Africa has played a significant role in the early history of civilization. It is the cradle of humankind, and its lush rainforests and wide, open plains were the first proving grounds for our ancestors to explore and thrive.
This ancient continent – which is also the second-largest in the world, next only to Asia – has had its share of great and proud empires and countries, although it is true that many of these remain unknown as mainstream knowledge. The diverse group of 54 nations that make up Africa’s geopolitical landscape as of 2021 all deserve to be examined in their own right. Show what you know about their geography by taking our Africa map quiz online.
Perhaps the most famous African country is Egypt – the venerable land of pharaohs and gods. Ancient Egyptians built great pyramids, which the continent can proudly boast as some of mankind’s earliest marvels of construction and art.
The Nile River is usually associated with Egypt, but it actually snakes through several countries, such as Sudan, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Uganda. In fact, the water from the Nile itself comes from two lakes – Lake Tana in Ethiopia and Lake Victoria in Uganda.
The great river and its tributaries irrigate swathes of African land, allowing people to settle along the banks and grow abundant harvests in their farms. There are even plants to construct a new hydroelectric dam, which could provide power to millions of Africans in the region.
Africa can categorize its countries into five broad regions – Northern Africa, Southern Africa, West Africa, East Africa and Central Africa.
Northern Africa – which includes our aforementioned Egypt – is largely defined by its proximity and relationship to the endless dunes of the Sahara Desert. Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco are part of this region, and each occupies a portion of the coast facing the Mediterranean Sea to settle in more forgivable climates. The Western Sahara, almost completely uninhabited, is sometimes included in this region.
West Africa has quite a lot of countries for its size – 16, to be precise. Its northern part lies in the Sahel, a semi-arid transitional biome between the Sahara desert and the savannahs to its south. Some of the countries here include Niger, Nigeria, Cape Verde, Liberia, Ivory Coast and Guinea.
From space, Central Africa can appear quite green due to its concentration of rainforests and savannahs. However, its poor infrastructure, terrain, and distance from other major trade hubs contributes to its poverty and instability. People here usually migrate to other regions when they are able.
East Africa has the lion’s share of Africa’s population – with roughly 460 million people. The climate and location of this region has historically been bountiful for settlers - the region was even famous as the “Cradle of Humanity” as it contained many fossils from Man’s ancestors. Countries here include Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania and the island of Madagascar.
South Africa is the smallest region. It is, naturally, the region containing the former Commonwealth country of South Africa, as well as Lesotho, Eswatini, Namibia and Botswana.