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continent on the Earth's northern and southern hemispheres
World map showing where Africa is

Africa is the second largest continent in the world. It makes up about a fifth of the world's land.[1] It is surrounded by large areas of water. There are 54 fully recognised and independent countries in Africa, and 14.7% (1.216 billion) of the world's population lives there.[1] It is thought to be the continent where the first humans evolved.



Civilizations before European colonization.

The history of Africa begins from the first modern human beings and leads to its present difficult state as a politically developing continent.

Africa's ancient historic period includes the rise of Egyptian civilization, the further development of societies outside the Nile River Valley and the interaction between them and civilizations outside of Africa. In the late 7th century North and East Africa were heavily influenced by the spread of Islam. That led to the appearance of new cultures such as those of the Swahili people, and the Mali Empire, whose king, Musa Keita I, became one of the richest and most influential people of the early 14th century. This also led to an increase in the slave trade that had a very bad influence for the development of the whole continent until the 19th century.


Slavery has long been practised in Africa.[2][3] Between the seventh and twentieth centuries, the Arab slave trade took 18 million slaves from Africa via trans-Saharan and Indian Ocean routes.

Between the fifteenth and the nineteenth centuries (500 years), the Atlantic slave trade took an estimated 7–12 million slaves to the New World.[4][5][6]

Between 1808 and 1860, the British Navy captured approximately 1,600 slave ships and freed 150,000 Africans who were aboard.[7]

Areas of Africa under the control or influence of European nations in 1914 (at outbreak of World War I).


In the late nineteenth century, the European powers occupied much of the continent, creating many colonial and dependent territories. They left only two fully independent states: Ethiopia (known to Europeans as "Abyssinia"), and Liberia.

Egypt and Sudan were never formally incorporated into any European colonial empire. However, after the British occupation of 1882, Egypt was effectively under British administration until 1922.

Modern historyEdit

African independence movements had their first success in 1951 when Libya became the first former colony to become independent. Modern African history has been full of revolutions and wars as well as the growth of modern African economies and democratization across the continent.

A civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) began in 1998. Neighbouring African countries have become involved. Since the conflict began, 5,5 million are estimated to have died because of it.[8]

Political associations such as the African Union offer hope for greater co-operation and peace between the continent's many countries.


Biomes of Africa

From north to south, Africa has most types of climate. In sequence from the north:

Running north-east to the south is the East African Great Rift Valley. This has mountains, volcanoes, deep rifts and valleys, rivers and lakes.

In fact Africa has examples of most of the Earth's climate types.


The rainshadow concept, but with wind coming from the west.
This picture shows where vegetation is most common in February and August (before and after the summer)

Much of North Africa is dry and hot: it is dominated by the Sahara Desert and does not receive much rain. In Saharan Africa there are few rivers or other water sources. Underground water sources, such as springs are very important in the desert. These often form oases. An oasis is an area of vegetation (plant life) surrounded by desert.

In that part of the world the wind comes mostly from the east. That does bring rain, but the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau blocks the monsoon rain and prevents it getting to North Africa. Also, the Atlas Mountains near the north coast of Africa prevent rain from coming in from the north. That is another rain shadow.

These two rain shadows are mainly responsible for the Sahara desert.

Conditions and winds are different further south, where huge amounts of rain falls near the equator. The equator runs across the middle of Africa (see red line drawn on map). That means much of Africa is between the two tropics:

Plants and animalsEdit

This oasis, in Libya, has lots of plants growing around it.

Africa has a lot of wildlife.[9][10] There are many types of animals there. In particular, it is now the only continent that has many native species of large mammals. Some of them occur in very large numbers. There are antelope, buffalo, zebra, cheetah, elephant, lion, giraffe, rhinoceros, apes, hyaena, and a lot more. Over 2,000 types of fish live in African lakes and rivers.[11]


The African Union (AU) is an international organisation consisting of all of Africa's states except Morocco. It aims to transform the African Economic Community, a federated commonwealth, into a state under established international conventions. The African Union has a parliamentary government, known as the African Union Government, consisting of legislative, judicial and executive organs. It is led by the African Union President and Head of State, who is also the President of the Pan African Parliament. A person becomes President of the AU by being elected to the PAP, and then gaining majority support in the PAP.

Extensive human rights abuses still occur in several parts of Africa, often under the oversight of the state. Most of such violations occur for political reasons, often as a side effect of civil war. Countries where major human rights violations have been reported in recent times include Uganda,[12] Sierra Leone,[13] Liberia, Sudan,[14] Zimbabwe,[15] and Côte d'Ivoire.[16]


People who come from Africa are called Africans. People north of the Sahara are called Maghrebis and people on the south are called Subsaharans. Languages in eastern Africa include Swahili, Oromo and Amharic. Languages in western Africa include Lingala, Igbo and Fulani. The most populated country in Africa is Nigeria.


