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Tribes of Africa

Tribes of Africa

This podcast summarises the story of each of the more than 3,000 tribes of Africa. It tells of their origins, culture, language and so much more. From Cairo to Cape Town, Tribes of Africa opens the window to the exciting world of the world's most diverse people.

2020-06-09 03:28:54.0

The Hadzabe Hunters of Tanzania

They are the last remaining hunter-gatherer tribe in Africa, living in Northern Tanzania around the central rift Valley and in the neighbouring Serengeti Plateau in the shadow of Ngorongoro crater.  The Hadza people, also known as Hadzabe, are believed to be the oldest tribe the world has known. 

Their home range is also close to Oldvai gorge, one of the most important prehistoric sites in the world, where Homo habilis; one of the earliest members of the genus Homo, was discovered to have lived 1.9 million years ago. Archaeological evidence suggests the area has been continuously occupied by hunter gatherers since at least the beginning of the Later Stone Age about 50,000 years ago. This makes them probably the only tribe on the planet that occupies its ancestral home since their history does not talk about any other home apart from their current location.

The origin of the Hadza is not clear, though their oral history talks of the 4 eras of their evolution. Each era has a different culture and lifestyle. 

According to them, in the beginning of time, the world was inhabited by hairy giants called the AKA-KA'A-NEBEe or GELANEBE, “ancestors”. 

The Akakaanebe did not possess tools or fire; they hunted game by staring at it and it dropped dead! Then they ate the meat raw. According to their oral history, the Hadza did not build houses but slept under trees, as they do today in the dry season. In older versions of this story, fire was not used because it was physically impossible in the earth’s primordial state. In another version, the younger Hadza, who have been to school, say the Akakaanebe simply did not know how to make fire.

The Akakaanebe were succeeded by the Tlaatlanebe, who were equally gigantic but without hair. These Hadza ancestors could make fire and used to cook meat, but animals had grown more wary of humans and had to be chased and hunted with dogs. The Tlaatlanebe were the first people to use medicines and charms to protect themselves from enemies and initiated the epeme rite. They lived in caves.

The Akakaanebe were succeeded by the Tlaatlanebe, who were equally gigantic but without hair. These Hadza ancestors could make fire and used to cook meat, but animals had grown more wary of humans and had to be chased and hunted with dogs. The Tlaatlanebe were the first people to use medicines and charms to protect themselves from enemies and initiated the epeme rite. They lived in caves.

The Tlaatlanebe were succeeded by the Hamakwabe, who were smaller than their predecessors. They invented bows and arrows, and containers for cooking, and mastered the use of fire. They also built houses. The Hamakwabe were the first of the Hadza ancestors to have contact with non-foraging people, with whom they traded for iron to make knives and arrowheads. The Hamakwabe also invented the gambling game called lukuchuko.

The Hamakwabe were succeeded by the Hamaishonebe, or “modern” Hadza, who are the present day Hadza people. When discussing the Hamaishonebe era, people often mention specific names and places, and can approximately say how many generations ago events occurred.

The Hadza speak a click language that is unrelated to any other language on earth. The language, however, has been mistaken to be related to Khoisan languages due to click consonants. 

Genetic testing indicates that the Hadza may represent one of the primary roots of the human family tree, perhaps more than 100,000 years old. 


2020-06-09 03:22:50.0

The Xhosa Nation of the Bantu Ethinic Group

The Xhosa nation are a Bantu ethnic group from Southern Africa whose homeland is primarily within the modern-day Eastern Cape. There is a small but significant Xhosa-speaking community in Zimbabwe, and their language, isiXhosa, is recognised as a national language.The name "Xhosa" comes from that of a legendary leader and King called uXhosa. There is also a fringe theory that, in fact the King's name, which has since been lost among the people, was not Xhosa, but that "xhosa" was a name given to him by the San, which means "fierce" or "angry".

Xhosa people refer to themselves as the amaXhosa, and to their language as isiXhosa. The Xhosa people are divided into several tribes with related yet distinct heritages. The main tribes are the amaGcaleka, amaRharhabe, imiDange, imiDushane, and amaNdlambe.

