Africa is both the second largest continent on Earth and the second highest populated. Because of its large size, its climate is varied. The Sahara Desert covers much of the northern half of Africa, while the southern half is a southern temperate climate, characterized by dense plains and rainforests and jungles. Politically speaking, the continent is looked over by the African Union, which was formed in 2001 to established international rules and regulations. As a united continent, Africa continues to struggle with widespread poverty and diseases in certain areas, while other areas are flourishing and are among the fastest growing economies in the world.
The continent of Africa, with a land mass measuring 11,699,000 square miles and a population totaling 1,000,010,000, is the second largest continent in terms of land area and the second most populous in the world.
With coasts on the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Red Sea and Indian Ocean to the east and the Atlantic Ocean to the west; Africa is a continent that straddles the Equator and is the only continent which incorporates equatorial, northern temperate and southern temperate climates.
The etymology of the name assigned to the continent is attributed to two sources, both originating from northern Africa. The Phoenician word afar, which means dust; the Berber word ifri; have been seen as possible origins for the word Arica.
Longest Inhabited Continent
The origin of the human species, is considered to have originated on the African continent by paleontologists, with fossils of proto-human species having been discovered that are as old as 7 million years. As such, the African continent has been determined to be the longest inhabited land area by modern humans.
Although anthropological and paleontological evidence of human existence and evolution on Africa dates back over 100,000 years, to the very evolution of modern man, the historical record of human civilization in Africa does not begin until 3500 B.C. with the rise of the ancient Egyptian civilization in the Nile Delta region.
With climate zones that include arid desert areas, savanna plains, dense tropical rain forests and even subarctic zones along its highest mountain peaks, Africa contains a diverse ecology which provides home to a diverse fauna and wildlife
The United Nations Environment Program has claimed that Africa is undergoing a rate of deforestation that is double the rate found anywhere else on the globe. Analysis from the agency states that up to 90% of West African rain forests having been depleted and that 65% of the land available for agriculture on the continent is suffering from soil degradation.
11,699,000 square miles
Cape Blanc, Tunisia
Cape Agulhas, South Africa
Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania (19,340 feet above sea level)
Lake ‘Asal (502 feet below sea level)
Sudan (967,490 square miles)
The Seychelles (4,363 square miles)
The following are ten facts about Africa, including geographic sites, population statistics, continent information and economic drivers for the area:
1. Largest country in Africa is Sudan
Located in northeastern Africa, Sudan is the largest country on the continent and the tenth largest country in the world. Its total land area measures 957,495 square miles, and the population in 2009 was approximately 42,272,000. The Nile River, the longest river in the world, divides the country of Sudan into east and west areas. Sudan’s official religion is Sunni Islam. The primary and official languages spoken there are Arabic and English.
The country has come to the attention of world recognition in the last 10 years because of the Darfur conflict, which was called genocide by US Secretary of State Colin Powell in 2004. A peace agreement was signed in 2006, but violence remains prevalent in the region. Recently, President Bashir has been accused of being responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The conflict and investigation is ongoing.
2. Longest river in the Nile River at almost 4,150 miles long
The Nile River is a river that flows north in Africa and is the longest in the world at 4,132 miles long. One of the primary sources of the river is Lake Victoria, which is located in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania and is the world’s second largest freshwater lake. The Nile slows through Tanzania, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt, before finally emptying into the Mediterranean Sea. Most of Egypt and Sudan’s towns and cities have developed along the river because of the surrounding infertile desert climate. The water has been the source of survival for civilizations beginning thousands of years ago. In addition to providing a source of life for communities located along the river, the Nile has been and continues to be used to transport goods year round.
3. Produces almost 50% of the world’s gold and diamonds
South Africa, a country located on the southern tip of the African continent, is home to some of the largest producers of diamonds and gold in the world. This began as a commercial operation in the 1870s when Europeans made their way to the area in search of riches. Johannesburg, South Africa is known to have almost one-half of the world’s gold reserves, located in an area called the Rand. It was estimated that South Africa produced 43,000 tons of gold in a span of 100 years.
