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Sub-Saharan Africa, Africa south of the Sahara Desert, is the term used to describe those countries of Africa that are not part of North Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa is also known as Black Africa or as Dark Africa (though some consider these terms to be offensive). Sub-Saharan corresponds with the standard representation of North as above and South as below.
This division of Africa has arisen from the perception of North Africa as predominantly Arab or Berber in ethnicity or culture and the perception of sub-Saharan Africa as predominantly black in ethnicity or culture, and from the geographic separation of the two regions by the sparsely populated Sahara Desert. North Africa has long been integrated with the Mediteranean and the Middle East. Sub-Saharan Africa, on the other hand, had sporadic contacts with the rest of the world before the modern era partially due to the effect of endemic diseases like Malaria. While the coasts received visits by traders, much of the interior of the continent remained unknown to the outside world until the colonial era.
With a few exceptions, such as Mauritius and South Africa, sub-Saharan Africa is one of the poorest regions in the world, and it contains many of the least developed countries. (See Economy of Africa.)
The exact position of the dividing line between the two regions is not clear. However, according to one classification of the two regions, sub-Saharan Africa includes forty-eight nations. Forty-two of these nations are on the African mainland. In addition, four island nations in the southwest Indian Ocean (Madagascar, The Comoros, Mauritius, and Seychelles) and two island nations in the Atlantic Ocean (Cape Verde and Sao Tome and Principe) are considered part of Africa. According to this classification scheme, the countries of sub-Saharan Africa are:
- South Africa
- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde
- Côte d'Ivoire
- Equatorial Guinea
- The Gambia
- São Tomé and Príncipe
- Sierra Leone
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