According to folklore, one of King Xhosa's descendants named Phalo gave birth to two sons, Gcaleka kaPhalo, the heir, and Rarabe ka Phalo, a son from the Right Hand house. Rarabe was a great warrior and a man of great ability who was much loved by his father. Gcaleka was a meek and listless man.

Gcaleka attempted to usurp the throne from his father, but Rarabe came to his father's aid, quelling the insurrection. With the blessing of his father, Rarabe left the great place and settled in the Amathole Mountains. Rarabe, through his military prowess, subjugated various tribes he found in the region and would buy lands from the Khoikhoi to establish his own kingdom. The amaXhosa, would from then on, be split into two kingdoms under the senior amaGcaleka and the junior amaRharhabe.

The key figure in the Xhosa oral tradition is the imbongi or praise singer. imbongi traditionally live close to the chief's "great place"; they accompany the chief on important occasions.

The supreme being is called uThixo or uQamata. In Xhosa tradition, the ancestors act as intermediaries between the living and God; they are honoured in rituals in order to bring good fortune. 

Christian missionaries established outposts among the Xhosa in the 1820s, and the first Bible translation was in the mid-1850s, partially done by Henry Hare Dugmore. Xhosa did not convert in great numbers until the 20th century.

One traditional ritual that is still regularly practiced is the manhood ritual, a secret rite that marks the transition from boyhood to manhood, ulwaluko. After ritual circumcision, the initiates (abakwetha) live in isolation for up to several weeks, often in the mountains. During the process of healing they smear white clay on their bodies and observe numerous customs.

Xhosa men traditionally filled the roles as hunters, warriors and stockman therefore, animal skin forms an important part of their traditional wear. Men often wear goatskin bags in which to carry essentials such as tobacco and a knife. 

Unmarried women often wear wraps tied around their shoulders, leaving their breasts exposed. Engaged women redden their plaited hair and let it screen their eyes, this was done as a sign of respect for their fiancés. Xhosa women wear some form of headdress to cover their heads as a sign of respect to the head of the family which is either their father or husband. Elderly Xhosa women are allowed to wear more elaborate headpieces because of their seniority.

Xhosa is an AGGLUTINATIVE tonal language of the Bantu family. IsiXhosa is spoken by about 18% of the South African population, and has some mutual intelligibility with Zulu, especially Zulu spoken in urban areas. Many Xhosa speakers, particularly those living in urban areas, also speak Zulu and/or Afrikaans and/or English.


2020-06-02 10:55:42.0

The Hausas of the Sub-Saharan Africa

The traditional Hajj route north and east of the Sahara is where most Hausas are found. They are the largest ethnic group in Sub-Saharan Africa. Hausas are a diverse but culturally homogeneous people based primarily in the Sahelian and the sparse savanna areas of southern Niger and northern Nigeria. A good number of Hausa's are also found in Benin, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Chad, Sudan, and Central African Republic. They are also present in Republic of the Congo, Togo, Ghana, Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Senegal and the Gambia.

The Hausa speak an Afro-Asiatic language of the Chadic group which is the most spoken indigenous African Language. 

Daura, in northern Nigeria, is believed to be the oldest city of Hausaland. The Hausa of Gobir, also in northern Nigeria, speak the oldest surviving classical vernacular of the language. Historically, Katsina was the centre of Hausa Islamic scholarship but was later replaced by Sokoto stemming from the 19th century Usman Dan Fodio Islamic reform.

The Hausa are culturally and historically closest to other Sahelian ethnic groups, primarily the Fulani; the Zarma and Songhai; the Kanuri and Shuwa Arabs.

The people of Agadez and Saharan areas of central Niger, the Tuareg and the Hausa groups are indistinguishable from each other in their traditional clothing. They both wear the tagelmust and indigo Babban Riga or Gandora. But groups differ in language, lifestyle and preferred beasts of burden. Tuaregs use camels, while Hausas ride horses.

Hausas were famous throughout the Middle Ages for their cloth weaving and dyeing, cotton goods, leather sandals, metal locks, horse equipment and leather-working. They were often characterized by their Indigo blue dressing and emblems which earned them the nickname "bluemen".

