Good Geography

Former student Pieter Good published in Journal of Geography

The way you learned geography in school may have been wrong.

Countries, defined by often arbitrary borders, and regions comprised of these countries are not always an accurate representation of the similarities and relationships between groups of people, says new research from Pieter Good, a former York College student.

Pieter R. Good
Pieter R. Good and colleagues have examined the regions of Africa based on a new data model.

This is especially true in Africa, where the history of European colonialism has carved the continent into a jigsaw puzzle, with little attention paid to the cultural, linguistic, and economic relationships within the population.

Good and colleagues from Ghent University of Belgium have proposed a new model for examining Africa through a regional lens. What is unique about their research is that the regions they proposed are radically different than those defined by predecessors. Good’s research asserts that countries should not be grouped into regions based on proximity alone, but that regions should be defined by relationships between people.

Good’s research has been published in Journal of Geography, the publication of the National Council for Geographic Education.

To create a more accurate picture of regions in the continent, Good and colleagues ignored country boundary lines and instead focused on airline data. That is, they looked at which cities have a clear relationship based on the movement of people between the locations. Their regionalized map of Africa groups together such far distant cities as Lagos, Nigeria, and Johannesburg, South Africa.

Though they are not close to each other geographically, Lagos and Johannesburg could be grouped together, says Good, as there is a close tie between the two cities, based on the amount of traffic between them.

This view of regionalization is important from an economic perspective, says Good, as many countries in Africa participate in regional economic communities (RECs)—groupings of countries that, through cooperation, seek to gain advantage in an ever-globalizing world (think NAFTA). Good suggests that RECs created by relationships such as the one he and colleagues have highlighted might be more successful than RECs based on geographic proximity alone. Currently, there is no REC agreement that links Nigeria and South Africa. Based on Good and colleagues findings, such a relationship is worth exploring.

In addition to the economic ramifications, this research is also significant for educational purposes. Students of geography need to understand that global relationships are far more complicated than they appear based on a standard map.

“Students need to look deeper than the lines that have been drawn and examine the people and relationships,” says Good.

Good completed this research as part of his graduate work at Ghent University in 2010. The son of former missionaries to that area, he currently resides in Belgium. He hopes to find a full time position working in international development.He will soon join the York College faculty as an online instructor of cultural geography.

Good attended York College in 2001-2002 before completing his undergraduate degree in geography at Brandon University in Manitoba, Canada.

See full article: The Regionalization of Africa: Delineating Africa's Subregions Using Airline Data, By Pieter R. Good, Ben Derudder and Frank Witlox.

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