Guest Author - Dawn Denton
Africa is an array of nations and identities, which has made it colourful and culturally rich. One billion people live on the continent in fifty five officially recognised legitimate sovereign states. (South Sudan is the youngest state as they only gained their independence from Sudan in 2011).
But for the past century there has been mass human migration in especially sub-Saharan Africa. This movement has been mostly from a traditional rural way of life to the urban lifestyles offered by the towns and cities. These centers promise a new and exciting life to many rural people coming from the countryside. This is the changing face of Africa.
Even small towns are alluring and irresistible. Across Africa they are vital to the livelihood of many of the regions. It is in the markets that people buy and sell their livestock and produce. The towns are colored with hand-painted signs and murals. These works of art convey messages about the goods and services on offer which is especially important when people of so many different languages and cultures converge on an urban center. Some travel for days to get to the market, and journey across many tribal borders.
In some of the more remote parts of the continent, only a few groups of people have been able to preserve their traditional unique way of life and still manage to survive as hunter-gatherers without feeling the draw of city life. Sadly the Batwa pygmies (‘forest people’) of East African have been squeezed off their land and are now living as refugees on the edges of small towns. The Khoisan Bushmen of the Kalahari in southern Africa are equally struggling to live outside of their natural environment. Many tribes that hunted certain animals have had to withdraw to the urban centers as the animals have been pushed off the land or have become extinct. There groups have been forced to give up hunting and have had to adapt to modern living.
Despite the rapid growth of cities, most African people still currently live out on the land. Every year, urbanization increases and it is believed at that in the next ten years most of the people living in Africa will be city dwellers.
What a fascinating time for Africa – the whole continent is on the move. In our changing global world the people are still rooted in the past and yet life is controversially propelling them into the urban future.