African Geography You Don’t Know

Africa is the second-largest continent covering nearly 1/5 of the total land surface on planet earth. The continent is surrounded on the west by the Atlantic Ocean, on the north by the Mediterranean Sea, on the east by the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, and on the south by the circulating waters of the Atlantic and Indian oceans.

Africa measures about 5,000 miles or 8,000 km from north to south and about 4,600 miles or 7,400 km from east to west. The Equator cuts the continent almost equally in two so that most of Africa lies within the tropical region bounded on the north by the Tropic of Cancer and on the south by the Tropic of Capricorn. 

Because of the bulge formed by western Africa, the more significant part of Africa’s territory lies north of the Equator. Africa is crossed from north to south by the prime meridian (0° longitude), which passes a short distance to the east of Accra, Ghana.


Uncommon geography facts from each of Africa’s 54 countries

The province of Cabinda is an exclave, separated from the rest of the country by the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Sandbanks create difficult access to the coast with no natural harbors, river mouths, or islands.

Landlocked; population concentrated in the eastern part of the country.

Burkina Faso
Landlocked savanna cut by the three principal rivers of the Black, Red, and White Voltas.

Landlocked, it straddles crest of the Nile-Congo watershed; the Kagera drains into Lake Victoria is the most remote headstream of the White Nile.

Cabo Verde
Strategic location 500 km from west coast of Africa near major north-south sea routes; important communications station; important sea and air refueling site.

Sometimes referred to as the hinge of Africa because of its central location on the continent and its position at the west-south juncture of the Gulf of Guinea; throughout the country there are areas of thermal springs and indications of current or prior volcanic activity; Mount Cameroon, the highest mountain in Sub-Saharan west Africa, is an active volcano.

The Central African Republic
Landlocked, almost the precise center of Africa.

Chad is the largest of Africa's 16 landlocked.  What is today the Sahara desert was green savannah teeming with wildlife; during the African Humid Period, roughly 11,000 to 5,000 years ago, a vibrant animal community, including elephants, giraffes, hippos, and antelope, lived there; the last remnant of the Green Sahara exists in the Lakes of Ounianga in northern Chad, a series of 18 interconnected freshwater, saline, and hypersaline lakes now protected as a World Heritage site. Lake Chad, the most significant water body in the Sahel, is a remnant of a former inland sea, paleolake Mega-Chad; at its greatest extent, sometime before 5000 B.C., Lake Mega-Chad was the largest of four Saharan paleolakes that existed during the African Humid Period; it covered an area of about 400,000 sq km or 150,000 sq miles, roughly the size of today's Caspian Sea countries.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo
DRC is the second largest country in Africa after Algeria and the largest country in Sub-Saharan Africa; it straddles the equator; dense tropical rainforest in the central river basin and eastern highlands; the narrow strip of land that controls the lower Congo River is the DRC's only outlet to the South Atlantic Ocean. Because of its speed, cataracts, rapids, and turbulence the Congo River, most of which flows through the DRC, has never been accurately measured along much of its length; nonetheless, it is conceded to be the deepest river in the world; estimates of its greatest depth vary between 220 and 250 meters.

Republic of the Congo
About 70% of the population lives in Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire, or along the railroad between.

Côte d'Ivoire
Most of the inhabitants live along the sandy coastal region; apart from the capital area, the forested interior is sparsely populated.

Strategic location near world's busiest shipping lanes and close to Arabian oil fields; terminus of rail traffic into Ethiopia; mostly wasteland; Lac Assal is the lowest point in Africa and the saltiest lake in the world.

Controls Sinai Peninsula, only land bridge between Africa and remainder of Eastern Hemisphere; controls Suez Canal, a sea link between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea; size, and juxtaposition to Israel, establish its major role in Middle Eastern geopolitics; dependence on upstream neighbors; dominance of Nile basin issues; prone to influxes of refugees from Sudan and the Palestinian territories.

Equatorial Guinea
Insular and continental regions widely separated.

Strategic geopolitical position along world's busiest shipping lanes; Eritrea retained the entire coastline of Ethiopia along the Red Sea upon de jure independence from Ethiopia on 24 May 1993.

Landlocked - entire coastline along the Red Sea was lost with the de jure independence of Eritrea on 24 May 1993; Ethiopia is, therefore, the most populous landlocked country in the world; the Blue Nile, the chief headstream of the Nile by water volume, rises in Lake Tana in northwest Ethiopia; three major crops are believed to have originated in Ethiopia: coffee, grain sorghum, and castor bean.

Landlocked; almost completely surrounded by South Africa.

A small population and oil and mineral reserves have helped Gabon become one of Africa's wealthier countries; in general, these circumstances have allowed the country to maintain and conserve its pristine rainforest and rich biodiversity.

