Africa is one of the most incredible continents on the planet. A truly diverse region home to much of the world’s most famous wildlife, it is also an incredible region for commerce and culture. It’s one of the biggest continents on the globe full stop, meaning that it’s unlikely you will be able to cover it all in one sitting! Each country has its own unique history and story to tell – which is why it is well worth diving deep and doing some further reading!
To start you off, we thought we’d set you up with a larger fact file than normal on Africa, stretching from the North to the South – how much do you really know about the second-biggest continent? Get ready to learn 56 interesting facts about Africa…
1. Pre and post colonialism
Africa is home to 54 different countries, though there were 10,000 different states split across the continent before colonisation.
2. A very, very large continent
Africa’s land is thought to account for 5.7% of the Earth’s surface. This might not sound like much, but it actually makes up 30% of the total land on Earth full stop. You have to remember that much of the planet is water! The total area of Africa reaches around 30 million square km – a staggering amount of land!
3. Culturally diverse
It’s thought that Africa contributes 25% of all languages spoken across the world, numbering up to 2,000 or more at last count. It’s one of the most culturally diverse continents.
4. Learn some Arabic – it’ll be useful
The most-spoken language in Africa is Arabic, amongst the hundreds of tongues and dialects shared across the nations.
5. Or perhaps learn French instead…
Over 50% of all French-speaking people live across Africa.
6. A Portuguese connection…
There are more people who speak Portuguese in Angola than there are in Portugal itself.
7. Chinese influence in Africa
It’s thought that much of Africa is undergoing a form of ‘neo-colonialism’. For example, around a million Chinese people live across the continent at last count.
8. It’s highly populated
Africa is home to around 3,000 different groups and ethnicities, which include traditional tribes and communities. Nigeria alone is thought to be home to around 370 different tribes which are officially recognised worldwide. Around 12% of the world’s population lives in Africa, helping to make it the second-most populous continent on the planet.
9. Continuous growth
After Asia, Africa remains the most populous continent on Earth, with around 1.1 billion people living up and down the region. It’s thought that around 2.3 billion people will be living in Africa by 2050, should birth rates and figures persist. Africa’s birth rates are colossal compared to many other territories worldwide. Niger alone takes the top spot globally, while Mali and Uganda follow in second and third.
10. Africa’s youth
Africa is an extremely young continent. It is thought that more than 50% of the people living across the region are younger than 25 years old.
11. Surrounded by land
Africa boasts 16 countries which are completely landlocked. Among these are Lesotho and Swaziland.
12. Religious beliefs
Africa is a very religious continent, though there are clear splits in faith up and down the region. It is predominantly Muslim, though Islam and Christianity contribute to at least 85% of faith on the continent. Millions more people don’t follow a faith at all, or actually choose to follow tribal beliefs and traditional systems.
13. A very dry continent
Australia is still the driest continent worldwide, but Africa isn’t far behind in second place – the Sahara is, at least in part, to blame for that statistic.
14. The hottest African country
Libya is home to the hottest place in the world on record, specifically out in Al’Aziziyah.
15. The Equator runs through it
The equator effectively splits Africa in half and actually travels through several countries, such as Uganda and Kenya.
16. Interestingly, Africa is wide as it is long!
Africa, amazingly, seems to be as wide as it is long. North to South and East to West, length, and breadth, are approximately the same.
17. It has a short coastline
Africa actually has the shortest coastline of all continents, despite being the second-largest on Earth. Quite how this works mathematically – we’ll get back to you.
18. Deforestation in Africa
Africa suffers from extensive mass deforestation. It is thought that around four million hectares of forest are felled year on year across the continent. In fact, forests in Africa are thought to be shrinking at a rate of 0.6% each year.
19. Natural features
The majority of Africa, despite its dense population, is actually savannah and grassland. It’s also home to dry deserts, mountains, rainforests, plains, and more. If there’s a natural feature that exists, you may well find it somewhere in Africa.
20. The first human on Earth
Africa is long thought to be the first place where humans emerged. Fossils suggest that we first started emerging and forming societies here as far back as seven million years back ago! In fact, Charles Darwin, author of the Origin of Species, first proposed that people emerged from Africa before anywhere else.
21. The bloodiest conflict on Earth
Africa was host to what remains the bloodiest conflict in civilised human history. The Second Congo War is said to have seen more than 5.4 million people die in conflict and attacks.
22. Education that goes way back
Africa has a fascinating educational history. It’s home to one of the oldest universities in the world, with Timbuktu having set up at least three of them by the 12th Century. You’ll find Timbuktu out in Mali.
23. Ancient Kahun
The oldest city in the world – at least, the oldest with a formal plan – is Kahun, in Egypt.
24. Some very old bones…
‘Lucy’ was the name given to the world’s oldest skeleton, found in Ethiopia. She’s estimated to be around 3.2 million years old and was named after the song ‘Lucy in The Sky With Diamonds’, a song by The Beatles that was playing on the radio when she was discovered in the early 1970s.
25. English words with African roots
We have much African language to thanks for some of the oldest English words. For example, the words jazz, coffee, aardvark, safari, zombie, and jamboree have African roots.
Africa: The biggest, longest, tallest, smallest…
26. A wild giant!
A well-known fact is that the Sahara is the biggest desert in the world. Maybe a lesser-known one is that Western Sahara remains the only area in Africa which is non-governed.
