Africa is an amazing continent that is distinctly unique among the seven continents. Africa is rich in cultural heritage and diversity, a wealth of natural resources, offers breathtaking tourist attractions, and contains some of the most intricate political systems. Explore this incredible continent with some of the most interesting facts about Africa.
Facts About Africa
- Africa is the second-largest continent in the world both in size and population. As of 2009, about 14.7 percent of the world’s population resides in Africa.
- Africa is home to over 1 billion people who speak over 1,500 different languages. One in every four of the world’s language are spoken only in Africa.
- Africa’s total size is roughly 11.7 square miles, representing about a fifth of the earth’s total landmass. This makes it larger than India, China, Mexica, and USA’s and a huge chunk of Europe combined.
- During the early Mesozoic Era, Africa was attached to all the other continents to form one gigantic continental landmass called Pangea. Pangea later broke apart to form the world’s continents as we know them today.
- Despite Africa being the second-largest continent in the world, it has the shortest coastline. This is due to the many bays and edges that extend out of the coastline.
- World civilization began in Africa. The Pharaonic civilization of ancient Egypt is the oldest literate civilization. According to historical records, the Egyptian state dates back to about 3300 B.C.
- Islam is the dominant religion in Africa. Christianity is the second. Arabic is also the most widely-spoken language in Africa.
- About 38% of all Christians are projected to be living in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) by 2050.
- Africa is the most centrally located continent in the world. Both the prime meridian (0 degrees longitude), and the equator (0 degrees latitude) cut across it.
- Africa’s largest country is Sudan. It has a total area of 967,940 square miles (2.5 million km2). The smallest country on the continent is The Seychelles, which is an island nation covering just 453 km2 (175 miles2).
- Nigeria has the highest population (154.7 million people) in Africa. This represents 18% of Africa’s total population.
- South Africa has the highest GDP (($182 billion) in Africa. Guinea Bissau has the lowest at $230 million.
- The richest SSA country in terms of Gross National Income (GNI) per capita is Equatorial Guinea. This is 83 times higher than that of Zimbabwe which is the poorest in terms of GNI per capita.
- 21 percent of SSA nations have one or two products accounting for their total exports. Most of these exports are in form of agricultural produce.
- As of 2008, South Africa consumes the most electricity per person (4,759.5kW/h) in Africa. Ethiopia has the least consumption (42.3 kW/h).
Africa is a vast continent, with many contrasts within it.
- Population: 1 billion, two and half times the number of people living in South America.
- Land Area: 30,343,580 square kilometres (11,715,720 square miles) which is a fifth of the total land area of the Earth.
- Countries: 54. list of countries
- Highest Peak: Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania rises to 5,895 metres (19,341 feet) above sea level.
- Largest Lake: Lake Victoria is 68,800 square kilometres (26,564 square miles) in area and is divided between three countries, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
- Longest River: The River Nile is 6,695 kilometres (4,160 miles). The longest river in the world!
- Smallest Country (by land area): The Seychelles, a group of 115 islands located north east of Madagascar.
- Biggest Country: Algeria, the tenth biggest country in the world.
- Smallest Nation (of people): Gambia.
- Languages: over 2,000 different languages.
In South Africa you are legally allowed to attach flamethrowers to your car in order to deter car jacking. Seriously.
Africa is made up of many different cultures; from Black Africans to the Arab peoples of North Africa, and White Africans, descended from the generations of European settlers that arrived, from the Netherlands, Great Britain and Germany. As a result the number of languages spoken here is huge – there are 500 languages spoken in Nigeria alone. Jambo! Have you heard of Zulu, Swahili, Sotho and Tswana?
- In Swaziland, Africa, one in every four adults is HIV positive.
- To date, over 17 million people in SSA have succumbed to AIDS. Estimates put the current number of HIV infection in Africa at 25 million people.
- 16 countries in Africa record higher rates of vaccination than the U.S. alone.
- The Second Congo War, which began in 1998 and lasted until 2006, claimed the second-highest number of casualties (5.4 million lives), after World War II. The conflict involved eight African countries.
- According to the World Bank, Seychelles had a 92 percent women literacy rate in 2010. Chad’s equivalent was 13 percent while Niger’s was 15 percent.
- As of 2010, it took 216 days to complete each procedure required to start a business in Guinea-Bissau. In Rwanda, the same took only 3 days.
- Only 24 percent of SSA’s rural population has access to standard sanitation. This is in comparison to 42 percent of the urban population with access to the same.
- Tanzania, Africa, has the world’s highest Albinism rates. In the country, Albino are hunted by witchdoctors to use their organs for rituals believed to heal diseases.
- Witwatersrand, South Africa, produces almost half of all the gold mined in Africa.
- More people speak French in Africa than do those in France.
- A single tribe in Kenya-called the “Kalenjin”-produces most of the world’s fastest long-distance runners.
