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Last Updated: Friday, 23 January, 2004, 14:50 GMT
How African is North Africa?
Countries like Mali straddle both Africas
The African Cup of Nations kicks off in Tunisia, with 16 nations taking part - and all eyes on the continent are looking north.

Seen from space, Africa is one huge and undivided landmass.

But for some on the continent, however, the widely-held perception is of two very different regions; Africa south of the Sahara desert, or sub-Saharan Africa, and north Africa.

For some, the dividing line is more than the Sahara - it is culture, language and even skin tone.

North Africa is predominantly Arab and relatively more developed. Many residents identify more with the Middle East than they do with the larger part of the continent.

Hundreds of people from the south migrate to the north in search of greener pastures - but they are often met with hostility.

But when it comes to an African identity, some sub-Saharan Africans believe they have more claim to the continent than their northern counterparts.

On the other hand, the formation of the African Union in 2002 was a great leap forward in the effort to drive forward common action throughout the continent.

And issues that are crippling the continent are just as relevant in the north as the south - Egypt and Libya are suffering from greatly increased rates of HIV and Aids, just as Southern Africa is.

On the BBC's Africa Live Programme on Wednesday, we ask just how African is north Africa?

Does culture and language link the region more to the Arab world, or should geography be the deciding factor?

Join the BBC's Africa Live debate Wednesday, 28 January at 1630 & 1830GMT.

Use the form to send us your comments, some of which will be published below.

If you would like to take part in the discussion, e-mail us with your telephone number, which will not be published.


In 1986, when Egypt won the African cup of Nations in Burkina Faso, we learnt a bitter lesson. All the newspapers wrote about how Egypt has conquered the Africans in football. It was an Arab victory. Please, Black Africa, if you happen to read this, don't let us through the same painful ordeal once this time round.
Unisa Kanu, Saudi Arabia

To all those who try to divide us by the colour of our skin, I'm a Berber white African. If I was black I'd feel exactly the same, because colour is given by God. It is not a human choice.
Mohamed, Midar, London (Morocco)

Imazighen (Berbers and Tuaregs) of Africa have maintained a distinct African culture from prehistoric times to the present-day. The presence of our people in Africa since prehisory is often denied by some sub-Saharan Africans. Yet, we are over thirty million today. We still speak our language and preserve our millenia-old alphabet, the Tifinagh. We have maintained our non-Arabic traditions. Imazighen means "Free Human Beings." We live in Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, the Sahara, Niger, Mali and Burkina-Faso. The name Africa comes from our language.
Helene Hagan, USA

Africa should be more united. The division that we see between the northern and sub-saharan regions is not as bad as the tribal and ethnical divisions that exist in the heart of all Africa. I see division and conflict inside each of the regions more than the divison between the north and south. Morocco for example has forgiven all its debts to African countries.
Tarik, Morocco

If you live in Sudan with Arab mentality and culture you are an Arab. However; if you are black living in the USA with American mentality and culture you are American. There is no way Michael Jackson is African according to his mentality and culture. Therefore if North Africans live with Arab mentality and culture they would probably be offended if they were called Africans.
Eddie Williams, Sudan/Canada

You always come up with a racial tone or a divide and rule policy, in your question. Africa for all Africans, black, white, yellow or brown. As archeologists tell us all humans began in Africa.
Harry Massele, Ethiopian/ USA Citizen

Whichever way you chose to cut the cake I don't think you will ever find any clear boundaries. North Africa is as African as any other bit of the continent. Can I also question Ahmed's remark - where does it say that the Christian God is white?
Jon Winter, England

Those that are born and live in Africa are African. Afrikaners (an Afrikaans word meaning African) are white and live in South Africa. They dont call themselves European Africans
Wessel van Rensburg, United Kingdom

I think many of you are mixing up two things about North Africa. The Arabs are not African in the sense that the Berbers are. Man people from Kabyle region (Berber region) have been killed in Algeria because of their "African" identity.
Lila, Algeria

Conflict of identity is a global phenomenon that will increase as we continue to move from place to place. In defined boundaries within African countries most people prefer to identify themselves with their tribes first, then region or religion, then country.
Musa Bah, UK/Gambian

Location is not a big deal. Let's fight for unity among us.
Alim Okelo, San Diego, USA

Africa is one Africa and there are no two ways about it. Look at it this way, why should we bother about who is in the north or in the south, when we have have a lot of other recent comers - such as Europeans - who call themselves Africans.
Richard D Munsaka, Zimbabwe

Like Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Jamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt also believed in the Pan African vision during the hey-days of African liberation. Yet one can undoubtedly claim that one of the biggest supporters of African Unity today is President Gaddafi of Libya, just as his South African counterpart, President Thabo Mbeki. So why will anybody claim to be an original African simply because he is 'Black' and he belongs to the sub-Saharan region? Africa, as I see it, belongs to any person who happens to be born in it, or whose parents belong to it.
Abdul, Ghanaian in New York

Classic divide and rule policies at play here. The Arabs are generally a lot less racist than Europeans, as Islam does not promote a white God, as Christianity does. One of the Prophet Mohammed's closest companions, Bilal, was a black Abyssinian slave. Blacks have been an important part of Middle Eastern culture, stretching all the way back to the oldest civilisation in Egypt, since the beginning of time. We do not need the Europeans lecturing us on racial harmony.
Ahmed, UK

The question is who decides what an African is? What criterion is used to make such a decision? What do we include and exclude in or from the category "African"? Any attempt to make such definitions is a dangerous process.
Michael, Birmingham, United Kingdom

All Africans, despite their cultural diversity and differences in physionomy, belong to Africa. Every African culture is unique and one is not inferior or superior to the other. North Africans have nothing more special than the rest of the Africans. The perception that there are two different Africas is in the mind of those who promote division and hatred among people.
Teamrat Zeresenai, Canada

The Arabs trace their orgins to Ishmael - whose mother was Hagar - an African women from Ancient Egypt. She was a Princess according to Islam, or a slave women according to the Bible. Are they not people of African descent then?
Elias Karim, UK

Up north African? Only when it suits them. The rest of the time they are racist, slave trading Arabs. The western nations and the Arabs deserve each other!
Thabo, SA

I understand that Africa should be taken as a black continent - which means black people, African cultural in the sub-Sahara sense of the term. The north Africa should be called Arab - maghreb - but no word related to Africa should be put in. There should a great difference, like Asia and Europe, who are sharing the same geographical area but different in culture, religion, skin tone, hair and features of the body. And we have to bring Reunion (a French-colonised island), all the islands where black people are found - such as Solomon Islands, New Guinea - as belonging to African continent. It is high time we identify ourselves culturally, traditionally and by the way we look because it is our main identity - and if we refuse we are bringing illusions to the next generation. We are racists against each other and we have to accept the reality which is our differences - blacks (Subsaharan Africans) and maghrebin (North Africans)
Foster Chipyoza, Malawi

To Foster Chipyoza of Malawi: I believe you are wrong in calling North Africa, Mahgreb and its inhabitants Mahgrebin. The Arabic origin of the word is Maghreb, meaning the west. It was what the Arabs called present day Morocco, because of its western location in north Africa. That did not apply to the more eastern countries such as Libya and Egypt.
Fikry Salib, Egypt/USA

Countries like Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Libya, and Tunisia are African by geography but Arabian by culture. There is no denying that some people in these "African" countries are very offended when referred to as Africans instead of Arabs. Personally, I consider Hussein Mubarak, the president of Egypt to be an Arab. He is very active in settling disputes in the Middle East as compared to his obscure involvement in "black-african" affairs. However, when it benefits them, these countries will not hesitate to classify themselves as African and indentify with Sub-Saharan Africa. All in all, it is up to these countries to define their indentity by their interests and actions. So far, they have remained at best Arabic and at worst African.
George Mutua, Kenya

No matter how we Africans are different, the basic fact is we are all Africans, whether from the north, west or wherever. Africa is Africa - and as long as you were born within the borders of any African country, you are the same as any other African from any other African country.
Mubari Mwanga, Malawi

I'm so proud of being both African and Muslim.
Khaled Bechou, Algeria

Saying that Northern Africa is less 'African' is like saying that Northern England is less 'English' than the south. Africa is merely an adjective which encompasses an continent. You can see just as much cultural, geographical and social diversity in the USA as in Africa - and the US is only one country.
Joe Poole, United Kingdom

There is nothing new about the attempts by the Western press to "Balkanise" the African continent. It is the interest of the West to "divide and rule" Africa. I have never heard any one suggest that Canadians are not Americans. Simply put, it is a crazy idea.
Farai D Majuru, Belgium

Farai D. Majuru is gravely mistaken- Canadians are NOT American, any more than the people of Mexico consider themselves to be American. I suggest that Farai do some research.
Peggy, Canada

One of your comments says "I have never heard anyone suggest that a canadian is not an american," that is crazy. Was that put in there for comic relief?
Mark Freed, Canada

Fellow Africans, don't fall for this old trick question that emphasizes difference than unity amongst us. Funny, the BBC has already divided Africa (Sub & North Africa) on this very page I am writting on. (Refer to the World map top left of page). So what does it matter to you what we (Africans) say, except widen the artificial rift you have created amongst us ? Sadly most of us believe the artifical boundries you left us with and keep on waging wars and kill each other based on what you, the French and few other left us with.
Girma, Ethiopia

Lets keep to the geographic factor because every country in Africa has language, cultural and religious diversity. If we were supposed to be considering such factors, Africa would have had 1001 countries considering the number of different tribes found in each country.
Maxwell Eyram Afari, Ghanaian in Brazil

No part of Africa belongs to anybody. The people in Africa belong to the Africa, so Africa is home to all in it. North or south, having the sense of belonging in Africa makes you African, no matter black, white or Arab.
Papo, Lesotho

The word "Africa" in Roman times referred only to Tunisia and western Algeria; only later was it extended to encompass the whole continent. Even the word is said to originally come from Berber. So if you want to be pedantic, you can claim a Namibian or an Ethiopian isn't African - but don't try to tell me that an Algerian isn't!
Lameen, USA / Algeria

Africa is a large family house, and Africans are the family members no division.
David Kalu, Nigeria

To say the least, an ordinary north African will rarely identify himself as being an African. North African leaders such as Gaddafi have decided to identify with black Africa after being frustrated by failed efforts to unite the Arab world.
Michael Kithinji, USA

As a Libyan, I wouldn't class myself as being "African" we have very little in common with African nations, and I'm confident that 98% of Libyans are against any African Union, contrary to the opinion of our "leader". Since the formation of the African Union, Libya has only suffered due to the mass movement of Africans to the north, spreading drugs, prostitution, HIV and AIDS, with them which until recently was never an issue in Libya or any other Arab state.
Karima, Yorkshire, England

Although Arabs and Barbers, who make the up the current populations in North Africa did not originate in Africa, they still have as much right as being classed 'African' as their Sub-Saharan counterparts.
Otman, UK

Remember that the word Africa comes from the Roman word for what is now Tunisia.
Tom French, Oregon, USA

Africa is Africa from Cape Gadaffi to the Cape of Good Hope. Instead of debating how African is North Africa, let's debate how to bridge our gap and develop together.
Mohamed Suleiman, Tanzania

Africa is the name given by the Greeks and the Romans to the lands watered by the southern coast of the Mediterranean. And the first Arabs called Ifriqiya what today is Tunisia. So why should black Africa monopolise the name of Africa?
Omar Ali, Spain/UK

North Africa is very African just as the rest of it is African; despite the differences that can be found anywhere. The problem is that Africans wait for other people to define them as Sub-Saharan Africans, North Africans, Arabs, Blacks and the what not, without correcting them. So, everybody else believes it is so! But Africans are all one whether they are whites of South Africa or Pigmies of Congo, or Indians of Reunion.
Masanga Kishashi, Tanzania

The word Africa is not taken to mean what is supposed to mean! It is mostly associated with Blackness and backwardness. No one under the sun can accept to be identified with something bad unless there is no choice in totality. Some Arabs have started to refuse being called Arabs because of the growing misconception about Islam. I have two friends; one from Egypt and one from Lebanon, but they refuse to be called Arabs just because they are Christians. What one identifies with the most, if one has a choice, is what makes one respected. North Africans will accept to be called Africans when Africa becomes what they want it to be.
Kuirthiy, Southern Sudanese (Canada)

I personally didn't think that North Africa was a separate Africa until I moved to the US. I have heard some Africans from the north telling American or whites that they are French with African background, even though I know they were not born or have lived in France. Some of our northern brothers do not want to associate themselves with black Africa when they are with someone else. Let's not forget the dreams of Garvey, Nkrumah etc about one Africa.
S.K, Semackor, Ghanaian in the USA

As a North African, I feel I belong to so many groups. I am African, my land is Africa, I am Arab and Muslim. I have so many identities. That is what makes me a proud North African. I don't think there is any dividing factor, differences yes, but this is something that can be seen even in countries which have defined boundaries; let alone a continent. Unfortunately we have not learnt to know about one another very well, we should expand our cultural, economical cooperation and use our resources to be able to face the challenges of this new era.
Bouthayna, Morocco

Africa has been and will remain Africa despite the vast land mass. The separation of the north from the South is what has brought division and hostility among the people of the same family. According to history, if we can go by it, all migration have their arrows from the north to the south, meaning that we are but one people.
Rev. Fr. Katete Jackson Jones, Zambia

When we say "of African descent", we attach to it the word black (black African). I think this is the way it works in Europe and America. I have yet to see an Arab calling himself African-American.
Aman, Ethiopia

The question insinuates that one must be black in order to be an African; however, there are a good number of black people who would resent the idea of being labelled African on the basis of their appearance. One would have to have been born and raised in Africa, in order to truly comprehend what it means to be African. An African understands the essence of being of African, regardless of region of Africa from which he originates.
Muggaro, Malawi

When I think of Africa, I think of "Black Africa" and make no apologies for it. From a historical, cultural, anthropological, racial (if that's still legal to think of)and even geographic point of view, North Africa is a separate entity from the Africa of the black people. I for one am NOT offended at north-Africans who deny their Africanness. When one looks at history one sees that north-Africa's relationship with black africa has been mostly one of predation and destruction (trans-Saharan slave trade, destruction of the empires of Ghana and Songhai). Some people say that acknowledging this deep difference is promoting division among Africans. No it is not since north-Africans and black Africans were never united in the first place. Geographic continuity is meaningless really. That fact is, north Africa as it stands today is much better described as the southern shore of the Mediterranean.
Ogunsiron, Canada

I am sorry. I do not consider those from the northern part of Africa to be Africans. Let us be honest with ourselves, if someone tells you an African is walking in through the door, the image you expect to see is that of someone with a black skin. Even anthropological studies of those who existed on the continent have always described their skin colour to be what we consider a black skin. The Arabs who live on African soil, though they may assign the phrase Northern Africans to themselves, adopt a cultural identity which is in huge contrast to the cultural worldview of those black skinned people on the continent. Even the 'North Africans' themselves align themselves more with their original roots in the Middle Eastern part of the world than they do with the rest of the African continent. Deep down inside I am certain they identify themselves primarily as Arabs.
Mohammed Anjorin, Nigeria/America

Why bother about who is and who is not African, when we are not yet at peace as Angolans, Sudanese, Ethiopians, or Ivorians
Yusuf Mohamed, USA

How can any one claim that a country like Egypt is not African? Egypt is the Nile and the Nile defines Africa. A Lighter skin does not disqualify Egyptians or other Mediterranean nation of being African. By the same token a South African of a Dutch descent is equally qualified. People are what they identify themselves to be.
Reda, USA

The problem is not culture and language; it is to do with history. Black African history is associated with slavery, years of exploitation of human and natural resources. This has led to continuous instability, killings, diseases, poverty, struggle for survival at all costs etc... For that reason, to associate with sub-Saharan Africans to our Northern African brothers is like associating with slaves and savages. There can never be a short-term solution to this problem. It is up to us in sub-Saharan Africa to emerge from that image.
Teddy Albert Bandima, Saskatoon, Canada

Asking this question pre-supposes a stereotype that Africa is mainly undeveloped and black. That does nothing to justify the many different and diverse cultures, languages, and aspects of life from this overlooked and stereotyped continent.
Catherine, Finland/USA

Let's just forget all this and be simply Africans. As an actor at the African film festival in Ouagadougou my fellow African directors and producers said I was not African enough to be cast in an African film! What and Who does an African look like?
Thy-will Koku Amenya, Ghanaian in USA

If "Asia" can go from India to Japan, And "Europe" can stretch from Edinburgh to Istanbul, surely Africa can include Dakar, Cape Town, Tangiers, and everything in between.
Neil Uhl, USA

Africa like all other continents is a conglomeration of peoples and cultures. Let the Africans define themselves. Let the North African join the Arab League if they feel Arab, let the Ethiopian Jews go back to Israel if they feel Jewish. It is however a big shame that Africans are not proud of their identities.
Sandy Kamanda, Sierra Leone/USA

North Africans do not appreciate people calling them Africans. They want to be identified by the country they come from and not by the continent. I remember once in the early 1980s when I was travelling from Paris to London by train at night. In the car with me were some people of North African descent. At first they were uncomfortable being in the same vehicle with me. When I asked where they came from, they said that they were Egyptians, when I asked where Egypt was, they replied we are Arabs!
Dr. Fidelis Overo, USA

North Africa is kind of different, owing to its location, close to Europe, and oil. However, the region's success story does not separate it from the rest of Africa. The region has been with the rest of the continent in hard and good times. The economic, cultural and historical factors have not created differences serious to break the unity of Africans. The diversity in Africa is good, and should inform us. If the north is rich and the central poor, that cannot make our brothers in north Africa un-African. No continent can be uniform.
Elias Mutungi, Uganda/USA

How British is Northern Ireland or Scotland? BBC you need to realize that the tactics of 'divide and rule' are so 20th century hence out of date.
Obi Ugochukwu, US

This is the very reason that outsiders were able to divide and rule African. We are all Africans despite the colour of our skin or what part of the continent we come from. Why don't we open up an argument that involves wondering whether Eastern Europeans are as "European" as their Western counterparts. Why does it always have to be about Africa?
Sheshe, Uganda

If you go to Somalia and Ethiopia you will find it very different than southern African countries like South Africa, Zimbabwe etc. Africa is a continent with many different cultures, no part is less or more African than the other. Look at Asia: Japan and Korea are very different, in terms of the appearance of the people and culture than India and Bangladesh, yet India, Japan, Korea etc.. are all Asian countries.
Karim, London

How African is North Africa? What a question!! We are all humans, we are looking for happiness and better lives, and we are all Africans. Furthermore, many people living in Africa have been living there since 5000 BC. Berbers, who live in North Africa, are African and proud to be African. Africa is linked. Berbers may live in the north while their cousins the Touareg live in the desert of Mali. Berbers and Touareg share the same language and the same alphabet, Tifinagh.
Az, Morocco

Who cares if North Africans identify more with the Middle East than sub-Saharan Africa? They are certainly closer to the Middle East in terms of culture than to black Africa. Besides identifying with us does not solve any of our myriad of problems. It is time for sub-Saharan countries to abandon this pan-African nonsense and face the task of building their respective countries.
Julius Monkam, USA/Cameroon

As far as I know Germany, France, England, Spain and Ireland all have their own culture, language and to some extend hair colour, yet you don't ask, are these countries Europeans??? There is no language in Africa that refers to any part of the continent "sub"-Sahara Africa, and for that matter "black Africa" you coined the word to divide us.
Opoku, USA (GHANA)

Why can't Africa be home to more than one culture? Asia, for example is a very diverse continent, and so are the Americas. I guess Europeans are used to being homogeneous (all whites).
Hasan Ahmed, USA

How interesting it is to read comments denying North Africans their belonging to the African Continent. Those comments are skin deep and are as ignorant in nature as those made by some North African arabs who look down upon black Africans. Africa as a continent was there way before humans set foot on it. People, cultures and religions come and go, but the land will always be there.
Slim, Tunisia

The assertion that "for some on the continent ...the widely-held perception is of two very different regions" is a misrepresentation. Neither "sub-Saharan" Africa nor the "Middle East" is a phrase created by the people who live in the two respective regions. The differences you mentioned exist even among what you referred to as "sub-Saharan" Africans. Africans, like other peoples in any part of the world, could (and did indeed) have multiple identities. That does not make them less or more African.
Haleta Bekele, USA.

The two parts of the question "Does culture and language link the region more to the Arab world, or should geography be the deciding factor?" shows clearly that the first part is a statement of FACT, and the second a mere WISH. It does not matter if we in sub-Saharan Africa wish that north Africans take more interest in continental issues. A few people in the north (alongside leaders like Gadaffi) might even express such wish. But we all know that the culture, language and skin colour they share with other Arabs are more important than the land mass they share with us. Even in Ghadaffi's Libya, we know how much dark-skinned Nigerians and Kenyans are denigrated by the ordinary Libyan on the street at the same time that they welcome Palestinian refugees with open arms. I do not think that we should confuse the ideals we have in our heads with the reality on the ground.
James Oche, Nigeria/USA

As someone who is ethnically Egyptian, I do not consider myself "African". To me, that term has too many racial connotations. Egyptians, as well as other North Africans, are racially Caucasian, and that needs to be acknowledged. I personally favour making the Middle East its own geographic entity. A continent stretching from Morocco to Pakistan would have very similar racial or ethnic populations. However, I believe Africa is important to Egypt, if not only for the precious River Nile. Egyptians, however, are first and foremost Mediterranean or Arabs, depending on which you prefer. I'd go with the former.
Patrick Elyas, Los Angeles, USA/ Egypt

How African is North Africa? As African as West, South and East is.
Kakzivondo Zakolo, Zambia

Let's not start partitioning Africa. We are all one, anyone born in the continent is African!!!!
Innocent Mugovera,

If lessons in African history and geography taught us in Junior and High schools served us right, countries such as Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia fall within the Middle East region and but are connected to Africa because of their location right across the Mediterranean, on the African continent. The culture, language and skin color of these people distinguished them from sub-Saharan Africa. Perhaps colonialism and land division maybe responsible for their presence on the continent of Africa. But the question is, if history were to revive itself today, and give choices to these nations would they count themselves as Africans? Perhaps the sense of superiority may make them to disown Africa
Zon Quewea, Liberia/USA

As an Egyptian woman, I firmly believe north Africa is as African as the rest of the continent. We have diverse cultures and colours within our borders. This is the result of events including the composite histories of indigenous peoples, migrations and wars. None the less we are African. Identification is a combination of geography, culture and race. North to South, West to East our continent has a myriad of languages, cultures, shades and physical features. None the less, no one is any less african than another.
Nadia, Egypt

All attempts to divide Africa are and will always be futile, the topic in question is not worth commenting on, if the least be said. Any sane person worth his salt should be quick to see what the intentions on the part of whoever structured it were and dismiss it with the contempt it deserves.
Given WaZiramba, Zimbabwe

This is an absurd argument, which is sort of saying that Swedes and Italians are not Europeans because of cultural and language differences. I think the main thing that we as Africans should focus on are things we share and not what divides us. Is this another divide and conquer technique by our ex-colonisers?
Karim Fanous, Egypt

I think it is easy to divide Africa along the Sahara when you compare a blue-eyed Berber from Algeria to a dark-brown-skinned South African. But these individuals would represent extreme points along a continuum of culture and ethnicity. There are many examples of multicultural societies in between. The brutal civil war in the Sudan, a nation ruled by African Arabs and inhabited by many non-Muslim, non-Arab African ethnic groups indicates the kind of horror that can result when such diversity is combined with religious fundamentalism and economic greed. On the other hand, the Swahili culture of East Africa proves that co-existence is also possible and that Arab and African societies have a long, often beautiful shared history.
Sina Yousefi, USA

As far as I am concerned, the only thing we in the southern part of the continent have in common with the north Africans is the name"AFRICA". There is a big difference in the economic, cultural and political life of people in the north and south of the continent. The North Africans are more buoyant in terms of infrastructure, welfare of citizens, technological development and educational facilities and they lean more on Arabic nations for co-operation and association. Unlike those from the northern part of the continent, we in the south are renowned for our hospitability and ability to accommodate others with religious belief other than ours.
Chinedu Ibeabuchi, Lagos/Nigeria

Well, it should always be that if you live in Africa, you are an African whether black, white, Indian or Arab and the discussion should stop there!
Symon Kimitei, Kabarnet, Kenya

I recently visited a North African with a host of European/Asian friends. A number of people I met there were so keen on identifying with me the moment they got to know I was Nigerian. Probably this had something to do with the forthcoming Cup of Nations football tournament. But believe me, North Africa is more African than most people think. I found so much similarities in the country I visited with the North of Nigeria in terms of culture and way of life. To a certain extent, I felt more at home than I would have been in any European country, most of which are still rife with racism and prejudice, though they keep denying it.
Oliver John, Netherlands/Nigerian

What has engendered this debate? Is there a place on earth where everyone looks the same and indulges in the same behavioural practices (culture)? Even among the Europeans, is it not the case that you have blond-haired, brown-haired and black-haired people - with diverse practices in everything from language to religion to politics - staking claims to a common European identity? Who says appearance or culture should be the defining parameter? In Nigeria, where I originated, you will find enough cultural diversity among the constituent people (tribes) to make you understand the meaninglessness of this debate.
Kingsley Jesuorobo, Toronto, Canada

It's true and 'natural' that people seek a better identity. The African identity is probably the most derogate and bashed identity in the world, so if people have the slightest chance to be identified with any people who are perceived as 'better' than Africans, then they they may gladly accept it, and the Arabs in North Africa are not an exception.
Tadios Chisango, Zimbabwe

I should say culture and language link the region more to the Arab World and geography too. Everyone who has read history of Africa will be aware that these people migrated from Middle East and came to Africa as traders, both in North Africa and East Africa. They are more Arabs than Africans but we called them Africans like anyone born in Africa or has an African citizenship. People divided themselves but African Land will remain undivided.
Peter Dut Angon, Sudan/live in USA

Africans are Africans, Black or Arab, just as Europeans are European white or olive, eastern or western.
Babak, Iran

To divide Africa into northern and sub-Saharan is to deny the diversity that exists within the sub-sahara itself. While it is true that people in north Africa have a lot in common with The Middle East, they are still bound to the rest of the continent by geography, and indeed destiny. Just because people from the North have a lighter skin tone doesn't mean they are less African. And just because people from Ghana have the same skin tone as people from the Congo, doesn't mean they have a stronger bond with them than they do with people from Algeria!
Mark H, USA

What does it matter which side of the line one is? The basic thing is economic survival, which is our tribulation. Divisive tendencies such as this article is capable of igniting is obviously not our concern. My position is that the North African people have cultural responsibility to their Middle Eastern brethren, and at the same time have geographical and environmental responsibility to Africa, so they must relate to both, that is all.
Dalha Aliyu, Nigerian in UK

We cannot hide from the fact that there is a massive religious, economic, political, social and cultural divide between Northern and sub-Saharan Africa. Northern Africa identifies with other Arabic & Mid Eastern peoples and politics rather than African concerns. The rest of Africa are only relevant when numbers count to act as a pressure group against the West.
Shola Oke, london

I am from southern Africa but have travelled throughout North and West Africa, and have never felt an outsider. I am proudly African and very happy to be placed alongside any Northern, Western, Eastern or Southern Africans.
Ian Syder, England (SA, Zambia and Zimbabwe)

Lighter skinned, darker skinned or blonde, Africans come in all colours. If we identify ourselves as Africans, serve Africa, we are African. No one has the right to dictate who is African based on skin colour, language or culture. We all have other ties but still Africans.
Reda Shafik, Egyptian, USA

I think that whoever wrote this article needs a lesson in History. North Africa is neither Arab nor predominantly Arab. By this statement, the writer dismisses the existence of the Berbers. The Arabic in North Africa comes from Islam and there is nothing Arabic in the North African culture.
Dalila, USA

Europe has many African and other people. London is basically Indian and everybody else but black. How European is England? this should be the question. How European is southern France, southern Spain and Portugal and Italy. Europeans are always trying to divide the others but themselves. All the northern African states have large black populations.
George Michael, England

The people of the continent of Africa are like flower's proud to be more than one colour, from Tunisia to Senegal and South Africa to Egypt we are all Africans.
Abdul Y Robleh, Djibouti

Despite the racist attitudes North Africans sometimes adopt towards sub-Saharan Africans and a scarred history between the two (e.g. conquest, slavery), it is difficult to deny the heritage and influence of sub-Saharan Africa on at least some parts of North Africa. My own country, Morocco, may have more of a Berber and Arabic identity, but it is obvious that sub-Saharan music and arts influenced some aspects of Moroccan culture (e.g. Gnaoua music). A color-based distinction between North and South is also quite false as there is a significant amount of black Moroccans, Egyptians, etc.
Amin , Morocco

I read the BBC news daily because it is usually well balanced and one of the few news journals that 'reports' rather than editorialising. That being said, I am therefore amazed to see this un-named reporter's divisive stance on North Africa and the rest of the continent; and even more amazed to see that old myth that North Africans are 'predominantly Arab' rearing its ugly head-again. Being of Berber and Arab heritage, as most North Africans are, I take umbrage at that statement. It was the Berbers who were inhabitants of what is currently called North Africa; the Arabs came centuries later with the spread of Islam, and in consequence the Arabic language. The Arabs, however, did not decimate the native populations, but did inter-marry within it; as did the Turks who came later, and even the colonisers who came after them. I would like to share a few lines of an Algerian school boy who when asked to describe himself said: I am first a child of the world and its humanity; secondly, I am a child of the continent of Africa; and,lastly, I am an Algerian." Although those lines were written 30 years ago by a then 12 year old, I have never forgotten the depth of their words.
Rachida Djebel, US by way of Algeria

We consider ourselves Africans and proud of it. That does not exclude being proud of other things at the same time (Arab, Muslim, or Berber all belong to the global community of human kind). To all our brothers and sisters in Africa we love you, and wish for the prosperity for all of Africa
Algerian in Japan

Should this question arise? The answer is no! The only divide we have is language, culture and tradition.
Onanuga Christopher, Ghana

North Africa is as African as the Congo. Africa is inscribed in the tone and culture of the true and rightful claimants of that piece of geography. Even well into Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and India, you will find the authentic Africans whose melanin speaks loud and clear. The Berbers of Mauritania are a clear example of the metamorphosis that has plagued the region. In recent times the Western media has furthered this process in their classification of the region as Middle East. That's the saga of Africa and the West - divide and conquer. So "How African is North Africa?" It is as African as Timbuktu.
Ike, Nigeria

We might have cultural and religious differences with the Bambaras of Mali but I am sure that they are closer to us than the Tutsis or the Zulus are to them. Timbuctu is a witness to this. I wish Africans would listen for once to what Massinissa, King of Numidia said thousands of years ago: "Africa to the Africans!"
Amine, Algeria

It is true that Egypt is often included in the "Middle East" (which is itself an incorrect geographic designation for part of South Asia), but anyone familiar with the Maghreb is aware of the cultural differences between these countries and the "Middle East". It is ridiculous to separate these countries from the rest of Africa. There are cultural and historical links between Morocco and Mauritania and Senegal, should these countries form a separate group? The "white" African Berbers of North Africa and the Sahara are no less "African" than their sub-Saharan brethren.
Habib, USA

Yes, some of the leaders of the northern African states tend to engage in the affairs of the Middle East rather than on their own continent. However, this divisive idea has no place among the peoples of Africa.
D. Getahun, Chicago, USA

Let us put to final sleep the souls of the likes of Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba, Samora Machel and the many others. Long live Africa, and may God/Allah bless all her children
Oheneba Kwesi Asante, Columbus, ohio

Africa shall remain the cradle of humanity. In fact there are times when I feel sorry for some north Africans who "feel" they are not African but only identify themselves with the "dark continent" when it suits them. We are all Africans and will remain so, whether you like it or not.
Achiri, Cameroon/Egypt

I am Moroccan and belong to Africa, which encompasses diversity of cultures, traditions and in living standards. However, I don't belong to the so-called "uncivilised, war-torn, black, poor Africa" as our continent is described by most of the Western media.
Youssef, Morocco in Germany

Africa is a continent blessed with diversity of culture and language. It is true that in most cases when dealing with social and political matters, north Africa favours the Arabic countries at the expense of their fellow African countries.
Norman Dladla, Zimbabwe

I'm Egyptian and I can tell you that I consider myself both an Arab and African! When any African team plays in any tournament, I attend their matches if I can and support them, as I did during the World cup in France! This is shared by a lot of my fellow Egyptian friends.
Samir Abbas, England

In 1998, I was a student at University of Minnesota. I had a chance to meet many students from both sub-Sahara and north Africa. Most of the north African students didn't want to be called African. I asked two of my friends, one is from Tunisia & the other from Egypt why they don't want to associate with us. The response from both were the same, "Africa is known in the world community for its backwardness, civil war, famine, HIV/AIDS, and illiteracy. The only good about Africa is its beautiful wild life." I was so amazed to hear this kind of response from brothers, whom I believed were African like me.
Julee, Saint Paul, USA

Being born on African soil makes you an African only by birth. It however does not make you an African by way of culture, religion, language and skin colour. If that were the case Europeans born in African should be called Africans. But there is no question that the last thing any European would want is to be called African for whatever reason. Similarly, North Africans, for centuries call themselves Arabs, majority of them are offended by references to them as African.
Yaw Sefa Wiredu, Ghanaian in Canada)

I attended an International conference in Cairo some years ago, and as I chatted with an Egyptian professional colleague of mine during a break he said to me : "Welcome to Egypt, how is Africa?" I was surprised, but over the years I have come to understand the mentality of our North African brothers and sisters. They turn to African or claim Africaness only when that alternative carries obvious benefits or convenience! Muammar Gaddaffi readily comes to mind: For several decades he embarked on a deliberate policy of destabilising sub-Saharan Africa, especially the west coast, because he did not really see himself as an African. But when his Arab friends, part of whom he felt he was, could not bring him out of his pariah status; he finally turned to Africans who came to his aid. Today he pretends to be a pan-Africanist. What shall we say of Morocco that defied, and dispensed with, the OAU for well over two decades over the issue of Western Sahara (or shall i say, The Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic!), and has only recently returned to the body.
Emmanuel Akpowhe, Accra, Ghana

To George Muttawa and Foster, I am Moroccan, I am Berber, and I am African! What am I to say to my neighbour who is black Moroccan?? What am I to say to blacks and white who marry each other in Morocco? What am I to say to Berbers who have black skin? I insist on the fact that I am native African. When a Kenyan runner is running in the Olympics, I cheer for him/her.
Aziz, Morocco

Considering the Mediterranean is often more navigable than the Sahara it is no wonder that these countries have for centuries preferred to look east rather than south. It is this experience, this exposure and influence that has sculpted a different Africa in the north African countries. Often it is only geography that dictates that nations of people belonging to such a heterogeneous continent be placed under one heading, African
John Mallia, Malta

It is interesting to see this topic as I am currently reading material which has already addressed this issue as it relates to the land advancement of Islam from Arabia. It was during the 7th century that Arab Muslims conquered Syria, Palestine, Egypt and North Africa. Until this time all of these areas were part of what was then called Christendom. By the year 1500 the entire north section of Africa was considered to be Muslim. It was during the 8th century that Berbers joined with these Arab Muslims from their bases in north Africa that they took on Spain and Portugal. Had these Arab Muslims decided to conquer to the South, this debate would be mute as all of Africa would consider themselves as Arabs.
Diana, Ohio, USA

North Africa's connection to the Middle East is undeniable, yet this in no way makes it un-African.
Alem Berhane , Canada

Saying that north Africans like Egyptians and Tunisians are different from Ethiopians, Nigerians and Angolans is a valid point but aren't there many differences between Nigerians, Ethiopians and Angolans?
Neel Aroon, US

I am not from the north rather from the opposite end. The name of my people tie me to Africa. I speak a language spoken only in Africa and named for the continent. My ancestors have lived and worked in Africa for at least ten generations. I have no other home, no other continent or country that I can call my own. I see my future as being here. I am an Afrikaner, or a 'Boer' as you might call me. The question is does it make us less African?

I think this is a redundant question. North Africa is as much part of Africa as Southern Africa. The beauty of Africa is in the diversity of its cultures. Quite alright, there have been demarcations made, for various reasons. That doesn't make anyone more or less African than the other.
Kelechi Ohiri, Nigeria

Morocco is as different from Egypt as Nigeria is from Ghana. Even skin colour would not stand up to scientific scrutiny if one were to genuinely attempt to make this a significant difference between north, south, east and west Africa. There is however a mental division between Africans that encompasses this argument and in my opinion these mental divisions have been created by western media. For example when an Egyptian says he or she is not African they are merely reacting against the negative media association of poverty and degradation with southern Africans. This type of denial exist for all sort of people of African origin and not exclusive to the so called North African. When the West coined the phrase "sub-Saharan Africa" to describe southern Africa, it conveniently conjured the image of Africans as sub humans; it is a remarkable turn of phrase I must say.
Robert Lowe, England

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