Southern Africa

What is considered Southern Africa?

Generally, Southern Africa includes Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Sometimes, islands of Madagascar, Réunion, Mauritius, and Comoros, are included, and a few of these countries are considered to be in other regions.


Southern Africa has a long and fairly well-documented history. Below is a summarized version, but further research can be done here.

200 BCE to 1800 CE

Two main nomadic groups, the Khoe and the San, were the largest groups to inhabit the southern portion of the African continent. According to, the two groups were forced to the boarder of what is now Botswana and South Africa by the Bantus, while also being pushed further north by the Dutch and French colonists. This began in the sixteenth century and continued into the eighteenth century.

At the same time, trade was also introduced; however, most trade was local. Eventually, settled societies of farmers grew grain, herded livestock, and created iron tools. These iron tools became popular as a result of Dutch settlers who began to settle in the 1600s.


Oxford Research Encyclopedias claims that that the major shift into the period of colonialism was when Britain took control of the Cape in South Africa in 1806. There were a few attempts at colonialism prior to this time, but the settlement of the Cape led to the huge influx of colonizing almost all African states. A large number of outside forces, including Britain, Germany, and Portugal, took power in Southern African states and forced governments, policies, and work onto the people. This became more powerful in the 1860s, when Britain became more ruthless in its attempts to remain supreme and became even more demanding of the African people. For example, the changes in the mining industry. Britain “ensured that men who had chosen previously to work in the mines on their own terms were now forced to do so on employers’ terms”. The African workers “were subjected to a bewildering array of discriminatory laws and practices, all enforced in order to keep workers cheap and pliable” (“The Industrial Revolution in Britain and Southern Africa from 1860”) This was because they wanted to remain in control despite other increasingly powerful countries.

A greater emphasis on patrimonialism, a system of favors being given in return for loyalty, was used, as colonizing states would offer resources to elite members in exchange for their loyalty, as well as the assurance of loyalty throughout each state. Christianity’s introduction and spread were strong, especially in the southern states as a direct result of colonial power. The colonizers also stressed the idea of tribes, a concept that was not native to Africans and made African groups seem less organized and complex than European communities. This was another way that the colonizing powers would assert their elitism over the Africans.

Current issues in Southern Africa include climate changes that are drastically affecting the agricultural industry, food insecurity, and HIV/AIDS. (More regarding the effects of these below).

The consequences of colonization have remained, nearly half a century later. The changes in the structures of the governments, religion, trading systems, and overall way of life was a direct result of colonialism.

States Colonizers and Date of Independence                                  

More information can be found in the textbook Inside African Politics by Englebert and Dunn.

State Colonizer Date of Independence
Angola Portugal November 11, 1975
Botswana Britain September 30, 1966
Lesotho Britain October 4, 1966
Malawi Britain July 6, 1964
Mozambique Portugal June 25, 1975
Namibia Germany and South Africa March 21, 1990
South Africa Netherlands and Britain May 31, 1910
Swaziland Boer Republic and Britain September 6, 1968
Zambia Britain October 24, 1964
Zimbabwe Britain April 18, 1980

There are two different types of colonization: settler colonization, in which members of the colonizing country come into the state to take over, and imperialism, where the colonizing country rules from outside. South Africa, Namibia, Angola, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe and Zambia were all settler colonies, whereas the other states in the region were imperialistic colonies. Settlers, such as the French and Dutch that pushed the Khoe and the San groups to move, as well as imperialistic forces, all had a major impact on the regions.

One effect colonizers had on Southern Africa was the cuisine. In addition to teaching the Southern Africans new cooking styles, such as using cast iron pots, a wide variety of different spices, ingredients, and dishes were introduced. Dutch ingredients, specifically many foreign fruits and vegetables, were introduced, as well as Malaysian and Indonesian spices, as a result of the Malay slaves that were brought. These ingredients and spices were combined with cooking styles and dishes that the Southern Africans were already cooking, creating a melting pot of cuisines.

British influences included the introduction of a British breakfast, instead of leftover dinner the next morning, as the Southern Africans were used to. “They also left their mark with their “pudding” culture, their pies and their English roasts, which developed into the carveries we know today” (South African Food).

Perhaps the most interesting and influential aspects of colonial rule in Southern Africa occurs in South Africa. Because of the slave trade in the mid 1600s, many of the descendants of current citizens were brought as slaves. This contrasts drastically with the upper-class white population that is also present in South Africa, most of whom are descendants from the settlers. As a result, even after the state received its independence, there was a huge racial, ethnic, and socio-economic divide, also known as apartheid.

More can be read at “The Colonization of Africa” and “History of slavery and early colonisation in South Africa”.

Food Issues in Southern Africa

Southern Africa faces severe food security for many reasons. A major one is the global issue of climate change. Climate change, including wide temperature swings and droughts, is causing unpredictable agricultural seasons, which Southern Africa is vastly dependent on for its food production and workforce. According to Nation Master, 47% of Namibia’s population, 66% of Zimbabwe’s population, and 85% of Angola’s population is in the agricultural industry.

In addition, according to the article “The Impacts of Climate Change on Food Security and Health in Southern Africa”, there will be hardships in trade due to the “difficulties in transporting food through carbon regulations in air-freight, changing conditions for growing food crops and negative impacts on fishery,” only furthering food insecurity as there will be reduced access to imported goods. As such, food that must be imported will be more expensive. Because of the unpredictable agricultural seasons and increasing prices on imported food, food insecurity will continue to increase in lower income families.

The issue of food insecurity only increases as foreign governments and organizations attempt to provide aid in order to combat this very issue. This can be in the form of foreign government funded initiatives or non-government organizations (NGOs). While these projects intend to help the African citizens, it only furthers the issues. These actions wind up increasing prices, a burden that falls primarily on poor and middle-class Africans. The article, “Exploring the Logic Behind Southern Africa’s Food Crises,” claims that the issue of the governments being unable to truly help the people is because the people and the private sector do not trust one another. It asserts that the private sector, which are the workers (farmers, traders, etc.) “each is at times acutely dissatisfied with government policy on these matters and would like to have more influence over what decisions are made. An example of this is the trade regulations on corn and the inability of those being directly affected to have any input in the decision. This prevents proper aid from occurring.

The increase of prices leads to further malnutrition, as basic diets consisting of lower-cost food do not provide all of the necessary sustenance for proper nourishment.

Another cause of food insecurity in Southern Africa is the prevalence of HIV/AIDS. According to Advert, “South Africa accounted for one third (270,000) of the region’s new infections in 2016. Another 50% occurred in eight countries: Mozambique, Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Ethiopia… Women account for 56% of adults living with HIV in the region. Young women (aged 15–24 years) accounted for 26% of new HIV infections in 2016, despite making up just 10% of the population.” As a result, women, who do a majority of the agricultural work in Southern Africa, are working less, therefore producing less. They also provide most of the household food for their families, when ill, they may be unable to do so, furthering the food insecurity.

Staple Food in Southern Africa

Mutandabota is both a local and sustainable food, traditional in Southern Africa. This food source, which is a dairy product is not only nutritious, but also contains probiotics, which aids in improving intestinal health. Probiotics are living microorganisms that are not only safe to consume, but beneficial, as they help the intestine grow the natural bacteria that helps fight off strands of microorganisms that will cause sickness.

Video of Anthony Bourdain’s show “Parts Unknown” in which he visited South Africa.

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