Islam has been present in Hausaland as early as the 11th century - giving rise to famous native Sufi saints and scholars such as Wali Muhammad dan Masani and Wali Muhammad dan Marna in Katsina. By the 14th Century, Hausa traders were already spreading Islam across west Africa. The Sultan of Sokoto is regarded as an important Muslim spiritual and religious personality. His lineage connection to dan Fodio has continued to be recognised. One of the most significant Sultans was Siddiq Abubakar the third, who held the position for 50 years between 1938 and 1988.

Magudanci, an African Traditional Religion, was practised extensively before Islam. In the more remote areas of Hausaland, the people continue to practise Magudanci. Practices include the sacrifice of animals for personal ends, but it is not legitimate to practise Magudanci magic for harm. People of urbanized areas tend to retain a "cult of spirit possession," known as Bori. It incorporates the old religion's elements of African Traditional Religion and magic. A small Christian minority also exists among the Hausa.

The Hausa culture is rich in traditional sporting events such as Dambe or traditional boxing, Takkai or stick fight, Kokawa or local wrestling. These activities were originally organized to celebrate harvests but over the generations developed into sporting events for entertainment purposes.

The most common food prepared by Hausa people consists of grains which are ground into flour for a variety of different kinds of dishes. This food is popularly known as tuwo.

The most famous of all Hausa food is most likely Suya, a spicy shish kebab-like skewered meat. A dried version of Suya is called Kilishi.



2020-06-02 10:49:59.0

Berbers of Morocco

The Berbers, who call themselves Amazigh, are the indigenous people of Northern Africa. There is evidence that the Berbers have existed in the Maghreb region of Africa since the beginning of recorded history in the area. It is believed that modern Berbers are the descendants of the pre-Arab inhabitants of North Africa.

One of the earliest groups of Berbers were the Caspians, who lived in the region over 10,000 years ago during the Neolithic era. The Berbers, who were named by the Romans after the Latin word for barbarians, are regularly referenced throughout Greek and Roman history. In many historical Greek texts, the Berbers were called Libyans and were the sole representation of Africa in Europe at the time. Today, the Berbers are a widely diverse group that reflect the various people and cultures that conquered their lands.

The two largest populations of Berbers are found in Algeria and Morocco, where large portions of the population are descended from Berbers but only some of them identify as Amazigh. They are also found in the Sahara of southern Algeria and of Libya, Mali, and Niger.

The Berbers have a long and ancient history, much of which has been overlooked because the ancient people had no written language. The first hint of their history came with the discovery of cave paintings. North African cave paintings as old as 12,000 years have been found in Tadrart Acacus, Libya. Many of the paintings depict farming activities and domestic animals. There are also paintings that have been found at Tassili n’Ajjer in southeastern Algeria.

Berber culture provides the invaluable tourist industry with much of its cachet which includes its distinctive architecture, crafts, and costumes set in a romantic landscape that is specifically Moroccan. Berberism is sufficiently established as an ideology and as a cultural and political program to provide the scattered communities of Berbers with a new national identity in place of the old anthropological one.

Berbers of Morocco are known for the festival of Fantasia which is also known as the Game of Gunpowder. It dates back to a time when battles were still fought on horseback and Berbers were skilled horsemen. Today, this same horsemanship is showcased as a performance during or at the closing of a Berber wedding celebration. The performance is an exhilarating colorful display of expert riding. A group of riders adorned in traditional dress, rush forward at great speed for about 200 meters before firing their old gunpowder loaded weapons, into the air, in unison, effectively creating one synchronized sound.

Another Berber tradition is the Betrothal festival of Imilchil. It is a music filled dancing feast accentuated with colorful traditional clothing. It is celebrated to remember a legend of two lovers who were forbidden to marry because they came from families in different tribes. The legend tells the story of a young man and woman from different tribes who met one day and the attraction was instant. Their love however was forbidden and in their grief they cried themselves to death. Their tears produced two lakes known as Isli for the man and Tislit for the woman. From then on the families decided that one day a year would be set aside when young men and women from different tribes could meet and marry one another.

The style of cooking and range of food differs from tribe to tribe. Inevitably the various cultural invasions throughout the generations have influenced and evolved the Berber cuisine. However, some of the staple ingredients, such as couscous, still remain.

The Islamization of Berbers began with the Arabs.Many Christian Berbers have also emigrated, mostly to France, with only a handful remaining in Morocco.

