Africa Southeastern Bantu
Primarily located in: South Africa, Kenya, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Angola, Tanzania, Mozambique, Uganda
Also found in: Nigeria, Congo
Extending through the heart of Africa, the vast region now inhabited by the Bantu was the stage for one of the greatest migrations in human history. In time, that migration would become the seedbed for a broad family of related ethnic groups and languages that would wield enormous influence on the ancient and contemporary history of Africa: from kingdoms and trade networks to colonial independence movements and Nobel Prize-winning leaders.
How Black Sovereign compares to the typical person native to the Africa Southeastern Bantu region
Genetic Diversity in the Africa Southeastern Bantu Region
Individuals from the Africa Southeastern Bantu region are admixed, which means that when creating genetic ethnicity estimates for people native to this area, we frequently see see similarities to DNA profiles from other regions. We’ve found that approximately 72% of the typical Southeastern Bantu region native’s DNA comes from this region.
The Western Bantu are part of the same great swath of Bantu who inhabit eastern and southern Africa. They moved south from Cameroon along the west coast of Africa in the same time frame as the Eastern Bantu (beginning about 1000 B.C.), ending up in what we know today as Angola and Namibia. As some groups moved deeper into central Africa’s rainforests and riverine environments, they added fishing to their skills.
Bantu communities flourished and became powerful over time as people began to specialize in trades, engage in commerce with Arabs and other merchants, and develop standing armies. Chiefdoms turned into kingdoms as power was centralized among clans and other groups. The Baganda state in the Great Lakes region became so powerful by 1000 A.D. that, some 900 years later when the British took control of Uganda, they made the Baganda their colonial administrators and overlords of smaller kingdoms in the area.
To the south lay the Great Zimbabwe civilization, with its fortress architecture and wide reach, formed by early Shona settlers. The Shona were another Bantu group whose successful use of resources and strong organization displaced the hunter-gatherer Bushmen tribes. Great Zimbabwe was dominant for about 1,000 years, from 500 to 1500 A.D. Even farther south, Zulu clans consolidated into a kingdom under the military leadership of Shaka and his successors, battling the Afrikaners and holding the British at bay for a time during the Anglo-Zulu War in 1879.
Many of the kingdoms along Africa’s east coast or with river access developed sophisticated networks of trade with Portuguese, Arab and Indian traders. Landlocked kingdoms exchanged goods with other African kingdoms and groups, many of which had embassies and ambassadors to facilitate military alliances and trade relationships.
During the 19th and 20th centuries, the Bantu kingdoms that spanned eastern and southern Africa fell to relentless European colonization backed by armies, money and the technology to exploit African resources. Britain controlled the largest chunks of the Southeastern Bantu region, including South Africa, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), Bechuanaland (Botswana), Northern Rhodesia (Zambia), Kenya, Uganda and Zanzibar. Britain tried to exploit divisions between groups and manipulate existing native administrations as part of a policy called “indirect rule.”
Portugal, Germany and Belgium had much more centralized colonial administrations. Portugal colonized Mozambique and Angola. Germany claimed German East Africa (modern-day Tanzania, minus Zanzibar), German West Africa (Namibia), Rwanda and Burundi. Belgium claimed the Congo and, after 1916, Rwanda and Burundi.
African independence movements
After a long period of resistance to the colonial regimes, a wave of independence movements swept Africa in the 1960s and ’70s. Freedom, along with new roads, trains and planes, improved the mobility of many Africans and connected them to the world. As a result of post-colonial trade and cultural relationships, many African communities have been established in European cities. With those emigrations came the spread of Bantu genes far beyond Africa’s borders.
The region today
The countries in the Southeast Bantu region are culturally vibrant, highly diverse, resource-rich and hungry for opportunity. However, Africa’s progress is curbed by struggles with poverty, war, corruption, political and ethnic strife, disease, indebtedness, limited access to education and medical care, and undiversified economies driven by subsistence or cash crops.
Yet there are bright spots. Uganda managed to turn around one of the world’s highest HIV infection rates through education. South Africa is a country with modern banking, transportation and manufacturing sectors that can build nearly everything it needs. Namibia has remained a peaceful multiparty democracy since its independence from South Africa in 1990. Angola and Mozambique, not many years free from brutal civil wars, have economies growing at double-digit rates.
The Southeastern Bantu region shares a genetic thread spanning thousands of miles and several thousand years. Part of that genetic inheritance, as the region’s history shows, is a deep resilience.
Did You Know?
During the transatlantic slave trade, more than 1 million slaves were sent from Angola to the New World.