These interesting facts about Africa will make you realize just how incredible the continent is: Africa is the second-largest continent by landmass and population, Africa is composed of 54 countries and one territory, over 2,000 languages are spoken, and is the world’s poorest and most undeveloped continent.
There are many interesting and informative facts about the continent of Africa, ranging from the geography of the continent to the lifestyles of its inhabitants.
“I never knew of a morning in Africa in which I woke up and was not happy.” — Ernest Hemingway
This article will examine at least 25 surprising and interesting facts about the continent.
Facts About Africa’s Geography:
- Africa was once attached to a massive supercontinent called Pangea. Pangea broke apart over millions of years, and it’s thought that Africa diverged from Europe and Asia around 65 million years ago during the Cretaceous era.
- Africa is the world’s second-largest continent in terms of land area. It has an area of around 11.7 million square miles or 30.37 million square kilometers. This means that Africa contains about a fifth of the world’s total landmass. Its size on most maps is altered to get it to fit into a map of the world, in reality, it’s bigger than the United States, China, India, Western Europe, and Mexico combined.
- Africa is located right in the center of the globe, according to lines of latitude and longitude. The equator (0 degrees latitude) and the prime meridian (0 degrees longitude) both cut across the continent.
- The shortest distance between the African continent and the European continent is a scant 8.9 miles or 14 kilometers. It’s at the Strait of Gibraltar, between the countries of Spain and Morocco. There’s been a discussion about building a crossing between the two countries by their respective governments.
- Africa has many islands off its coasts, hosting a wide variety of life. The largest of these islands is Madagascar, which sits near the Indian Ocean. Madagascar also happens to be the fourth largest island in the world.
- The highest point in Africa is Mt. Kilimanjaro, located in the country of Tanzania. Kilimanjaro is a long-dormant volcano that rises about 19,340 feet or 5895 meters above sea level.
- Africa’s lowest point is Lake Assal, which can be found in the Djibouti region. It’s a crater lake that sits about 508 feet or 155 meters below sea level. The level of salt in the Lake is about ten times higher than that of the nearby Red Sea.
- Africa is home to both the second-largest freshwater lake in the world and the longest freshwater lake in the world. Lake Victoria, which sits on the borders of Kenya and Tanzania, is the second-largest freshwater lake on the globe. Lake Victoria is one of the main sources of water for the Nile River. Lake Tanganyika is actually the longest lake in the entire world, and by itself, it forms the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania. It has a surface area of 32,900 km2 or 12,700 square miles.
Facts About Africa’s People:
“Africa changes you forever, like nowhere on Earth. Once you have been there, you will never be the same.” — Brian Jackman
- World civilization came out of Africa, originating somewhere in South to East Africa, and expanding from there into Egypt and the Fertile Crescent. Australopithecus, a species of ape thought to be a predecessor to the genus Homo, and thus to Homo Sapiens, was discovered in a lime quarry in South Africa.
- About 1.215 billion people live on the African continent, making up about 15% of the world’s population. A vast amount of languages are spoken by these people, with official estimates ranging from between 1500 to upwards of 2000. Arabic is the most widely spoken language on the continent, spoken by about 170 million people. Other common languages include English, which is spoken by 130 million people, Swahili (spoken by approximately 100 million people), and French (spoken by around 115 million people).
- Africa’s primary religion is Islam. After Islam, Christianity is the second largest religion on the continent.
- Equatorial Guinea is the richest country in Sub-Saharan Africa. Its income is around 80 times higher than that of neighboring countries such as Zimbabwe.
- In terms of energy consumption, South Africa consumes the most electricity per person a year. The average per capita consumption of electricity in South Africa is about 4224.80 KWh, as of 2014.
- There are 54 countries in Africa, according to the UN. This number fluctuates a bit depending on who you ask, and if certain non-self governing territories can be recognized as nations. Most of these borders for these countries were drawn during the “scramble for Africa” a period of colonialism which saw almost all of Africa colonized by foreign powers except for what is now Liberia and Ethiopia.
- Though trade partners fluctuate between countries, in general, China is Africa’s biggest trade partner. Trade with China accounts for about $200 billion dollars a year for the entire continent.
- Over half, 55% of Africa’s labor force, is in the food production sector. There are large areas of land throughout the continent dedicated solely to agriculture. Unfortunately, some 90% of the soil in Africa isn’t usable for agriculture, leading to deforestation in attempts to clear land for farming.
- Many parts of Africa suffer from water scarcity and food scarcity issues. Around 300 million Africans must deal with water scarcity and about 240 million suffer from undernourishment.
Facts About Africa’s Animals And Ecosystem:
- Africa is home to a wide number of different biomes and ecosystems. There are 8 different major biomes in Africa: Mediterranean, semi-desert, desert, temperate grassland, montane, tropical rainforest, dry savanna, and moist savanna.
- The continent is home to megafauna not found anywhere else in the world, such as hippos, gorillas, zebras, giraffes, and wildebeest.
- The African elephant is the largest living land animal in the world. The African elephant can weigh up to 7 tons and be 11 feet (3.4 meters) tall. The large ears of African elephants enable them to hear each other’s calls up to 4 kilometers or 2.5 miles away.
- Africa has over 3,000 protected sites in it, with almost 200 protected marine areas and 50 different biosphere reserves. Unfortunately, many of the protected sites are being encroached upon anyway by development.
- There are around 1,100 different species of mammals on the African continent and around 2600 different bird species living on the continent. Birds like parrots, ostriches, starlings, cranes, eagles, and even penguins can sometimes be found on the continent
- The Nile crocodile can grow quite long, being an average of five meters or 16.4 feet long. Nile crocodiles can be quite aggressive and are known to kill hundreds of people every year. They are actually less dangerous than the hippopotamus, which kills more people on average. Male hippos are known for being extremely territorial and will attack most things that enter into their territory.
- The Thomson’s Gazelle is one of the fastest animals on the planet, capable of reaching speeds up to about 55 miles per hour, or 88.5 kilometers an hour. The gazelles engage in a behavior called stotting, which is jumping into the air in a display of strength and acrobatics. One theory for this behavior is that it displays their good health and agility potential predators, trying to convince predators that they would be difficult to catch.
- While Africa is home to a wide variety of life today, it was also home to dinosaurs millions of years ago. The oldest known dinosaur fossils were unearthed in Tanzania, representing a dinosaur called Nyasasaurus parringtoni, which was believed to have lived on the continent approximately 240 million years ago.