2020-05-21 06:23:22.0

Children of Odùduwà

The Yoruba people, or Ìran Yorùbá, are an ethnic group that inhabits western Africa, mainly Nigeria and the Republic of Benin. The vast majority of Yoruba's are from Nigeria, where they make up 16% of the country's population, making them one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa. Most Yoruba people speak the Yoruba language, which - according to the Encyclopadia Britanica - is the Niger-Congo language with the largest number of native speakers. Significant Yoruba populations in other West African countries can be found in Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Sierra Leone.

The Yoruba diaspora consists of two main groupings; one of them includes relatively recent migrants, while the other dates to the Atlantic slave trade.

The Oral history of the Yorubas recount Odùduwà to be their progenitor and reigning ancestor of their crowned kings.

He came from the east, sometimes understood from Ife traditions to be Oke-Ora and by other sources as the "vicinity" true East on the Cardinal points, but more likely signifying the region of Ekiti and Okun sub-communities in northeastern Yorubaland in central Nigeria. 

After the death of Oduduwa, there was a dispersal of his children from Ife to found other kingdoms. Each child made his or her mark in the subsequent urbanization and consolidation of the Yoruba confederacy of kingdoms, with each kingdom tracing its origin due to them to Ile-Ife.

The Yoruba are among the most urbanized people in Africa. For centuries before the arrival of the British colonial administration most Yoruba already lived in well structured urban centres organized around powerful city-states centred around the residence of the Oba. In ancient times, most of these cities were fortresses, with high walls and gates.

The Yoruba present the highest dizygotic twinning rate in the world with 4.4% of all maternities. They manifest at 45 to 50 twin sets (or 90 to 100 twins) per 1,000 live births. This is possibly because of a high consumption of a specific type of yam containing a natural phytoestrogen that may stimulate the ovaries to release an egg from each side.

The Yoruba are a very expressive people who celebrate major events with colorful festivals and celebrations known as ayeye. Masquerades are an important feature of Yoruba traditional artistry. They are generally known as Egúngún. 

The Yorubas were one of the first groups in West Africa to be introduced to Christianity on a large scale.Christianity, along with western civilization, came into Yorubaland in the mid-19th century through the Europeans, whose original mission was commerce. The first European visitors were the Portuguese, they visited the Bini kingdom in the late 16th century. Islam came into Yorubaland around the 14th century, as a result of trade with Hausa and Wangara merchants. Due to this, Islam is traditionally known Yorubas as Esin Imale i.e. religion of the Malians.

Afro-beat musician, Fela Anikulapo Kuti; Nobel Laureate - Professor Wole Soyinka; Billionaire businesswoamn Folorunso Alakija; Actor - Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria's former President and ex Military Leader, Herbert Macaulay - Nigerian nationalist, politician, journalist and musician; Yemi Osinbajo - Nigeria's Vice President to President Muhammadu Buhari; Boxer - Anthony Joshua; NBA basketballer Hakeem Olajuwon.

2020-05-21 06:19:10.0

The Zulu of South Africa

Population: between 10 and 13 million

The Zulu people are the largest ethnic group in South Africa. They are descended from East African origins and over centuries, migrated south during what is a called the great Bantu migration. The Zulu rose into a formidable empire under the leadership of Shaka in the early 19th century. Under his leadership, the Zulu kingdom expanded and played an important role in the history of South Africa. Over time, the Zulu developed a fearsome reputation that is still evident today.

The Zulus of today are modern and progressive. While traditional clothing is reserved for special occasions, the Zulu retain strong connections with their ancestral and historical roots. As a people, the Zulu are said to be warm-hearted and hospitable and it is to them that we owe the concept of Ubuntu. Ubuntu states that we are people, not because of our individuality, but by virtue of our connections to other people, thus underlying the importance of relationships.

The Zulu, while predominantly Christian, have retained the belief in their supreme being, Unkulunkulu, who is the creator of all life. While Unkulunkulu is remote and detached, all fortune, misfortune, good or bad luck is attributed to ancestral spirits or amadlozi. Simply put, the ancestral spirits are the spirits of the dead, specifically, of people who were respected and successful in life. By giving sacrifices to the ancestral spirits, the Zulu people seek to influence their lives on a day to day basis and all marriages or births are marked by sacrificial offerings.