- Egypt is Africa’s most popular tourist destination. The country receives over 10 million visitors every year. Cairo, Egypt’s capital city, is also Africa’s largest city.
- Women from Africa’s Mursi tribe pierce their lips and wear plates as large are 5 inches in diameter, inside them (lips).
- The national flag of Mozambique has the image of an AK-47 assault rifle embedded into it. It is the only national flag in the world featuring such a modern rifle.
- All of Africa’s nations were colonized by the Europeans except two: Ethiopia and Liberia. The former was an Orthodox Christian country, while the latter was established by African-American settlers from the United States, who previously served as slaves.
The word “Crossword” in Kiswahili, a language spoken mainly by people in eastern and central Africa is “chemshebongo” which, when translated, means “boil brains”. I suppose after trying to do the Sunday New York Times puzzle your head might feel like exploding!
Of the 1 billion people living in Africa today the differences between rich and poor here are stark. In sub-Saharan Africa (the area south of the Sahara Desert), eight of ten people live on less than $2.50 a day. But in Africa’s wealthiest cities, like Cairo and Johannesburg, foreign sports cars and grand mansion houses can been seen. Mobile phones are not just for the rich, though, in Africa. For example, more than 100,000,000 people in Nigeria use a mobile phone – well over half the population – allowing them to work,trade and simply stay in touch.
Africa has immense wealth, like precious metals, under the ground. African countries produce one third of the world’s gold supply of which half comes from South Africa. One of the continent’s richest nations, South Africa, is also the source of most of the world’s platinum and half of global chromium (the chemical element you add to iron to get the stainless steel your knife, fork and spoon are made out of).The Democratic Republic of Congo boasts 30% of the world’s diamond reserves, but war over decades within this country has affected its people, including its children.Other countries, like Libya and Nigeria have been made wealthy by selling oil. However there are many Africans whose lives remain untouched by this money.
But did you know that in Ethiopia, clocks are upside down with our 6:00 at their 12:00?
- The shortest distance between Africa and Europe is only 8.9 miles (14.3 kilometers) of ocean.
- Africa’s Nile River is the world’s longest river. It has a total length of 6,650 kilometers (4,132 miles) and cuts across 11 countries. It drains into the Mediterranean Sea from Africa’s Northeastern edge.
- The largest island in Africa, located in the Indian Ocean (off Africa’s East Coast) is Madagascar. It is also the fourth largest in the world.
- The Victoria Falls, located along the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. The Zambezi River is the fall’s main water source.
- The largest lake in Africa is Lake Victoria. It is also the second-largest freshwater lake in the world, spanning 26,830 square miles.
- Africa’s Sahara desert is the world’s largest hot desert covering 9.1 million km2. Of the deserts of the world, it is the third largest after the Arctic (second largest) and Antarctic (largest) deserts.
- Ethiopia is the only African country with its own alphabet. It’s also the world’s oldest living alphabets – Ethiopic – and probably one of the longest with its 345 letters.
- Sudan has more than 200 pyramids, double the number found in Egypt.The Meroe pyramids were part of the Nubian Kingdom of Kush and are up to 4,600 years old.
- Almost half of the gold ever mined on Earth has come from a single place – Witwatersrand, South Africa.
- While the world population is today growing slower than ten years ago, it is projected that by 2050 there will be 9.7 billion people. Of the 2.4 billion to be added to the world’s current population into that year, 1.3 billion, or more than half the growth, will be across Africa.
- Some 21 countries globally are classified as “high-fertility”, where the average woman has five or more children over her lifetime. These countries account for nine per cent of the world’s population, and 19 of them are in Africa, of which the largest are Nigeria, DRC, Tanzania and Uganda.
- Africa has approximately 30 percent of the earth’s remaining mineral resources. South Africa’s total mineral reserves alone is estimated to be worth $2.5 trillion. The continent has the largest reserves of precious metals with over 40 percent of the planet’s gold reserves, over 60 percent of the cobalt, and 90 percent of the platinum reserves.
- Arabic is spoken by 170 million people on the continent, followed in popularity by English (130 million), Swahili (100), French (115), Berber (50), Hausa (50), Portuguese (20) and Spanish (10).
- Over 50% of Africans are under the age of 25.
- The Second Congo War claimed over 5.4 million lives and is the deadliest worldwide conflict since World War II.
Millions of people visit Africa on holiday to see its famous historic sites – the most popular is the Great Pyramid of Giza, found just outside the Egyptian capital city Cairo. Africa is a land mass big enough to fit Europe into three times over. From South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope to the Suez Canal in Egypt it is 7,300 km (or 4,540 miles).
more interesting facts about Africa
Sure, there are more facts about Africa! We wouldn’t even try to cover them all. There are so many others that we probably missed that are worth sharing. But, this is where you come in. Tell us about your favorite facts about Africa in the comments below!