Africa is just like North America–controlled by successive waves of people, each with better armies than those who preceded them. The difference is the order of events. Africa has only recently been invaded by Asians. The first invaders of North America were Asians. The Paleoindians invaded from Asia and exterminated dozens of huge species (including mastodon, mammoth, horse, giant bison, giant beaver, American lion, and saber-toothed tiger). The Chinese are finally getting to Africa and the wild animals are being wiped out now.
For millennia, Africa was controlled by the Bushmen or San, small, light brown hunter/gatherers. They were gradually pushed out by various Bantus– a much larger race with dark black skin, iron weapons and agriculture. The Bantu had reached Southern Africa about the same time as the Dutch settled at Cape Town. The Dutch and the Bantu tried to expand at the same time. The superior weapons of the Dutch enable them to prevail and control South Africa. Other Europeans used their superior technologies to conquer most of the rest of Africa. But that control didn’t last long. Africans learned technology and organization from the Europeans and created armies which eliminated control of Europeans over the continent.
But the biggest changes in Africa have occurred since the wars ending European control. Until then, African societies did not have the organization and technology to kill off their largest wild species, nor the medicine to enable their populations to expand. Importation of European technology has caused the near total destruction of African ecosystems and wild species within the last fifty years. We have provided everything they need to destroy the ecosystems they once were integrated with. Today the iconic wildlife of Africa only survives behind high fences under heavy guard.
Meanwhile Western medicine and food aid have vastly increased the population. From an estimated 140 million in 1900, Africa grew to a billion in 2010. According to United Nations conservative projections, this figure will rise to 2.5 billion in 2050 and more than 4 billion in 2100. Then Africa will have a large population than India or China.
In Africa, an estimated 90 percent of the entire continent’s population uses wood for cooking, and in Sub-Saharan Africa, firewood and brush supply approximately 52 percent of all energy sources. While deforestation in other parts of the world is mainly caused by commercial logging or cattle ranching the leading cause in Africa is subsistence needs of its rapidly growing population.
Africa is suffering deforestation at twice the world rate, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. Some sources claim that deforestation has already wiped out roughly 90% of West Africa’s original forests. Deforestation is accelerating in Central Africa. According to the FAO, Africa lost the highest percentage of tropical forests of any continent during the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s. Some African countries are losing forest at a rate of about 2-3 percent per year, in some countries much faster.
In many African countries the only forests left are in reserves protected by guards and fences. Today in Ghana and the Ivory Coast no forest is left outside the reserves and even the reserves are being encroached upon and degraded by excessive logging and exploitation. In the Congo Basin, where there are still forests outside the reserves, these areas are going very fast because of agriculture, commodity development and farming by small-holder farmers.
Research carried out by WWF International shows that in Africa, rates of illegal logging vary from 50% in Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea to 70% in Gabon and 80% in Liberia – where timber revenues played a major role in financing the Sierra Leone Civil War and other regional armed conflicts.
Ethiopia, the third largest country in Africa by population, has been hit by famine many times because of shortages of rain and a depletion of natural resources. Deforestation has lowered the chance of getting rain, which is already low, and thus causes erosion. Many Ethiopian farmers have told me that their district was forested and full of wildlife, but that overpopulation caused people to come to that land and clear it to plant crops, cutting all trees to sell as firewood.
Ethiopia has lost 98% of its forested regions in the last 50 years. Increasing dryness in East Africa due to deforestation has been the cause of droughts and famines in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Sudan.
Over 150 years ago, when the first European visitors documented Kilimanjaro’s appearance, the volcano’s cone was covered with a thick crust of ice. About 90% of this ice has since vanished. The rate of glacier shrinkage has doubled since the 1970s.
Chinese companies are on pace to strip the continent of all easily mined minerals within the next few years. I’ve seen valley after valley totally destroyed by Chinese miners in the last few years in Africa.
The Chinese seem intent to be the next people to control Africa. If so, we’ll see environmental destruction more intense than ever before.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if societies controlled Africa for the purpose of protecting it from destruction. Europe, the US and Japan all have increasing rates of forestation and decreasing destruction of the environment. They also have decreasing population rates, except for migrants from the Third World.
No external force is likely to intervene to halt the destruction of Africa’s ecosystems. I’ll keep going to the parts of Africa where there are remnants of wild Africa. If you want to see them, you’d better go soon. They won’t last long.