The Zulu are also renowned for their skilled craftsmanship from earthenware pottery to weaving but most notably their beadwork. Bright coloured beads are woven into intricate patterns which are highly decorative but also functional. The patterns and colours have meaning.  For example, a triangle is the symbol used for a girl while an inverted triangle indicates a boy. Joined triangles tip-to-tip indicates a married man, while triangles joined base-to-base is a married woman.

Each colour comes replete with the duality of life and has both a negative and a positive connotation. For example, red is for love and passion but can also represent anger and heartache, similarly, blue is the colour of faithfulness and request but also of hostility and dislike. The symbolism is complex and unique while also being functional and beautiful. It is no wonder then that curio shops from airports to cultural villages and tourist attractions around the country are all stocked with Zulu beadwork curios.

The Zulu nation is a proud one. They have opened cultural villages such as Shakaland in KwaZulu Natal, where you can experience their culture first hand. From traditional houses and dress to dancing, pottery and beadwork, you can even help to brew traditional beer. But don’t forget, the real Zulus are the ones you’ll meet at lodges, as guides and on the South African streets.

2020-05-21 06:14:54.0

The Efik of Nigeria

Efik people inhabit the lower Cross River in Cross River state, Nigeria. They also occupy southwestern Cameroon including Bakassi. Their language is the main dialect and language of the Efik-Ibibio group of the Benue-Congo branch of Niger-Congo languages. 

The Efik, who are culturally and linguistically related to the Ibibio, migrated down the Cross River during the first half of the 17th century. They founded Creek Town, Duke Town, and other settlements.

The Efik occupied Old Calabar which developed into a major trading centre from the 17th to the 19th century, where slaves were exported and later palm oil was sold in return for European goods. European ships had to pay a duty to Efik chiefs for the privilege of trading.

During the 20th century a large part of the Efik population moved from the towns and settled in farming villages in the forest. The staple foods are yams and cassava, supplemented by taro, corn, fruits and vegetables, and fish.

Households formerly consisted of a man, his several wives, and their children, but polygyny has become relatively rare. Efik household, which were once organized according to male descent, now sees groups of households being formed into what is known as a House, whose leader is chosen for ability rather than age. Related Houses occupy the wards into which settlements are divided.

In Efik tradition, the obong, or paramount leader, is elected from among the heads of various Houses. He traditionally exercised his authority as head of the society. This graded secret male society made and enforced laws by fines, capital punishment, or boycotts. It judged cases; maintained internal peace; and served as the executive government of Efik society. The society also carried out ritual propitiation of forest spirits to ensure the well-being of the community. It also functioned as a force for tribal unity, as society members from one village were accepted by members in another village. 

Traditional Efik religion includes belief in a supreme creator god, ancestral and other supernatural beings, magic, sorcery, and witchcraft. 

In Efik mythology, Abasi is considered to be the Supreme Creator. His wife, Atai, is known as the mediator. It is believed that Atao convinced Abasi to allow two humans, also known as their children of the corn, to live on Earth, but forbade them to work or reproduce. The children were required to return to heaven with Abasi whenever he rang the dinner bell. These rules were established so that the Efik people would not surpass Abasi in wisdom or strength. Eventually the children disobeyed and Abasi killed them both. In his disgust, Abasi and Atai gave humans two gifts: chaos and death.

However, the 1868 publication of an Efik-language Bible had a significant impact, and in the 21st century, most Efik identified themselves as Christians.

It was also believed that twins were a disgrace to Abasi. It was thought to be evil for a woman to give birth to twins; the woman would be burnt alive and the twins were taken and left for dead in the desert.

People of Efik descent are known as ñáñigos or carabalís in Cuba.

2020-05-20 04:16:47.0

The Himba of Northwest Namibia

The desolate Kunene region of northwest Namibia is home to a resilient people called the Himba. Hunter-gatherers and pastoralists, the Himba descend from the southward migrating Herero of Angola.

Life for the Himba revolves around the holy fire called Okuruwo. Okuruwo, via the smoke,  symbolizes a connection with their ancestors, who are in direct communication with their God Mukuru. The fire burns at the centre of the village and is never allowed to go out and each family has a fire-keeper whose job it is to tend the sacred blaze.

