Is Subsaharan Africa lagging behind New Guinea?

Two regions where civilization (culture of large urban cities) came late in history: Subsaharan Africa and New Guinea. Both affected by quick colonization and even faster decolonialization. So, here we have peoples in similar situation, that we can compare, rather than with other colonies that started from different realities.

The question is then, who is winning the race to development? Subsaharan Africa or New Guinea? I suspect the second is winning. Statistics please.

No, simply not true. There were sizable cities in Ganha, for example, 3, 500 year ago.

Again, simply not true. South Africa, for example, was never decolonised, while colonisation of much of West Papua only began in the 1970s and continues to this day.

In what way are they similar, beyond containing some Black people?

Africa was largely populated by small metal-working “village kingdoms” comprising larger tribal groups. The people almost all had long-term experience with rival expansionist kingdoms. There were significant trade routes with the rest of the world going back to at least the bronze age.

In contrast parts of New guinea were populated by Indonesians who were at about the same level as Africa. However the vast majority of it was occupied by stone-age villages with limited trade routes and only highly informal clan connections. The highest population densities were almost completely isolated from the rest of the world.

Really, there is no commonality on their histories that I can see that could not equally be applied to anywhere outside Europe.

The question is utterly meaningless.

The problem you are going to have is that neither “Sub-Sharan Africa” nor “New Guinea” are countries. They are regions with multiple independent nations and foreign dependencies and states. A such it is simply going to be impossible to find useful statics on the regions as a whole.

The second problem is that the regions are neither heterogeneous nor equal in size. So any figures you can find are useless for comparison purposes. As a hypothetical example, how do you propose to account for the fact that Africa contains, say, 18 functional, democratic nations, 15 less-functional dictatorships or corrupt democracies and 19 despotic basket cases and 7 nations in a state of civil war, while New guinea contains 1 democratic nation, 1 less functional nation and one complete basket case? Do those figures suggest that Africa is better or worse than New Guinea?

As I said, the question is utterly meaningless.

Anecdotally I would say that Africa is well ahead of New Guinea. While Africa has many troubled regions, it also has numerous perfectly functional democracies that are largely safe, crime free and advancing such as Botswana. In contrast none of the New Guinean states are functionally democratic and none of them are safe. But as I noted above, there is simply no sensible way to compare the two regions.

The similarity is in technological backwardness. And yes, there were some exceptions in the areas dominated or influenced by muslims and austronesians, both in Africa and New Guinea. But I am comparing the largest masses of people, that were tribal, Tarzan style, in both places.

I don’t think so. I can see that New Guinea has done a lot better than SS Africa. While the first region is progressing, the second has decreased its indicators in everything, from life expectancy to income per capita.

So, instead of discussing rethoric why don’t we resort to numbers and statistics instead?

Were the largest masses of people tribal, “Tarzan style” in pre-colonial Africa? Agriculture had reached pretty much all of the continent by 1 A.D, and given that agricultural societies usually have much larger population densities then hunter-gatherer ones, I’d be pretty surprised if the less technologically advanced peoples in the interior outnumbered the ones living in politically organized, agricultural states in the rest of the region.

So if you think you already have evidence that thats true, what are you asking?

A small mistake here. It is not that SSA was an agricultural region while New Guinea wasn’t. New Guinea also had the aboriginal agriculture of taro, that was widespread in the mountains region of the island. An agricultural technique developed thousand of years early by the same natives in isolation.

With respect to the “evidence”, I am surprised of the amazing progress of New Guinea, from prehistory to the modern world. I just want to test my impressions against more informed people here in the forum.

Several sub-sahran African states had higher life-expectancies then New Guinea until the late 90’s when life-expectancy plumeted. The reason is pretty clearly due to Africa being the center of the AIDS epidemic.

The population explosion has also contributed to push down the standard of living in SS Africa.
So what’s the difference? Perhaps the reason is that New Guinea is still controlled and monitored by outsiders while SS Africa was left at its own risk?

In what way exactly is a group of almost entirely late-iron-age people technologically similar to a group of almost entirely neolithic people? What exactly is this technological similarity? Can you name even a single piece of technology that was common to, say, 60% of people on both continents?

And as I just pointed out, this is not correct.

Most people in Africa lived under village level kingships within a regional clan-level kingdom. In contrast most people in New Guinea lived in independent villages with several “Big Men” as both religious and spiritual leaders. Such villages were as likely as not to have no individual ruler.

So I ask you, which of these people do you believe were “tribal Tarzan style” and in what way are they comparable to one another?

Well, no, that is not true.

GDP per capita has indisputably increased in Africa over the 60 years since colonisation ended. It hit a high point n the 80s, declined through the 90s and has since begun to climb again. In fact almost identical to the trend in New Guinea.

But the real problem remains simply that you are comparing a collection of apples, wheelbarrows and armadillos with a collection of oranges, pocket calculators and termites. Beyond both having some regions populated by black people I can’t think of a single thing that all the parts of Sub-Saharan Africa have in common, much less anything that they have in common with New Guinea. Not ecology, language, climate, history, politics, agriculture, or technology.

Can you actually name a single thing that Africa shares with New Guinea? Certainly none of the factors listed in the OP are correct.

You just told us that you have the figures for “all the indicators” so what exactly do you want?

