The ancestral home of all mankind, Africa is the world’s most linguistically and culturally diverse continent. From the ancient to the early-modern periods, Africa was home to a range of civilisations and cultures, including powerful and highly organised societies. However, invasion and occupation by European colonialists set back the continent’s development as did many decades of domestic misrule and continued foreign intervention. In the early twenty-first century, there are clear signs of an African renaissance. Organisations such as the African Union have been taking on greater international roles, and African entrepreneurs are driving economic growth. Africa today is home to some of the world’s fastest-growing economies.
The area known today as the Middle East is the cradle of human civilization. The Sumerian empire, the first urbanised society with a complex division of labour, arose in what is now southern Iraq in the fourth millennium BC. Only with the end of the Ottoman Empire did the modern map of the region begin to emerge. Since World War Two, the Middle East has been profoundly changed by the discovery of oil. This prompted both rapid economic development and, in some of the states affected, political instability. In recent years, however, there has been increased emphasis on economic diversification and on encouraging the growth of a stable middle class. According to the OECD, the region’s middle class is forecast to more than double in size between 2009 and 2030.
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