27. Biggest city, longest river
Egypt’s capital city, Cairo is the biggest city in Africa, and is home to more than nine million people. Egypt also boasts the longest river – The Nile. It measures in at over 4,160 miles.
28. The tallest mountain
Mount Kilimanjaro is the biggest mountain in Africa and is found in Tanzania. It stretches up to over 19,300ft in height!
29. So many species…
Africa plays host to some of the biggest diversities of animals across the world. For example, there are more species of fish, numbering over 500, in Lake Malawi than anywhere else on the planet. Also, there are thought to be more than 2,300 different species of birds native to the continent alone. This is said to account for around 25% of all species of bird worldwide!
30. Lake Victoria
The biggest lake on the continent is Lake Victoria, with a mass of 26,828 square miles.
Africa has many islands, though Madagascar is one of the most fascinating. It is home to some exclusive wildlife, specifically the ring-tailed lemur. It is also one of the largest islands on the planet, ranking in the top five for size.
32. The biggest cities
Africa is home to some of the biggest cities on Earth, many of which are huge commerce hubs, and which are big tourist destinations. These include Nairobi, Casablanca, and Cape Town.
33. The greatest canyon
The Blyde River Canyon is a record-holder as far as canyons worldwide are concerned. It is the world’s third-biggest and is thought to be the biggest green canyon of its kind. You’ll find it in South Africa.
34. The biggest and the tallest animals
Africa is home to both the biggest and the tallest animals on land – the tallest, of course, is the giraffe, while the largest land animal is the African elephant.
35. Record-setting countries
The biggest country in Africa, at least by physical land area, is Algeria. However, Nigeria, again, sets records – it’s the most populated in the continent by far, with more than 145 million people calling the country home.
36. Catch the biggest African waves
Surfers love to head to Liberia each year during the warmer seasons. That’s because its famous Shipwreck Point is home to some of the biggest waves on the planet. They are certainly not for newbies or for the faint of heart!
37. The smallest African country
The smallest country in Africa is the Seychelles, a collection of stunning tropical islands. The smallest mainland country on the continent is The Gambia.
38. Surviving on the lowest of budgets
It’s thought that around 70% of the population in Africa has to live on less than $2 each day. A devastating statistic is that the ten poorest countries in the world right now can all be found in Africa.
39. The hunger issue in Africa
Famine and undernourishment are rife across states in Africa. It’s thought that more than 240 million people across the continent suffer from too low nutrition.
40. Save up before visiting Gabon!
Believe it or not, one of the most expensive cities in the world – at least to live in – can be found in Gabon. Libreville ranks in the top five!
41. Major oil producing countries
Nigeria is responsible for producing much of the world’s oil, with around 2.2 million barrels of produce coming from the country each and every day. It’s actually the top country in the continent for oil production and export, with Algeria and Angola not too far behind.
42. Minerals and metals
The continent remains hugely important for mineral resources, as around 30% of minerals are thought to emanate in Africa. Africa is home to the biggest stocks and reserves of precious minerals and metals. Around 90% of the world’s platinum comes out of Africa, with 60% of global gold heading out from here, too.
43. Africa’s gold capital
Witwatersrand in South Africa is regarded as the gold capital of the planet. So much so, that it’s thought around 50% of all gold ever mined came from the region.
44. Diamonds are forever!
Africa helps to provide at least 50% of the world’s diamonds, though, across the years, not all of these have been sourced ethically.
Interesting facts about Africa
45. Take care crossing the streets in Africa
Africa is also home to several of the world’s most dangerous roads. Specifically, Libya, Egypt, and Eritrea all rank in the global top three. It’s safe to say that you had better watch where you walk the next time you try to cross anywhere in these countries.
Paradise Benin is regarded as the twin capital of the world. It’s thought that around 27 births in every 1,000 here result in twins, around 13 cases more than the global average.
47. Tourism hotspots
Egypt remains the most popular tourist hotspot on the continent, as it’s said to welcome a staggering 10 million people each year.
48. And malaria hotspots too
In fact, around 90% of all malaria cases are thought to take place in the continent.
49. Dangerous Africa
Some of the most dangerous cities and zones in the world are found in Africa. The most dangerous city is Mogadishu, Somalia. However, Johannesburg in South Africa is not too far behind on the global list.
50. The biggest reptile!
The Nile Crocodile is the biggest reptile on the planet, and as its name suggests, it has a home in the African wilds.
51. The deadliest animals
Africa is home to some truly deadly animals, but the hippo, found in the wild across the continent, is easily the deadliest of them all – believe it or not!
52. A rain misunderstanding
It’s a misnomer that Africa never receives any rain. While the Sahara is intensely dry, you’ll find huge rainfall rates up at Mount Cameroon, with around 950cm experienced year on year.
53. There are no tigers
54. There’s a pink lake!
There is a pink lake in Africa, which you will find out in Senegal. Don’t worry – it’s not filled with Pepto-Bismol!
55. Sahara, a Star Wars set
Much of the Star Wars saga was filmed in Africa, specifically the Sahara Desert. However, over time, the sand has started creeping back over any artefacts and pieces left behind.
56. What can we learn from Africa?
Africa burns more biomass than any other continent. However, its CO2 emissions are amongst the world’s lowest – contributing around 4%. We can probably learn a lot from these figures!
Do you know any fun facts about Africa? Share them in the comments below!