This teeny tiny national state, sliced into Senegal, sits inside dynamic West Africa, with regional powers Nigeria, Ghana, and Senegal nearby. Review Gambia’s fifteen nearby countries at The Africa Report to get a sense of the neighborhood–and take a look at the other four regions, as well. This site also has a useful list of rankings such as news by region (from West Africa, for example), Top 500 African Countries, and politics, and in depth features that go beyond the headlines.
What Do You Think about Africa?
Representing an African country you need to think strategically as well as factually. The stereotypes of conflict, war, and failure are countered by Andrew Mwenda’s TED Talk “Aid for Africa? No thanks.” This and other perspectives can shape your understanding about what Africa has to offer–rather than the traditional media narratives.
Policymakers need to have a broad view informed by history, including the concepts of change over time, causality, context, complexity, and contingency–according to Thomas Andrews and Flannery Burke. (They tend to not get very useful information directly from academic research.) With this foundation you can begin to understand the 54 countries that make up the African Continent. Review the syllabus for an African Studies survey course, such as Saylor’s POLSC325. You may not have time to follow and read every linked article but you will want to see how scholars think about this diverse, exciting continent from Pre-Colonial, Colonial, and Post-Colonial eras, key concepts such as the following:
- political rule
- failed states
- specific issues such as gender, food security globalization, peacekeeping, and more.
Several larger sites will supplement your broad understanding of these and other African Studies themes. Spent some time exploring topics and resources as they relate to your committee and interests:
- Michigan State University’s “Exploring Africa” – See the West Africa Region for a specific treatment of various issues in a localized focus.
- The BBC World Service’s “The Story of Africa” – Explore themes such as slavery, religion, independence and West African Kingdoms.
- African Studies at Columbia – One of twelve National Resource Centers, all serve as starting points for research.
As you begin to narrow down onto your topics, you may need to move back out and reframe your understanding of your country, region, and continent. For example, the following articles–saved in your Dropbox folder, will provide interesting shorter views on key issues that cut across issues:
- Helen Clark on the role of the UN in overcoming Africa’s development challenges, a debatable but important issues.
- Benjamin Talton’s overview on the challenges of decolonization in Africa, with examples in Congo and Angola to make the case.
- The World Bank’s Africa Regional Brief to understand the positive long-term outlook (declining child mortality, stabilizing HIV infections, rising primary school completion, and falling extreme poverty).
Any speech would benefit from another World Bank short form, “50 Things You Didn’t Know About Africa”–linking to additional data and research.