Cover image for Almanac of African peoples & nations
Almanac of African peoples & nations
Yakan, Muḥammad Zuhdī.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New Brunswick, N.J. : Transaction, [1999]

Physical Description:
vii, 847 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Subject Term:
Geographic Term:
Format :


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Material Type
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Item Holds
DT15 .Y35 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Black History Non-Circ

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The peoples of Africa are neither ethnically, culturally, nor religiously homogeneous. European colonial powers took little note of this reality in carving up the continent, a fact reflected in the periodic outbreak of civil war since decolonialization. Likewise, Western European models of development, whether in their liberal or Marxist manifestations, have so far failed to meet African development needs. The path to stability in Africa is through its people's character and goals. Almanac of African Peoples and Nations provides an essential guide to the major ethnic groups of the African continent, highlighting the major contributions and basic features of each.The Almanac reviews Africa's language families and their respective national and geographic concentrations, explaining ethnic classification based on linguistic difference and including language groups that are not indigenous to Africa. The major African peoples are then listed by country with a statistical breakdown on their respective shares in the total population of each country and maps indicating their concentration. The major section of the volume includes a comprehensive listing and descriptive profile of each ethnic, national, and tribal group detailing their history, customs, economic systems, and political and social organizations. The Almanac points out as well which groups support revisionist political aspirations and shows the internal and external pressures they are subject to. Yakan notes that African societies are not highly integrated and must support multitudes of influential sub-cultures with conflicting agendas and loyalties. Arguing that tribalism reflects Africa's historical experience and cultural heritage, he sees the resolution of the continent's problems in consociational democracy, proportional representation, federalism, or some form of autonomous rule.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Yakan's ambitious attempt to gather cultural information about the peoples of Africa into a single reference work ultimately fails, marred by flaws that confuse rather than enlighten. There are eight sections: a brief introduction offering the author's views on colonialism and tribalism; a skimpy, poorly constructed description of Africa's language families that ignores important scholarly controversies; lists of African languages and ethnic groups by country, with unhelpful maps; an alphabetical list describing African ethnic groups; endnotes; bibliography; and index. The text is riddled with anomalies. The locations of ethnic groups are frequently vague. Index terms are inaccurate and poorly cross-referenced. In one paragraph, the Hausa language of West Africa is described as both the most popular language in sub-Saharan Africa and the second most widely spoken language. A condescending statement, "Like Berber, Somali and Galla [Hausa] is an 'advanced' language with grammatical rules of its own" (p. 351, attributed to John Gunther's Inside Africa, 1955), disregards the fact that all languages have grammatical rules of their own. Although such a work would aid the study of Africa, numerous errors make it impossible to recommend this attempt. G. Walsh; Boston University