Continent Africa

Continent Africa is the second largest continent in terms of area after Asia. It covers an area of 30,065,000 sq. km. It is also the second most populous continent after Asia. It covers 6% of Earth’s total area and 20% of its land area.

The continent is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Isthmus of Suez, and the Red Sea to the Northeast. The Indian Ocean to the Southeast and the Atlantic Ocean to the west of Africa.

  • Africa is separated from Asia by the Suez Canal, the Gulf of Suez, and the Red Sea.
  • The Strait of Gibraltar and the Mediterranean Sea separate Africa from Europe.
  • The continent includes Madagascar, Mauritius, Zanzibar, and various archipelagos.
  • The coastline of Africa is 30,539 km.
  • Out of 54 countries, 15 countries of Arica are landlocked.
  • By area, Algeria is the largest country in Africa.
  • Nigeria is the most populous country on the continent.
  • African nations cooperate through the establishment of the African Union, with headquarter in Addis Ababa.

Topography of Africa:

The great explorers David Livingstone and H.M. Stanley were the first to explore the interior of Africa, and declared it as ‘the Dark Continent’. It has 53 countries.

Africa consists a unique geographical personality with a number of outstanding relief features. Its northern coastal area is separated from the rest of the continent by the Sahara (the largest desert in the world).

Africa physical map with desrts highlands

Africa’s physical map showing deserts and highlands

Deserts of Africa:
  • Sahara Desert: covering almost one-third of the continent. It is the largest desert in the world at approximately 9,06,000 sq. km. in total size. It ranges in elevation from 100 ft below sea level to the peaks in the Ahaggar and Tibesti mountains that exceed 11,000 ft. Includes regional deserts the Libyan desert, the Nubian, and the western desert of Egypt. It s almost without rainfall.
  • Namib Desert: It is a coastal desert in Southern Africa that extends 2,000 km along the Atlantic coasts of Angola, Namibia, and South Africa.
  • Kalahari Desert: Covers areas of Botswana, the southwestern region of South Africa, and all of Western Namibia.
The highest and lowest points in the Continent of Africa:

The highest point in Africa is Mount Kilimanjaro (5,895 m), and the lowest point is Lake Assal, Djibouti (-156 m).

  • Mount Kilimanjaro is a semi-active volcano and the highest peak in Africa.
  • Mount Kenya (5,199) and Mount Elgon (4,321 m) are also of Volcanic origin.
  • The Cameroon mountains (4108 m) and the Adamawa highlands – a volcanic chain extending northeast through Cameroon, are the highest mountain in western Africa.

The Atlas Mountains of northwest Africa extend from east to west across Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco, reaching their highest elevation, 4166 m at Mount Toubkal in Morocco.

The Drakensberg, rising above 3000 meters extends through eastern South Africa and Lesotho. The high plateau stretches from Ethiopia southwest to Angola and Namibia and includes the Ethiopian massif, the East African plateau, the Ruwenzori (mountains of moon), the Muchinga mountains of Zambia, and the Bihe mountains of Angola.

The lowest part of Africa is near Lake Assal, 155m below the Sae level. Africa has the highest hydroelectric potential in the world, followed by Asia and North America.

The Great Rift Valley:

It is one of the most distinctive topographical features of Africa. It cuts into high plateaus and extends from the Dead Sea in the Middle east southward to Mozambique and Swaziland, and a distance of almost 6900 km.

  • The Northern section is filled by the Red Sea between Africa and Arabia.
  • The central section cuts through Ethiopia and divides near Lake Rudolf into two branches – The western and Eastern rifts.
    • Western rift: It arcs through Uganda to Lake Nyasa (Lake Malawi) and is occupied by Albert, Edward, Kivu, and Tanganyika Lakes.
    • The Eastern rift cuts through Kenya and Tanzania and joins the western rift near Nyasa.
Africa as a Part of Gondwanaland:

Present-day Continent Africa was once part of the supercontinent known as Gondwanaland including South America, Antarctica, Australia, Madagascar, and peninsular India. These landmasses drifted apart during the late Jurassic and early Cretaceous periods, but in comparison to other continents, Africa remained relatively stable.