The Himba are a nomadic African tribe and traditionally travel from waterhole to waterhole tending their cattle and goats. Day-to-day tasks are traditionally split between the sexes with the women doing the hard tasks of carrying water, milking cows, building homes and raising children while the men handle politics and tend livestock. This division even extends to the use of water for bathing which is reserved exclusively for men. Women use herb-smoke from fire to cleanse their pores and maintain personal hygiene.

Interestingly, the traditional clan structure of the Himba is bilateral – evident in only a handful of traditional peoples around the world. Bilateral descent means that every clan member belongs to two clans, that of the mother, and that of the father. Under this unique arrangement, the sons live with the father’s clan as do the wives, however, inheritance passes from the maternal uncle. Living in such a harsh environment, it is believed that this bilateral descent provides a better chance of survival.

The most distinctive characteristic of the Himba is their unique adornment. The distinctive red ochre body paint and elaborate hairstyles have become synonymous with any safari to the Kunene region of Namibia. Hairstyles signify status, age and social standing. From young children with clean-shaven heads to braids and plaits facing forwards and backwards and finally to the Erembe – a sheepskin leather ornament – worn by women who have had children, the often red-ochred hairstyles are both otherworldly and gorgeous.

The red ochre body paint of the Himba – called otijze – is made from butter, animal fat and a naturally occurring earth pigment that contains iron oxide. The Himba women apply this mixture to their skin to protect them from the harsh sun and insect bites, lock in moisture and to beautify themselves. Because of the striking appearance that this red paste creates, the Himba tribe of Namibia has become known as the “Red People of Africa.

2020-05-20 04:16:47.0

The Himba of Northwest Namibia

The desolate Kunene region of northwest Namibia is home to a resilient people called the Himba. Hunter-gatherers and pastoralists, the Himba descend from the southward migrating Herero of Angola.

Life for the Himba revolves around the holy fire called Okuruwo. Okuruwo, via the smoke,  symbolizes a connection with their ancestors, who are in direct communication with their God Mukuru. The fire burns at the centre of the village and is never allowed to go out and each family has a fire-keeper whose job it is to tend the sacred blaze.

The Himba are a nomadic African tribe and traditionally travel from waterhole to waterhole tending their cattle and goats. Day-to-day tasks are traditionally split between the sexes with the women doing the hard tasks of carrying water, milking cows, building homes and raising children while the men handle politics and tend livestock. This division even extends to the use of water for bathing which is reserved exclusively for men. Women use herb-smoke from fire to cleanse their pores and maintain personal hygiene.

Interestingly, the traditional clan structure of the Himba is bilateral – evident in only a handful of traditional peoples around the world. Bilateral descent means that every clan member belongs to two clans, that of the mother, and that of the father. Under this unique arrangement, the sons live with the father’s clan as do the wives, however, inheritance passes from the maternal uncle. Living in such a harsh environment, it is believed that this bilateral descent provides a better chance of survival.

The most distinctive characteristic of the Himba is their unique adornment. The distinctive red ochre body paint and elaborate hairstyles have become synonymous with any safari to the Kunene region of Namibia. Hairstyles signify status, age and social standing. From young children with clean-shaven heads to braids and plaits facing forwards and backwards and finally to the Erembe – a sheepskin leather ornament – worn by women who have had children, the often red-ochred hairstyles are both otherworldly and gorgeous.

The red ochre body paint of the Himba – called otijze – is made from butter, animal fat and a naturally occurring earth pigment that contains iron oxide. The Himba women apply this mixture to their skin to protect them from the harsh sun and insect bites, lock in moisture and to beautify themselves. Because of the striking appearance that this red paste creates, the Himba tribe of Namibia has become known as the “Red People of Africa.

2020-05-20 03:37:09.0

The Khoisan of South Africa

The San people are one of the world’s oldest tribes and very probably the first inhabitants of southern Africa. They have lived as hunters for thousands of years. An integral part of the hunter culture is the healing dance. This tradition carries on through the night.

The village elders and healers dance around the fire as they chant and take deep breaths until they reach a trance-like state. The seance is attended by the entire village, and the trance is said to be able to put people in touch with the departed, or cure illnesses. Some 100,000 people are left in the San tribe, who are also known as Bushmen. They are recognizable for the characteristic clicking sound they make when they speak.

The tribe lives in several African countries, including Namibia and South Africa. 

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