fun with maps: trade and roads

November 30, 2007

(click on the links to look at the maps in detail)

If you’re interested in african history or economics, you may one day get to see a map like this one:

africa trade

That’s early african trade routes. There are probably better ones out there but this has the basics: swahili costal cities as access points in the east, transaharian trade etc..
Do you notice a hole ?

Well, fast forward (in time) and check this:

africa rail

African railroads. I think only two of them were built post-independence: the transgabonese and one in Tanzania. I think it’s a good map of colonial trade roads. Of course the particularity is that most roads here link to ports. The transaharian trade is dead and intersahelian is not represented as it’s done through roads.
notice a hole ?

what about this:

africa roads

Current. I believe it’s on the positive side. Some roads I see there do not qualify as all weather/improved and some of the motorways are just improved dirt roads but nevertheless it gives an idea of where they are. Alternatively you can use this:

africa roads 2

Mostly because the transharan makes a come back and because the classification is better.
Or you could check the accessibility map..

africa accessibility

Do you still see a hole ?

What about this one ?

africa highway

The map of the future transafrican highway system. Do you see where the links break ? Do you see the potential (smaller) hole ?

Just in case I’m the only one seeing it, here it is: West Africa, East Africa, Southern Africa or even North Africa are all more or less interconnected and appear to have been for a long time. Central Africa is the weak transport/trade link and has been for a while.
And the issue is not that it’s badly connected to other areas, it’s just badly connected within itself. What do we blame for that ?

The deep forest ?

africa biomass

or the Congo River ?

congo river


5 Responses to “fun with maps: trade and roads”

  1. omodudu Says:

    Wow great resource. This is the first time I am seeing any of these. I will take a close look over the weekend to see if there are hidden clues round there somewhere. Nice. Thanks for the pointer.

  2. Uchenna Says:

    the forest sounds as reasonable an explanation as any, i’d say. much more so than the river…

    or do you have a theory apart from those two geographical features?

  3. aflakete Says:

    well the river is not really a barrier, on the contrary, for instance when you look at the rail network in DRC/Zaire, some railroads where only build to bypass rapids, no matter how short they were.
    That river (and its bassin) is a transport link, one that doesn’t need to be built/mantained and that probably partly explain why there’s no Kinshasa/Kisangani road.

    Do I have another theory ?
    Not really… though most of central africa is one country and one that has been tormented for a while..
    (there also a way to bring the slave trade and colonialism into it but it’s complicated)

  4. sociolingo Says:

    Thought provoking. Thanks

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