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Much earlier, in several waves of migrations beginning in the 7th century, Arabs spread across northern Africa and, to a lesser extent, into western Africa, bringing a new religion (Islam) and a new language (Arabic), along with some new cultural and political institutions.
They also spread Islam southward along the east coast, largely through trading and kinship relationships.
Anatomically modern humans are believed to have appeared as early as 200,000 years ago in the eastern region of sub-Saharan Africa.
Somewhat later those early humans spread into northern Africa and the Middle East and, ultimately, to the rest of the world.
Whereas the majority of Africa’s peoples are indigenous, European colonial settlers constitute the largest majority of new peoples, with substantial numbers in Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, and Mozambique.
Dutch settlers first arrived in South Africa in 1652; their descendants now constitute the main Afrikaner, or Boer, population.
Throughout human history there have been movements of peoples ( human migration) within, into, and out of Africa along its northern coasts, across the Sinai Peninsula, along the Red Sea, and especially in the Horn of Africa and coastal areas as far south as Southern Africa.
North Africa from the Strait of Gibraltar to the Nile River delta has been the site of conquests and movements of peoples for thousands of years.
Africa north of the Sahara is differentiated from the rest of the continent by its Mediterranean climate and by its long history of political and cultural contacts with peoples outside of Africa.
The savanna area stretches for some 3,000 miles (4,800 km) east to west along the southern Saharan borderland.
Its vegetation consists of extensive grasslands and few forests, and little rain falls there.
Complicating the situation in the 20th century was the creation of new “tribes” (such as the Zande [Azande] and Luo) that had not been distinct polities before the colonial era.
Ethnic (cultural) identities in modern times have often been heightened, exacerbated, or muted for political reasons.