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Research Guides

African Studies: Background Resources

A gateway to research on Africa.

Encyclopedic Sources

 Encyclopedias and and other reference works provide background information and can be used to identify key people, events and dates which can then be used as search terms for finding additional information.

The [UW restricted] icon indicates that a resource has use restrictions. Click on the red outlined "off-campus access (log in)" button in the upper right corner of most pages on the website to gain access to restricted resources

Finding Data

United Nations Statistical Division - Databases include a wide range of socio-economic indicators.

World Bank - Continent of Africa

World Development Indicators - World Bank's annual compilation of data about development.

SourceOECD - Wide range of economic statistics.

Lexis/Nexis Statistical - Indexes and abstracts statistical information in three databases: U.S. government (ASI). State and Private (SRI), and International Inter-governmental organizaions (IIS).[UW restricted] (Economist Intelligence Unit) - data, country profiles, reports, and summaries. Analysis and forecasts on more than 200 countries and six key industries from the Economist Intelligence Unit. [UW restricted]

Global Health Observatory - this World Health Organization (WHO) portal provides access to data and analyses for monitoring the global health situation.

Useful Tools

logoAfrican Writers Series  [UW restricted]

Online edition includes fiction, poetry, drama and non-fictional prose from African writers, including works by Chinua Achebe, Ama Ata Aidoo, Steve Biko, Buchi Emecheta, Nadine Gordimer, Bessie Head, Doris Lessing, Nelson Mandela, Dambudzo Marechera, Christopher Okigbo, Okot p'Bitek and Tayeb Salih.

 ResearchWorks [Open access]

ResearchWorks is a permanent, safe service for providing access to articles, technical reports, datasets, images and other file types produced at the University of Washington by faculty and Researchers.

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Selected Web Sources

These resources provide background information that can help you define unfamiliar terms, clarify issues, locate quick biographical information, verify dates and events, and locate statistical data.

  Afrikan alphabets
Afrikan alphabets have a long history, fantastic variety, and some continue to be in current use today. They are comparatively little known due largely to their suppression by colonial powers.

  Africa map
Map of Africa.

An online knowledge resource for policy-related issues on Africa and a project of the Africa Initiative from the Centre for International Governance Innovation.

  Africa south of the Sahara [UW restricted]
An explicit one-volume guide to all sub-Saharan African countries, providing invaluable economic, historic, and directory data. Also available through 
Europa world

  African studies center University of Pennsylvania
The African Studies Center at the University of Pennsylvania is recognized as a vital and forward-looking center where researchers, students and cultural and business entities come to gain knowledge of contemporary and historical Africa.

  Background notes
Country reports compiled by the U.S. Dept. of State.

  Bureau of African affairs
United States Dept. of State, advises the Secretary and guides the operation of the U.S. diplomatic establishment in the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. Former Assistant Administrator for Africa of the U.S. Agency for International Development

  CIA World Factbook
Provides information on the history, people, government, economy, geography, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues for 266 world entities.

  Electronic journal of Africana bibliography
A refereed online journal of bibliographies created by the late John Howell, University of Iowa Libraries. Coverage includes any aspect of African cultural, economic, educational, and political life.

  Embassies around the world
Embassy World provides a list of contact resources for all of the world's diplomatic offices.

   Doing Business in Africa
International guide facilitating trade with African countries

  Foreign-Born Population-Profile
Presents data on a wide range of geographic, demographic, social, economic, and housing characteristics for the foreign-born population of the United States. Data for the native population are included for comparison.

   Key events in African history
This reference guide to African history provides substantive entries on 36 events that shaped the history of the continent from the prehistoric past to the dawn of the 21st century. Includes bibliographical references and index

  Reference guide to Africa: a bibliography of sources [UW restricted]
Electronic access to African studies research mainly in the humanities and social sciences. The introductory sections cover African studies indexes, bibliographies, handbooks, guides and directories as well as electronic sources and Internet web sites. The continuing chapters deal with specific types of materials such as statistics, current events, biography, primary sources, and government publications. The main body of the work is an annotated overview of sources for seventeen disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, and agriculture and ecology. Includes bibliographical references and indexes. Also available in print Reference guide to Africa.

  Swahili and other African languages from is a language products and services company that maintains the most comprehensive and authoritative language portal on the web with more than 2500 dictionaries and grammars in over 300 languages, games that build language skills, and a forum (The Agora) for discussing language issues with the logophile community.

Voices from the Rwanda Tribunal
A collection containing video interviews conducted with personnel from the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). This work is carried out under the auspices of the Information School at the University of Washington and is independent from the ICTR, the United Nations and the Government of Rwanda.