Originally Posted by Timo Nieminen
There are West African crossbows. A couple of examples can be seen in Grayson's "Traditional archery from six continents". Otherwise, African bows are self bows, often circular cross-section, sometimes with rawhide or other wrapping for reinforcement (e.g.f of nocks, but sometimes elsewhere).
['Compound" vs "composite" - in the early days, these were synonyms, but these days "compound" usually means the multi-string-pulley-cam things that only a physicist or an archer seeking efficiency would love. Perhaps 'twould have been better if those things had been called "ugly physics bows" or such. (I think they're "compound", due to "compound pulley".)]
On a side note, copies of the three volumes of the Traditional Bowyer's Bible are available cheap on a certain BigMuddyRiver online bookseller, and volume three has a chapter on African bows.
Thanks for the reminder: I'd forgotten about the crossbows. There's a nicely mounted one in the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Reportedly it's based on old Portuguese models of centuries ago, but made out of indigenous materials, of course.
As for modern compound bows, I've heard traditional archers call those things "four-wheel bows." While I agree with your assessment, I can't complain, really. They're simply America's contribution to the history of archery. Probably in centuries to come, people will collect the surviving examples and make all sorts of cooing noises over them. Similarly, the chair leg and car spring bows showing up in east Africa are another novel design, albeit a less powerful one. Despite the ubiquity of guns, people are still coming up with new bow designs even now.