The diamond mining industry picked up commercially around the same time as the gold mining industry. The Kimberly Diamond Fields, located in Northern Cape were discovered, catapulting South Africa to the world’s largest producer of mines. Most of the diamond mining companies are owned by De Beers Consolidated Mines Company. The Central Selling Organisation is a cartel that allows diamond producers to control how many diamonds are sold on the market, which keeps prices of the precious gem high.
4. Mount Kilimanjaro stands at over 19,334 feet
Mount Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest mountain with the Uhuru peak rising 19,334 feet above sea level. Other titles include the highest freestanding mountain and the fourth most prominent mountain in the world. The prominence of a peak is determined by the minimum height of the climb to the summit form sea level. Mount Kilimanjaro is only less prominent than Mount Everest, Aconcagua and Mount McKinley. Kilimanjaro is comprised of three volcanic peaks named Kibo (at 19,341 feet), Mawenzi (at 16,893 feet) and Shira (at 13,000 feet). Two of these three peaks are no longer at risk for eruption, however Kibo still poses a potential threat. The likelihood of eruption is small, as the last major occurrence took place around 350,000 years ago.
5. Sahara Desert is the largest desert in the world at more than 3,500,000 square miles
The Sahara Desert is the world’s largest desert and measures about as large as Europe or the United States. It is extremely identifiable on satellite maps, and covers the northern widest region of the continent, occupying land in Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia and Western Sahara. To its south, the Sahara is transitioned into non-desert land by the Sahel, which is a geographic area that begins at the western part of Africa and continues to its east coast at the Red Sea. The band travels through Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Algeria, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea. The dunes of the Sahara Desert are formed by winds, and can sometimes measure as high as 600 feet.
6. Contains 54 countries
Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou
Cape Verde, Praia
Central African Republic, Bangui
Democratic Republic of Congo, Kinshasa
Republic of Congo, Brazzaville
Cote d’Ivoire, Yamoussoukr
Equatorial Guinea, Malabo
Ethiopia, Addis Ababa
Guinea Bissau, Bissau
Mauritius, Port Louis
Sao Tome and Principe, Sao Tome
Sierra Leone, Freetown
South Africa, Cape Town
Western Sahara, El-Aaiun
7. Home to Victoria Falls, over 1 mile wide and 355 feet high
Victoria Falls, also known to local Africans as Mosi-oa-Tunya, is located on the Zambezi River in Zambia and Zimbabwe. The falls begin quite suddenly, as the ground falls out from beneath them at the edge of a plateau that extends over 100 miles. Victoria Falls is most active, and pours the largest amount of water during the rainy season in southern Africa, which lasts from November until April. The dry season, which is the alternate April until November, sees a drier, calmer waterfall.
Devil’s Pool is a naturally formed pool of water that teeters on the edge of the falls, but is open to visitors to swim in. This pool is created by a rock wall that lies just below the waters edge at the crest of the falls.
8. Nigeria is the highest populated country in Africa with between 125 and 145 million people
Nigeria is located in Africa’s crux, in the northern half of the continent. It is bordered by the Gulf of Guinea, Benin, Chad, Cameroon and Niger and contains 37 states. Its name was originally derived from the Niger River, which runs through the country. In addition to being the most populated country in Africa, Nigeria is the eighth most populated country in the world. Although often incorrectly perceived as an impoverished country, Nigeria’s economy is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, expected to achieve almost double-digit percentage growths in 2008 and 2009. The country is Africa’s largest exporter of oil.
9. Egypt is the most popular tourist destination in Africa with around 10 million visitors annually
Tourists come to Egypt every year for the wealth of sights and activities that the country offers. With one of the most well-known and rich histories in the world, visitors can explore the Great Pyramids and ancient Egyptian cultures. The desert is everywhere, and lies as an open palette for foreigners to learn and take-in all that there is to see and absorb about this richly unique climate. Egypt is home to world-class diving opportunities, Nile River cruises, picturesque beaches, Coptic and Islamic history, safaris and world-class golf courses.
10. Lake Malawi is home to over 500 fish species, more than any other lake in the world
Lake Malawi is located between Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania. Its area of 11,429 square miles makes it the eighth largest lake in the world. The Ruhuhu River is the largest supplier of water to the lake, and the lake consequently empties its waters into the Shire River, which eventually flows into the Zambezi River.