The ancient Romans used the name Africa terra --- "land of the Afri" (plural, or "Afer" singular) --- for the northern part of the continent, corresponding to modern-day Tunisia. The origin of Afer may be the Arabic afer, dust; the Afridi[?] tribe, who dwelt in Northern Africa around the area of Carthage; Greek aphrike, without cold; or Latin aprica, sunny.
Africa is home to the oldest inhabited territory on earth, and it is believed the human race originated from what is now this continent.
For most of humanity's history, Africa had no nation states, and was instead inhabited by many small, loosely associated tribal[?] groups, kingdoms, and families. In the 14th century European explorers arrived in Africa. By bargaining with some local tribal leaders, Europeans were able to capture millions of Africans, and export them for labour around the world in what became known as the global slave trade. In the early 19th century the European imperial powers staged a massive "scramble for Africa[?]" and occupied most of the continent, creating many colonial states. This occupation continued until the conclusion of the Second World War, after which all colonial states were gradually granted independence. Today, Africa is home to over 30 independent countries, many of which still have borders drawn during the era of European colonialism.
Since independence, African states have frequently been hampered by instability, violence, and authoritarianism. Until recently, few nations in Africa were able to sustain democratic governments, instead cycling through a series of brutal coups and military dictatorships.
Border and territorial disputes have also been common, with the European-imposed borders of many nations being widely contested through armed conflicts.
Failed government policies have also resulted in many widespread famines, and significant portions of Africa remain without enough food or water to survive. The spread of dangerous diseases is also rampant, especially the deadly AIDS virus.
Despite numerous hardships, there have been some signs the continent has hope for the future. With international help, many African governments have been able to turn their economies around, and some nations are showing growth for the first time in decades. Democratic governments seem to be spreading, and although still not the majority, more and more Africans are living in freedom than ever before. Political associations such as the African Union are also offering hope for greater co-operation and peace between the continent's many countries.
The population of Africa is almost entirely black. The nations of Zimbabwe and South Africa maintain small, but significant white and Asian minorities groups. Some northern countries, such as Egypt and Morocco, have Arabic majorities.
Northern Africa (see also North Africa)