Not to be confused with South Africa, the country, Southern Africa is a subtropical and temperate region comprising many culturally, ethnically and religiously diverse nations, including Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Zimbabwe and the vast desert in the middle formed into the shape of Namibia. Southern Africa’s varying success is connected to its rich natural resources: Zambia is laden with copper mines, while neighbouring countries hold the world’s largest deposits of platinum, uranium and gold; South Africa is well-known for its diamonds, which only partly explain its status as Africa’s richest country. Yet the region’s potential for prosperity remains blocked by legacies of the colonial scramble for Africa. South Africa still struggles with the trauma of apartheid, while World Bank debts have hollowed out the financial capacity of countries like Zambia and Mozambique. Meanwhile, China is expanding its influence through trade and cultural cooperation. This issue lifts the lid on an oft-neglected region and asks what we can know about Southern Africa–past, present and future.
Ziauddin Sardar is an award-winning, internationally renowned writer, futurist and cultural critic. A former New Statesman columnist and Equality and Human Rights Commissioner, he has authored many books, including Desperately Seeking Paradise: Journeys of a Sceptical Muslim; Reading the Qur'an; and Mecca: The Sacred City. He is editor of the influential quarterly Critical Muslim.