Initial Publication Date: May 24, 2017

Pan-African Problems and What They Can Teach Afro-American Students


Preparing for this essay exposed my meager background in Pan-African geoscience and culture, so I turned to Joe Troester (USGS retired), a geological and hydrological colleague, who with his wife and daughter has lived and worked in Africa for several years since retiring. I asked Joe the following: If you were going to teach black Afro-American college students about Africa what three subjects would you choose. And why? His response is a robust selection of problems as noted below. So I put myself in a classroom with Afro-American college students and thought about how to teach these important issues. It turns out that the problems themselves kick-start a desire to solve them.
What follows are Joe's three problems and some pathways for students to discover solutions.
1. Water quantity and quality.
A. In small villages for example, of the Central African Republic, people are sick and die from insufficient quantity and poor water quality.
Teaching Pathway: Students could choose a research assignment from several offered by the Instructor.
Example of a research assignment:
-- Describe the occurrence and composition of water in the Central African Republic specifically with regard to human consumption.
-- Using information from the above study, research current methods of obtaining water and purifying it for people in the area. Then consider suggestions for improving the current methods (if any).
-- Using both of the above study results estimate the cost of the improvements.
B. International conflicts about water rights
a) Irrigating cotton in Mali is shrinking Lake Chad
b) The growing conflict between Ethiopia and Egypt over the Nile River
Teaching Pathway: After researching the issue, students develop ways of helping each nation clarify their needs and enter a negotiation the goal of which is mutual benefit that avoids conflict.

2. Internal migration in Africa driven by resources
A. The Bantu expansion caused by the development of agriculture (water); the making of ceramics (clay and wood); and, the use of iron.
B. Desertification and reforestation of the Sahel: the intersection of human causes and natural processes
Teaching Pathways: For these types of problems it would be interesting to interview people from Africa who have dealt with these issues. What has worked and what has failed. Students could do background research and prepare for the visitor so that an interview or meeting could lead to cooperative ventures.

3. Current economic issues
A. Diamonds: The diamond mining process (with associated problems, such as, and the problems of conflict diamonds (this was addressed by the Kimberly Process, but that agreement was flawed from the beginning).
B. Coltan (Columbite & Tantalite) in the Congo (here is a recent article about the problems
C. Gold (recent article in National Geographic
D. Oil

Generalized Teaching Pathways for Current economic issues:
-- Research the problem
-- Propose solutions
For these studies students could give class presentations at regular intervals. The class would be encouraged to add their comments after each presentation.

April 29, 2017

Downloadable version of this essay

Pan-African Problems and what they can Teach Afro-American Students (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 142kB May1 17)