  • About 80 million years ago South America was separated from Africa.
  • As Gondwana fractured and drifted, Africa, acquired its scarp-dominated coastline, interior seas that occupied shallow depressions emptied and rivers carved steep gorges and formed new courses.
  • Volcanic outpourings covered vast areas of eastern and Southern Africa.
  • Africa is a massive crystalline platform of ancient granites, schists, and gneisses the oldest of which are more than 3.2 million years old.

Rivers of Continent Africa:

Main rivers of Africa: Nile, Congo, Niger, Zambezi, Orange, Senegal, and Limpopo. The highland of Futa Jallon of Guinea and Liberia contains the sources of West Africa’s largest rivers as Nizer (Djout) and Senegal.

River Nile: It is the world’s longest river (6650 km) and rises in Burundi and Uganda in equatorial East Africa from Lake Victoria. It has formed a delta covering an area of about 25000 sq. km.

Main tributaries of Nile:

  • The Blue Nile rises in the headwaters of Lake Tana – Ethiopia.
  • White Nile has the source of the headwaters of the Kagera River.
  • The Aswan Dam and Lake Nasser now regulate the flow of water downstream to the densely settled farmland of lower Egypt.

River Congo (Zaire): It is the second largest river (4670 km) in Africa. Zaire has 13% of the world’s hydroelectric power potential. The Congo Drains an area larger than the Nile.

River Niger: It is the third largest river in Africa. Niger rises in the Futa Jallon of West Africa. It flows northeast through the Djout basin of Mali and then southward to Nigeria to form a delta on the Gulf of Guinea.

River Zambezi (2650 km): It rises in southcentral Africa and flows east over the majestic Victoria Falls and through a narrow gorge between Zimbabwe and Zambia to the Indian Ocean in Central Mozambique.

River Orange (2100 km): the river rises in the Drakensberg and flows west through South Africa to the Atlantic.


Important basins of Africa:
  • The Sudan Basin
  • The Chad Basin
  • The Djout Basin
  • The Congo Basin
  • The Kalahari Basin

Lakes: Africa has numerous lakes of greats economic potential.

Major dams on rivers: Africa has 40% of the hydroelectric potential of the world. Zaire alone has about 20% of the hydroelectric power potential of the world. The African countries have constructed a number of hydroelectric projects.

Some important projects are:

  • Aswan Dam on the Nile River in Egypt
  • Cabora Bassa dam in Mozambique
  • Inga Dam in Zaire
  • Akosombo Dam in Ghana
  • Kainji and Jo’s project in Nigeria
  • Kariba Dam is shared by Zambia and Zimbabwe
Largest Countries of Continent Africa: (Area wise)
  1. Algeria: 919,595 sq. miles
  2. Democratic Republic of the Congo: 905,355 sq. miles
  3. Sudan: 728,215 sq. miles
  4. Libya: 700,000 sq. miles
  5. Chad: 496,000 sq. miles


The climate in Continent Africa :

The line of the equator divides the continent into almost two equal parts. The climate of Africa is predominantly tropical.

  • Limited areas of subtropical and tropical climates are found only at the northern and southern extremities and at high altitudes of Ethiopia and East Africa.
  • The highest temperature of 58°C in Africa was recorded at Al-Azizia (Libya), while the lowest temperature of -24°C was recorded at Ifrane (Morocco).
  • Rainfall is heaviest along the coast of the Gulf of Guinea, in the equatorial lowland facing at Atlantic in the scattered mountain locations, and in eastern Madagascar. The mean annual rainfall in these areas is around 203cm.
  • The wettest place in Africa is in Western Cameroon – 1016 cm rainfall.
  • In Sahara, Kalahari, and Namibia it is less than 15 cm, as the rainfall decrease with the increase of distance from the equator.
Climatic zones of Continent Africa:

On the basis of climates of the Africa, it may be divided into six climatic zones:

