Morocco’s procession into the World Cup Semifinals have raised an aged long question of “are North Africans Africans or Arabs?”
To answer this, we must understand what Africa is: the etymology, the anthropology, the sociology, the geology and the geography.
Before the birth of the Roman Empire, “Africa” never existed. What existed was an unnamed continental lithosphere south of the Mediterranean with thousands of tribes of people that didn’t know anything about each other’s existence. These tribes were of different colours and relate with people closest to them – whether on their continent or neighboring continents.
“Africa” only came to be after the Romans conquered the northern fringes of present-day North Africa and named the area, PROVINCE OF AFRICA (possibly deriving the name from one of the Berber tribes of present-day Tunisia – Afri). Even after the expansion of the Arabs during the establishment of Umayyad Caliphate in North Africa, the new Arabs were still called “Africans”. So, technically, North Africans are the original Africans.
It is important to note that at the time Romans called that region “Africa”, Greeks called it “Libya” while the region of black people within the continent was called “Ethiopia” (meaning “Land of the Dark-skinned”). Centuries later, with the Portuguese exploration, most parts of the Sub-Sahara (especially present-day West Africa) was named “Guinea”.
With the European age of exploration and openness to scientific facts, there came the idea of calling continental lithosphere with one name: they debated between Africa, Libya, Ethiopia or Guinea. The name “Africa” won the debate and the Europeans named this continental landmass “Africa”. An African became every inhabitant of the landmass, whether a thick black Wolof, light skinned Fulani, brown Arab or white Afrikaans.
So, Africa is just a proper Noun for the second largest landmass on the planet. It is a heterogeneous continent of different people with different cultures. Africa is not one people. In today’s world, an African is anybody that chooses to identify with one or more cultures of the people of Africa.