The Gambia
Almost an enclave of Senegal; the smallest country on the African mainland.

Lake Volta is the world's largest man-made reservoir by surface area 8,482 sq km; 3,275 sq mi; the lake was created following the completion of the Akosombo Dam in 1965, which holds back the White Volta and Black Volta Rivers.

This small country is swampy along its western coast and low-lying inland.

The Niger and its important tributary the Milo River have their sources in the Guinean highlands.

The Kenyan Highlands comprise one of the most successful agricultural production regions in Africa; glaciers are found on Mount Kenya, Africa's second highest peak; unique physiography supports abundant and varied wildlife of scientific and economic value.

Landlocked, completely surrounded by South Africa; mountainous, more than 80% of the country is 1,800 m above sea level.

Facing the Atlantic Ocean, the coastline is characterized by lagoons, mangrove swamps, and river-deposited sandbars; the inland grassy plateau supports limited agriculture.

More than 90% of the African country of Libya is desert or semi-desert.

World's fourth-largest island; strategic location along the Mozambique Channel; despite Madagascar’s close proximity to the African continent, ocean currents isolate the island resulting in high rates of endemic plant and animal species.

Landlocked; Lake Nyasa, some 580 km long, is the country's most prominent physical feature; it contains more fish species than any other lake on earth.

Landlocked; divided into three natural zones: the southern, cultivated Sudanese; the central, semiarid Sahelian; and the northern, arid Saharan.

Mauritania is considered both a part of North African Maghreb region and West Africa's Sahel region; most of the population is concentrated in the cities of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou and along the Senegal River in the southern part of the country.

The main island, from which the country derives its name, is of volcanic origin and is almost entirely surrounded by coral reefs; former home of the dodo, a large flightless bird related to pigeons, driven to extinction by the end of the 17th century through a combination of hunting and the introduction of predatory species.

Strategic location along Strait of Gibraltar; the only African nation to have both Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines.

The Zambezi River flows through the north-central and most fertile part of the country.

The first country in the world to incorporate the protection of the environment into its constitution; some 14% of the land is protected, including virtually the entire Namib Desert coastal strip.

The Niger River enters the country in the northwest and flows southward through tropical rain forests and swamps to its delta in the Gulf of Guinea.

Landlocked; one of the hottest countries in the world; northern four-fifths is desert, southern one-fifth is savanna, suitable for livestock and limited agriculture.

Landlocked; most of the country is savanna grassland with the population predominantly rural.

Sao Tome and Principe
The smallest country in Africa; the two main islands form part of a chain of extinct volcanoes and both are mountainous.

Westernmost country on the African continent; The Gambia is almost an enclave within Senegal.

Smallest African country; the constitution of the Republic of Seychelles lists 155 islands: 42 granitic and 113 corallines; by far the largest island is Mahe, which is home to about 90% of the population and the site of the capital city of Victoria.

Sierra Leone
Rainfall along the coast can reach 495 cm or 195 inches a year, making it one of the wettest places along coastal, western Africa.

Strategic location on the Horn of Africa along southern approaches to Bab el Mandeb and route through the Red Sea and Suez Canal.

South Africa
South Africa completely surrounds Lesotho and almost completely surrounds eSwatini formerly known as Swaziland.

South Sudan
Landlocked; The Sudd is a vast swamp in South Sudan, formed by the White Nile, comprising more than 15% of the country's total area; it is one of the world's largest wetlands.

The Nile is Sudan's primary water source; its major tributaries, the White Nile and the Blue Nile, meet at Khartoum to form the River Nile which flows northward through Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea.

Kilimanjaro is the highest point in Africa and one of only two mountains on the continent that has glaciers, the other is Mount Kenya, bordered by three of the largest lakes on the continent: Lake Victoria, the world's second-largest freshwater lake, in the north, Lake Tanganyika, the world's second deepest, in the west, and Lake Nyasa in the southwest.

The country's length allows it to stretch through six distinct geographic regions; climate varies from tropical to savanna.

Strategic location in the central Mediterranean; Malta and Tunisia are discussing the commercial exploitation of the continental shelf between their countries, particularly for oil exploration.

Landlocked; fertile, well-watered country with many lakes and rivers.

Landlocked; the Zambezi forms a natural riverine boundary with Zimbabwe; Lake Kariba on the Zambia-Zimbabwe border forms the world's largest reservoir by volume.

Landlocked; the Zambezi forms a natural riverine boundary with Zambia; in full flood (February-April) the massive Victoria Falls on the river forms the world's largest curtain of falling water; Lake Kariba on the Zambia-Zimbabwe border forms the world's largest reservoir by volume (180 cu km; 43 cu mi).

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