  1. The tropical wet climate zone: It is found on both sides of the equator, especially on the western half of the continent. In this climate, the mean monthly temperature remains more than 25˚C throughout the year. Each month the rainfall is more than 10cm.
    • These areas are covered with thick, evergreen, equatorial rainforests.
  2. The Tropical wet dry climate: The climate consists long dry season and a short wet season. The zone is found at 15° N and 15° S. The zone is covered by tall grasses and deciduous trees and it is very rich in wildlife.
  3. The tropical steppe climatic zone: The Savanna climatic zone gives way to tropical steppes, the rainfall is light and highly variable from year to year, and prolonged droughts are common in this area. The steppes of west and central North Africa, South of the Sahara desert are called the Sahel, it is the border of the desert.
  4. The Tropical desert zone: The desert of Shara, Kalahari, and Namibia have a hot tropical desert climate.
  5. The Mediterranean climatic zone: It covers coastal Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope. This climate consists of hot and long summers and mild moist winters.
  6. The Humid subtropical climatic zone: It is found along South Africa’s Natal coast.
Natural vegetation in Africa:
  • Africa has great diversity in natural vegetation.
  • In the equatorial forest, the growth of trees is luxurious, and epiphytes are found abundant in these forests.
  • Salient features of equatorial evergreen forests are broad evergreen leaves, shining waxy leafy surfaces, and epiphytes.
  • Overgrazing in the Sahel region has destroyed the short grassland ecology and accentuated desert encroachment.
  • Stands of pine, juniper, cork, cedar, and olive are found in the Mediterranean climatic zone.
Animal life in Africa:

Like vegetation, animal life has also great diversity in Africa.

  • Among the truly indigenous African animals are the Aardvark and whale-headed stork of Nilotic marshes.
  • African rainforests contain gorillas, chimpanzees, monkeys, wild pigs, and bongos.
  • Tropical rivers, lakes, and swamps have crocodiles, hippopotamuses, lizards, snakes, and an abundance of birds including flamingos, pelicans, herons, storks, and kingfishers.
  • The grassland of the east and south contains some of the world’s largest herds of elephants, rhinoceroses, giraffes, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, and jackals.
Soils: Only a few areas of Africa possess fertile soils.
  • The richest soils are alluviums, associated with the rivers of Africa.
  • Among the riches, the most productive alluvial soils are those along Senegal, the central reaches of Niger and lower Juba, at the confluence of White and Blue Niles in central Sudan, and in the delta of the Nile River.
  • the Non-alluvial good-quality soils are found in the High Veld of South Africa and in parts of Kenya and Cameroon.

    Mineral resources: Africa has an abundance of mineral resources that provide the bulk of foreign revenue in several states. The largest reserves are found in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Nigeria.

    Important major minerals found in Africa:

    • Petroleum: States including Angola, Algeria, Libya, and Nigeria.
    • Iron ore: South Africa, Liberia, Mauritania
    • Copper: Zambia.
    • Uranium: widely distributed but significant deposits in Soth Africa, Niger Namibia, and Gabon.
    • Gold: South Africa,
    • Diamond and varieties o precious stones: South Africa, Botswana.

    People in Africa:

    At present, the Continent of Africa consists of people of diverse races and ethnic groups. The major groups are:

    • Along the Mediterranean Sea and the state of Sahara Semitics, Berbers, and Tuaregs are the dominant groups.
    • In the Sahara sedentary farmers: Husa, Fulani, Bambara, and Wolof.
    • Somali and Galla are dominant in Somalia and Ethiopia.
    • Dinka and Nuer in Upper Nile (Sudan).
    • Yoruba and Ibo in Nigeria.
    • Sahanti and Ga of Ghana
    • In the forest of equatorial Africa the Fang, pygmy, and others.
    • In the East of African Savana the Masai, kikuyu and Kamba
    • Luo and Baganda along the north shore of Lake Victoria.

    Religion: Islam is the dominant religion in Northern Africa. Christians are also in Africa. About 40% of the total population follows traditional tribal religion and animism.

    Languages: According to an estimate, there are between 1,000 to 1,800 languages in Africa but five major languages are recognized. These include Berber, Kushitic, Semitic, Chad, and Coptic languages.

    Apart from the five languages, there are many European languages such as English, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Germany have been superimposed by Europeans.

    • English is the official language or one of the two languages in ex-British colonies, except in Tanzania, where Swahili has been adopted.
    • French is the official language in most former French possessions south of the Sahara.
    • Arabic is the official language of many Saharan states like Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libia, Egypt, Sudan, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, etc.


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