Country Area
Population Year Density
(per km²)
Northern Africa
  Algeria 2,381,740 34,178,188 2009 14 Algiers
  Canary Islands (Spain) 7,492 2,118,519 2010 226 Las Palmas de Gran Canaria,
Santa Cruz de Tenerife
  Ceuta (Spain) 20 71,505 2001 3,575
  Egypt 1,001,450 82,868,000 2012 83 Cairo
  Libya 1,759,540 6,310,434 2009 4 Tripoli
  Madeira (Portugal) 797 245,000 2001 307 Funchal
  Melilla (Spain) 12 66,411 2001 5,534
  Morocco 446,550 34,859,364 2009 78 Rabat
  Sudan 1,861,484 30,894,000 2008 17 Khartoum
  Tunisia 163,610 10,486,339 2009 64 Tunis
  Western Sahara 266,000 405,210 2009 2 El Aaiún
Horn of Africa
  Djibouti 23,000 623,891 2012 22 Djibouti
  Eritrea 121,320 5,647,168 2009 47 Asmara
  Ethiopia 1,127,127 84,320,987 2012 75 Addis Ababa
  Somalia 637,657 9,832,017 2009 15 Mogadishu
East Africa
  Burundi 27,830 8,988,091 2009 323 Bujumbura
  Comoros 2,170 752,438 2009 347 Moroni
  Kenya 582,650 39,002,772 2009 66 Nairobi
  Madagascar 587,040 20,653,556 2009 35 Antananarivo
  Malawi 118,480 14,268,711 2009 120 Lilongwe
  Mauritius 2,040 1,284,264 2009 630 Port Louis
  Mayotte (France) 374 223,765 2009 490 Mamoudzou
  Mozambique 801,590 21,669,278 2009 27 Maputo
  Réunion (France) 2,512 743,981 2002 296 Saint-Denis
  Rwanda 26,338 10,473,282 2009 398 Kigali
  Seychelles 455 87,476 2009 192 Victoria
  South Sudan 619,745 8,260,490 2008 13 Juba
  Tanzania 945,087 44,929,002 2009 43 Dodoma
  Uganda 236,040 32,369,558 2009 137 Kampala
  Zambia 752,614 11,862,740 2009 16 Lusaka
  Zimbabwe 390,580 11,392,629 2009 29 Harare
Central Africa
  Angola 1,246,700 12,799,293 2009 10 Luanda
  Cameroon 475,440 18,879,301 2009 40 Yaoundé
  Central African Republic 622,984 4,511,488 2009 7 Bangui
  Chad 1,284,000 10,329,208 2009 8 N'Djamena
  Republic of the Congo 342,000 4,012,809 2009 12 Brazzaville
  Democratic Republic of the Congo 2,345,410 69,575,000 2012 30 Kinshasa
  Equatorial Guinea 28,051 633,441 2009 23 Malabo
  Gabon 267,667 1,514,993 2009 6 Libreville
  São Tomé and Príncipe 1,001 212,679 2009 212 São Tomé
Southern Africa
  Botswana 600,370 1,990,876 2009 3 Gaborone
  Lesotho 30,355 2,130,819 2009 70 Maseru
  Namibia 825,418 2,108,665 2009 3 Windhoek
  South Africa 1,219,912 51,770,560 2011 42 Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Pretoria
  Swaziland 17,363 1,123,913 2009 65 Mbabane
West Africa
  Benin 112,620 8,791,832 2009 78 Porto-Novo
  Burkina Faso 274,200 15,746,232 2009 57 Ouagadougou
  Cape Verde 4,033 429,474 2009 107 Praia
  Côte d'Ivoire 322,460 20,617,068 2009 64 Abidjan, Yamoussoukro
  Gambia 11,300 1,782,893 2009 158 Banjul
  Ghana 239,460 23,832,495 2009 100 Accra
  Guinea 245,857 10,057,975 2009 41 Conakry
  Guinea-Bissau 36,120 1,533,964 2009 43 Bissau
  Liberia 111,370 3,441,790 2009 31 Monrovia
  Mali 1,240,000 12,666,987 2009 10 Bamako
  Mauritania 1,030,700 3,129,486 2009 3 Nouakchott
  Niger 1,267,000 15,306,252 2009 12 Niamey
  Nigeria 923,768 166,629,000 2012 180 Abuja
  Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha (United Kingdom) 420 7,728 2012 13 Jamestown
  Senegal 196,190 13,711,597 2009 70 Dakar
  Sierra Leone 71,740 6,440,053 2009 90 Freetown
  Togo 56,785 6,019,877 2009 106 Lomé
  Africa Total 30,368,609 1,001,320,281 2009 33

African diasporaEdit

Countries with significant African descendents outside Africa:


  1. 1.0 1.1 Sayre, April Pulley 1999. Africa. Twenty-First Century Books. ISBN 0-7613-1367-2.
  2. Historical survey > Slave societies, Encyclopædia Britannica
  3. Swahili Coast, National Geographic
  4. Welcome to Encyclopædia Britannica's Guide to Black History, Encyclopædia Britannica
  5. Focus on the slave trade, BBC
  6. Transformations in Slavery: A History of Slavery in Africa p 25 by Paul E. Lovejoy
  7. Sailing against slavery. By Jo Loosemore BBC
  8. Rayner, Gordon (27 September 2011). "Is your mobile phone helping fund war in Congo?". The Daily Telegraph (London).
  9. J.Hofman and S.Colbert 2009. The ultimate guide to African mammals. Libeal House, New Jersey.
  10. J.Dorst and P.Dandelot 1983. A field guide to the larger mammals of Africa. Collins, London.
  11. N.Myers 1997. The rich diversity of biodiversity issues. (In:Biodiversity II, ed. E.O. Wilson et al, National Academy Press.

Other websitesEdit