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6. Sub-Saharan Africa in Contemporary Perspective

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Chapter Summary

This chapter explores four sociological themes relevant to contemporary Africa's prospects for economic growth, democratic consolidation, and political stability. First, it focuses on Africa's demographic landscape, especially the confluence of high mortality from pandemics such as HIV/AIDS with a rapidly growing, young population that is increasingly moving to urban areas. Next, the chapter examines the implications of Africa's immense ethnic diversity, and highlights variations among countries in terms of how they manage this diversity. Then, it discusses the structure of the labor force, the relationship between labor unions and the state, and the growing prominence of informal employment. Patterns, causes, and consequences of socioeconomic inequality in Africa constitute a fourth and final theme. Ethnic diversity represents a much more researched aspect of Africa's demographic landscape. With the emergence of multi-party democracy during the 1990s, the impact of ethnicity on electoral outcomes became a key area of inquiry.

Keywords: ethnic diversity; labor force; population dynamics; sub-Saharan Africa



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