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The mighty Senegal river dominates large areas of this country. Every year the river floods, and seasonal crops are grown on the fertile land that the floodwaters leave behind. Senegal is wealthy compared to other countries in this region. It was once an important part of French West Africa, and still maintains close links with France. Among the mix of ethnie groups, such as the Wolof and Mandinke, there are still many French inhabitants. There is a similar mix of religions - Islam exists side-by-side with traditional beliefs. Senegal's beautiful, palm-fringed coastline makes tourism an important economie force here.


The lively city of Dakar, Senegal's capital, perches on a rocky peninsula that forms the westernmost point of Africa. This major port was once the capital of French West Africa, as can be seen from ils grand colonial buildings. Today great poverty is found alongside the expensive restaurants and modem hotels on the streets of Dakar.


Nearly three-quarters of Senegal's people work in agriculture. In the north, cereals such as millet and sorghum are the main food crops, and peanuts are a vital cash crop. Rice is common in the wetter southern areas. Peanuts were once grown on nearly half the farmland, but fish is now taking over as the country's main export. A common sight is fishermen setting out in dugout canoes called pirogues, made from local trees.


The tiny coastal country of Gambia is a long, thin sliver of land carved out of Senegal, which surrounds it on three sides. At its widest point, Gambia measures no more than 50 miles (80 km) from north to south. Like Senegal, Gambia has a wide ethnie mix and Islam is very important. Most of the people work in agriculture, relying heavily on the peanut crop. Women play a major role in agricultural life. Rice growing is their main occupation, but near the coast, large areas of swampy rice land have been ruined by the buildup of sait in the soil. Many women now grow vegetables to sell in local markets.




In 1994 SOUTH AFRICA moved from minority rule by its white population to majority government under the multiracial control of the African National Congress (ANC). Since 1948, the South African government had practiced apartheid, keeping the different races apart and restricting power to white people. South Africa became isolated from the rest of theé world and violence between the races grew. Since the election of the ANC leader Nelson Mandela as South Africa's président, the apartheid system is being dismantled and South Africa has resumed full international relations.


Jailed in 1964 as a senior member of the ANC, Nelson Mandela spent 26 years in prison until he was released in 1990. this was a result of President de Klerk's decision to legalize black freedom groups, with a view to ending apartheid. Under Nelson Mandela's leadership, the ANC won political power in 1994, and Mandela became the first black president of South Africa.


As part of South Africa's apartheid policies, black workers and their families were excluded from the main towns and forced to live in specially built townships a great distance from their work. The biggest and most famous of these townships is Soweto, home to more than 1 million people. Every day, black workers leave Soweto and commute for many hours on overcrowded buses and trains to work in the mines and factories of neighboring Johannesburg.


South Africa has three capital cities, Avith the administration in Pretoria, the law courts in Bloemfontein, and the parliament in Cape Town. However, the financial and industrial heart of South Africa is Johannesburg (shown right), known as "the golden city." Gold mines deep beneath the surface have created enormous wealth, encouraging the development of a sprawling industrial area manufacturing cars, textiles, and high-tech and heavy engineering products.

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