesotho, Malawi and Zimbabwe). Some key factors affecting the food security within the regions including political instability, poor governance, droughts, population growth, urbanization, poverty, low economic growth, inadequate agricultural policies, trade terms and regimes, resource degradation and poor health. These factors however vary from country to country. For example, the Democratic Republic of Congo has favorable climatic and physical conditions, but performs far below its capacity in food provision due to political instability and poor governance. In contrast, (semi) arid countries such as Botswana and Namibia, produce insufficient food, but successfully achieve food security through food imports due to economic growth and good governance. The Republic of South Africa is a major food producer and exporter in the region. Exports to the European Union are dominated by sugar, coffee, fish, tobacco, copper, and crude oil. Imports from the EU to the Southern African region are dominated by machinery and mechanical appliances, equipment, vehicles, and pharmaceutical products.

4 Environment Southern Africa has a wide diversity of ecoregions including grassland, bushyeld, karoo, savannah and riparian zones. Even though considerable disturbance has occurred in some regions from habitat loss due to human overpopulation or export-focused development, significant numbers of various wildlife species, including white rhino, lion, leopard, impala, kudu, blue wildebeest, vervet monkey and elephant. It also has complex plateaus that create mountain structures along the South African border. Many environmental issues affect Southern Africa due to urbanization and the acts needed in order to survive. While attempting to keep up with the developing world, and trying to meet the high demands of the growing population, Southern Africa has exhausted its many resources resulting in severe environmental damage. Southern Africa s log production, and produce are the cores of their economy, and the region has become dependent on these resources. The continuous depleting and improper treatment of their natural resources have led Southern Africa to a harmful state. Some environmental issues that affect Southern Africa are: water pollution, air pollution, land degradation, solid waste pollution, and deforestation. The environmental damage affects not only the population s health, but also the species that live in the area, while also contributing to the world-wide issue of climate change. One of Southern Africa s biggest issues is the lack of clean water. Less than 10% of Southern Africa s surface water is accessible and due to the fact that a majority of their ground water lay under large rock formations, ground water becomes difficult to access as well. Causes of water pollution include urbanization, oil spills, and coal mining. In this developing region, low-grade fuels are used to meet high demands for food, and energy. SO 2 and CO 2 are released in the air, and due to deforestation and the growing amount of air pollution, the air pollutants in the atmosphere are slowly building up. With the increase of population, and an increase in people who are moving to urbanized areas, the number of solid waste produced is increasing. South Africa's Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism estimates that over half of the population of South Africa lack "adequate" solid waste treatment instead, waste is often dumped, buried or burned. As the population inclines, Southern Africa s demand for land also increases, contributing directly and indirectly to deforestation. Deforestation rates in Southern Africa was greater than other areas of Africa in the 1990s and are predicted to stay high. With the decrease in water and the high demands for agriculture, Southern African s land is becoming less fertile. Desertification causes an increase in soil erosion, making it difficult for plants to grow. This will lead to unsustainable food, and endanger Southern Africa s wildlife.

5 Society & Culture The people, cultures and societies of Southern Africa share some common characteristics; however, Southern Africa is home to widespread social and cultural diversity as well. Some of these diversities can be explained by the geographic diversity in the region. The process of colonization and settling resulted in a significant population of European and Asian descent in many southern African countries. There is significant language diversity in Southern Africa. For example, in Zambia, a country of 10 million people, there are 70 different languages, and six are considered official languages of the country. South Africa, the larges country in the region, has 11 official languages. Although there are many different languages spoken in the region, all of these languages belong to one of three language families, called Khoisan, Niger-Congo, and Indo-European. The religions practiced in Southern Africa are also very diverse. Southern Africa is home to many different Christian groups as well as Islam, Hinduism, and Judaism Many countries in Southern Africa are facing the challenge of providing an education that meets the socio-economic needs of their growing youth populations. Primary school drop-out rates remain high across the region so many children and youth end up outside the education system. Many independent educational programs are starting to be put in place to try to combat the issue. Healthcare in Southern Africa is a struggle for many people as they try to combat diseases such as HIV/AIDS, typhoid fever, and malaria, among others. Very little public assistance is available to those with certain diseases. Countries that are more developed, such as South Africa, have both private and public healthcare options. The wealthiest 20% of the population use the private system, which is funded better than the public system, which is chronically underfunded and understaffed. The countries of Southern Africa have developed many holidays and traditions unique to their individual country. For example, in the country of South Africa, holidays that are celebrated include Heritage Day which honors the diversity of the country, Women s Day which serves as a reminder of contributions made by women to society, and Freedom Day in honor of the first democratic elections held in In countries that are predominantly a specific religion, those countries nationally recognize any associated religious holidays. Since the countries of Southern Africa are culturally diverse, their family structures differ as well. In rural communities, households usually consisted of extended families living together in a multi-room family house. A nuclear family (single family) model is seen more frequently in more developed areas of Southern Africa.

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