I would be interested in seeing your figures for, for example, crime rates that amalgamate all of New Guinea and all of Africa.

New Guinea is controlled by “outsiders”?

In anycase, I still don’t think Paupa New Guinea is the success story you make it out to be. Its done better then some African countries, similar to some and worse then others. here are some examples.

Which I think is part of the problem with your question. Sub-Saharan Africa is a pretty big place, you can pick countries that are doing well, or poorly or really really poorly. They’ve all been subject to their own unique circumstances and developed differently, have different natural resources, different political systems, more or less unified political systems, etc.

So you admit that New Guinea was largely inhabited by pre-literate neolithic peopl.

It’s kinda hard to go form pre-history to the modern world when you are already a highly literate iron-age civilisation.


DO you think that may be why Africa never made that transition?

Once again, you are trying to compare two utterly dissimilar collections of nations, and them make generalistions about each heterogeneous grouping.

Again. Please don’t try to convince me SS Africa was very advanced technologically while New Guinea wasn’t. Yes, SS Africa had iron, cows and goats, but the lifestyle of peoples like the Tutsies were similar. They were traditional tribal peoples without much “progress” at all. Zulues may have cows but they lived a tribal style, too-

Beyond skin color (genetically they aren’t related), both lacked the wheel before the Europeans came, for instance. And both groups lagged behind the rest of the world in science and technology.

I choose to compare SS Africa with New Guinea to avoid the “racial” biass, so common if we could compare SS Africa with Mongolia or another region

Now, for what your arguments show SS Africa was more developed than New Guinea from the beginning. Then, how come New Guinea is leaving it behind?

Interesting graph. But what about the Average of development in both regions?

What it is interesting to me is that New Guinea represents how a people brought by force from the more backwards condition can develop fast enough and competing with other societies.

I think you are exageranting the development of SS Africa, thinking in exceptions like Ghana or Mali. Literate iron-age civilisation? Give me a break, in the library of Timbuctu most of the writing was in Arab and other foreign tongues and the contain was mostly foreign as well. In fact, illiteracy was so common that the classic of Mali, the Sundiata, was memorized by griots, generation after generation, before it was put on writing only at the 20th century!

An iron-age civilization? Just because they had iron? I bet the ancient Greek scientists of Alexandria wouldn’t be so impressed by the science of the contemporary SS Africa. Saying a single product define a civilization is misleading. You can’t say Mayans were the more advanced people of theirs time because they had rubber… :smack:

You see I could go and look up the HDI stats for countries in New Guinea and Sub-Saharan Africa compile them into a comparable stat and compare the two, but why should I do it when you haven’t bothered?

To say ‘technological level’ as if this is a sci-fi book is meaningless, there are places in both regions where you can access exactly the technology as in the West, if you’re more specific about what you’d consider a good indicator of ‘technological level’ I can help you find out where to find those numbers if you want.

Without specifics on what you would accept as evidence it’s going to be a fools errand to chase down data.

OK. I think this whole thread has become irrelevant. Mod, if you wish, close this thread.

My intention was to discuss the causes of development (or lack of it) accross the world, and I believe the stagnation of Africa (with exceptions, of course) can’t be justified resorting to colonialism or the “blaming the west” game, only. There are other more important reasons. The main difference between both regions, in my oppinion, is the level of chaos, and that marks a difference.

If you are being genuine with your questions, I suggest you go play around on Gapminder, which will give you all the comparative data you could ever want (it will also suck your entire afternoon away- beware!) I can’t separate the Indonesian parts of New Guinea, but we can compare Papua New Guinea to sub-Saharan African states.

With child mortality, and income, Papua New Guinea is pretty middle-of-the-pack. With life expectancy, it’s on the high side, which one would expect given the impact of AIDS. Before AIDS, Papua New Guinea pretty much in the middle. So your theory appears to be incorrect. Development in New Guinea is historically and currently in-line with the general trend in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Note that in general, indicators in Africa have historically improved and continue to improve. Africa is better educated, richer, and healthier than it has ever been. Even the AIDS epidemic is beginning to get under control.

If you are going to talk about Africa, you really need to have some basic background information, because your ideas about it are simply wrong to the point where it is difficult to take you seriously. I suggest checking out a bit about Africa’s medieval period, to begin with. Learn a bit about Africa’s history, modern lifestyle, and diversity (remember, this is a continent of 61 territories, 20% of the world’s land, a billion people and the vast majority of the world’s human diversity.)


This is probably better suited to GD than GQ.

General Questions Moderator

I see you as too much optimist about Africa. And with respect to Medieval Africa, I know the history of the Kingdoms of the time, with lot of details, and doesn’t impress me a bit, but thanks for the suggestion.

The fact is Africa had the opportunity to developed in the 60s and didn’t take it. India, China, most Asia, the Arab world and Latin America weren’t much better than Africa at all at the time. They started from the same level of development and the same problems. Today Africa is lagging behind everybody else.

Why that happens? Should it be blamed on colonialism, AIDS or what?

And with respect to New Guinea, this graph would be the envy of any African country.

See here’s the thing, everybody could tell your OP was heading down this route and I think its kind of lame to make people jump through hoops.

Secondly - just posting that graph proves nothing! You haven’t made an argument, just an assertion and some data. Now you have to compare that to Sub-Saharan Africa - don’t just do one part of the work if you have an argument you want to make :slight_smile: