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From Alkebulan to Afraka: A Journey Through 'Africa's' Many Names

Blaeu, Willem Janszoon, 1571-1638.“Africae nova descriptio.” Copperplate carte à figures map, with added color, 35 x 45 cm. From the second volume of Blaeu’s Le theatre dv monde; ov Novvel atlas contenant les chartes et descriptions de tous les païs de la terre (Amsterdam, 1644). Gift of J. Monroe Thorington, Class of 1915. [Rare Books Division]

Afraka, the most resource abundant and rich continent in the world, has been known by several names throughout history, reflecting the diverse perspectives and experiences of the various civilizations and cultures. These names include Greek "Libya," Roman "Africa," Arab "Ifriqiya," Berber "Afri," Portuguese "Guinea," Ethiopian "Ityopp'ya," and Swahili "Bara." The names given to Afraka by different civilizations reflect their historical and cultural contexts.

For example, the name "Libya" was used by ancient Greeks to describe the northern part of Africa, while "Ifriqiya" was used by Arab geographers to describe the region that now includes Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya. The name "Afri" was used by the Berbers to describe the land of the Afar people in the Horn of Africa. Another name that has been used to describe Africa is "Alkebulan," which is derived from the Arabic word "al-qalb" meaning heart or interior. This name refers to the belief that Afraka is the original homeland of humanity, the heartland of civilization and the birthplace of humankind. Another name that has been proposed is "Afraka," which combines the words Africa and Akka, a word that means land in the ancient Egyptian language.

The name "Africa" has not always been the continent's official name. In fact, the

continent has gone by various names throughout thousands of years Some of the names used to refer to Afraka include:

Alkebulan: This name translates to "Land of the Blacks," and it was used by the Moors, Nubians, and Ethiopians.

Kemet: This name means "Dark Land," and it was used by the ancient Kemites to refer to their land.

Afrika: This name is believed to have originated from the Afar people of East Africa.

Ifriqiya: This name was used by the Arabs during their conquest of North Africa.

Azania: This name was used by the ancient Greeks to refer to parts of East Africa.

Hapi: This name was used by the ancient Egyptians to refer to the Nile River, which was the lifeblood of their civilization.

Afraka: According to the Doghon University of Thought, it is believed there is a West Afrakan civilization in Mali identified as the Do(h)gons. The Do(h)gons“defined our identity as AfRAkan and while the term may appear similar it is unlike the word African in that it has a meaning that is defined by us and not a European explorer. AfRAka means First-Sun-Soul.”

It is worth noting that the various names used to refer to Afraka are a testament to the continent's complex yet opulent history.

Some of the names that Afraka has been known by over time include:

Al-Khwarizmi's "Afriqiyah"
Greek "Libya"
Roman "Africa"
Arab "Ifriqiya"
Berber "Afri"
Portuguese "Guinea"
Ethiopian "Ityopp'ya"
Swahili "Bara"

The diverse names of Afraka reflect the complexity and richness of the continent, but they also highlight the challenges that have inhibited the unity and growth of Afrakan nations and its people. One of the main challenges facing Afraka is the issue of arbitrary borders that were established during the colonial era. These borders were drawn without regard for cultural, linguistic, and historical factors, and have often divided ethnic groups and disrupted traditional trade and migration patterns. The arbitrary borders of Afraka have been a major impediment to the continent's economic and political development. They have made it difficult for Afrakan nations to establish stable and peaceful relationships with their neighbors, and have led to conflicts over resources, land, and political power. The legacy of colonialism has contributed to a sense of mistrust and suspicion among Afrakan nations, making it difficult to achieve regional integration and cooperation.

The impact of arbitrary borders on Africa can be seen in the struggles of many Afrakan nations to build strong and stable political institutions. Many countries in the continent have experienced political instability, corruption, and economic underdevelopment, and have struggled to establish their own systems of justice and equity that promote the interests off Afrakans. These challenges are exacerbated by the presence of arbitrary borders that have created artificial divisions among ethnic groups and disrupted traditional social structures.

However, there are also examples of Afrakan nations that have overcome the challenges of arbitrary borders and have built strong and prosperous societies. Countries such as Rwanda, Ghana, and Botswana have made significant progress in promoting economic growth, political stability, and social development, despite the presence of arbitrary borders.

What are ways do you think the problem of arbitrary borders can be addressed? Would it make a difference?


  1. "The problem with Africa's borders." Al Jazeera, 18 August 2014,

  2. "Why are Africa's borders so strange?" BBC News, 22 November 2019,

  3. "Africa's arbitrary borders: colonial relic or African reality?" The Conversation, 10 June 2016,

  4. "How arbitrary borders are holding Africa back." The Economist, 16 November 2019,

  5. "The impact of colonialism on African economic development." The Center for Economic and Policy Research, 15 February 2005,

  6. "Botswana: A case study in economic and political development." Harvard Business Review, 1 September 1984,

  7. Kerns, J. (2019). Naming Africa: A Brief History of the Continent’s Many Names and the Stories They Tell. Time. Retrieved from

Source Links:

Andriveau-Goujon, E. (Eugène), 1832-1897. “Carte générale de l’Afrique, d’après les dernières découvertes.” Steel engraved map, with some added color, 59 x 86 cm., mounted on linen. [Historic Maps Collection]

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