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Africa facts for kids

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World map showing where Africa is
Area 11,730,000 sq mi (30,400,000 km2)  (2nd)
Population 1,275,920,972 (2018; 2nd)
Population density 94/sq mi (36/km2)
GDP (nominal) $2.45 trillion (2019; 5th)
GDP (PPP) $7.16 trillion (2019; 5th)
GDP per capita $1,930 (2019; 6th)
Demonym African
Countries 54 (and 2 disputed)
Languages 1250–3000 native languages
Time zones UTC-1 to UTC+4
Largest cities Largest urban areas:

Africa is the second largest continent in the world (after Asia). It makes up about one-fifth of the world's land. It is surrounded by large areas of water. There are 54 fully recognized and independent countries in Africa, and 16.72% (1.4 billion) of the world's population lives there. It is thought to be the continent where the first humans evolved.


Civilizations before European colonization.

The history of Africa begins from the first modern human beings and leads to its present difficult state as a politically developing continent.

Africa's ancient historic period includes the rise of Egyptian civilization, as well as the further development of societies outside the Nile River Valley and how they interacted with civilizations outside of Africa. In the late 7th century, Islam spread to North and East Africa. That led to the appearance of new cultures such as those of the Swahili people, and the Mali Empire, whose king, Mansa Musa, became one of the richest and most influential people of the early 14th century. This also led to an increase in the slave trade that had a very bad influence on the development of the whole continent until the 19th century.


Slavery has long been practiced in Africa. Between the 7th and 20th centuries, the Arab slave trade took 18 million slaves from Africa via trans-Saharan (across the Sahara) and Indian Ocean routes.

Between the 15th and the 19th centuries (500 years), the Atlantic slave trade took an estimated 7–12 million slaves to the New World.

Between 1808 and 1860, the British Navy captured approximately 1,600 slave ships and freed 150,000 Africans who were aboard.

Colonial Africa 1914 map
Areas of Africa under the control or influence of European nations in 1914 (at the outbreak of World War I).


In the late nineteenth century, Europe took over much of the land and created many colonial and dependent territories. They left only three fully independent states: Darwiish State, (also spelled Daraawiish State), Ethiopia (known to Europeans as "Abyssinia"), and Liberia.

Egypt and Sudan were never formally merged into any European colonial empire. However, after the British occupation of 1882, Egypt was effectively under British control until 1922.

Modern history

African independence movements had their first success in 1951 when Libya became the first former colony to become independent. Modern African history has been full of revolutions and wars. The African economy has grown and countries have become democratized.

A civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) began in 1998. Neighboring African countries have become involved. Since the conflict began, 5.5 million are estimated to have died as a result of it.

Political associations such as the African Union offer hope for greater co-operation and peace between the continent's many countries.


Vegetation Africa
Biomes of Africa

From north to south, Africa has most types of climate. In order from north to south, they are:

Running northeast to the south is the East African Great Rift Valley. This has mountains, volcanoes, deep rifts and valleys, rivers, and lakes.


Rain shadow
The rainshadow concept, but with the wind coming from the west
Africa FebAug
This picture shows where vegetation is most common in February and August (before and after the summer).

Most of North Africa is made up of the Sahara Desert: it is dry and hot and does not receive much rain. Rivers and water sources are scarce in Saharan Africa. Underground water sources, such as springs are very important in the desert. These often form oases. An oasis is an area of vegetation (plant life) surrounded by desert.

There are two rain shadows that are responsible for the Sahara Desert. In that part of the world, the wind comes mainly from the east. That does bring rain, but the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau block the monsoon rain and prevent it from getting to North Africa. Also, the Atlas Mountains near the north coast of Africa prevent rain from coming in from the north.

Conditions and winds are different further south, where huge amounts of rain fall near the equator. The equator runs across the middle of Africa (see the red line drawn on the map). That means much of Africa is between the two tropics:

Plants and animals

This oasis in Libya is surrounded by plant life.

Africa has many types of wildlife. In particular, it is now the only continent that has many native species of large mammals. Some of them occur in very large numbers. There are antelope, buffalo, zebras, cheetahs, elephants, lions, giraffes, rhinoceros, apes, hyenas, and many more. Over 2,000 types of fish live in African lakes and rivers.


The African Union (AU) is an International organization. It was created to help maintain peace among Africa's many countries. It has a parliamentary government, known as the African Union Government, consisting of legislative, judicial, and executive parts. It is led by the African Union President and Head of State, who is also the President of the Pan African Parliament. A person becomes President of the AU by being elected to the PAP and then gaining majority support in the PAP.

Extensive human rights abuses still occur in several parts of Africa, often under the direction of the state. Most of such violations occur for political reasons, often as a side effect of civil war. Countries where major human rights violations have been reported in recent times include Uganda, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Sudan, Zimbabwe, and Côte d'Ivoire.


People who come from Africa are called Africans. People north of the Sahara are called Maghrebis and people south of the Sahara are called Subsaharans. Languages in eastern Africa include Swahili, Oromo, and Amharic. Languages in western Africa include Lingala, Igbo and Fulani. The most populated country in Africa is Nigeria.


Country Area
Population Year Density
(per mi²)
Northern Africa
 Algeria 919,595 45,377,509 2022 48 Algiers
 Canary Islands (Spain) 2,893 2,153,389 2019 740 Las Palmas de Gran Canaria,
Santa Cruz de Tenerife
 Ceuta (Spain) 7.1 85,144 2018 12,000
 Egypt 384,345 106,055,142 2022 266 Cairo
 Libya 679,362 7,051,429 2022 10 Tripoli
 Madeira (Portugal) 309 251,060 2021 810.7 Funchal
 Melilla (Spain) 4.7 86,384 2018 18,000
 Morocco 172,317 37,754,017 2022 214 Rabat
 Sudan 681,489 45,822,691 2022 64 Khartoum
 Tunisia 59,985 12,057,040 2022 197 Tunis
  Western Sahara 102,703 625,647 2022 6 El Aaiún
Horn of Africa
 Djibouti 8,950 1,015,699 2022 22 Djibouti
 Eritrea 38,996 3,641,048 2022 91 Asmara
 Ethiopia 386,102 120,452,406 2022 298 Addis Ababa
 Somalia 242,217 16,747,831 2022 66 Mogadishu
East Africa
 Burundi 9,915 12,573,322 2022 1,199 Bujumbura
 Comoros 719 905,308 2009 1,210 Moroni
 Kenya 219,746 56,054,400 2022 245 Nairobi
 Madagascar 224,632 29,063,124 2022 123 Antananarivo
 Malawi 36,402 20,082,733 2022 526 Lilongwe
 Mauritius 784 1,275,836 2022 1,623 Port Louis
 Mayotte (France) 145 285,503 2022 1,884 Mamoudzou
 Mozambique 303,623 32,943,169 2022 103 Maputo
 Réunion (France) 965 907,630 2022 928 Saint-Denis
 Rwanda 9,525 13,571,073 2022 1,360 Kigali
 Seychelles 178 99,521 2022 554 Victoria
 South Sudan 235,890 11,446,739 2022 47 Juba
 Tanzania 342,009 63,013,471 2022 175 Dodoma
 Uganda 77,147 48,525,005 2022 593 Kampala
 Zambia 287,024 19,376,272 2022 64 Lusaka
 Zimbabwe 149,364 15,280,042 2022 100 Harare
Central Africa
 Angola 481,353 34,836,632 2022 68 Luanda
 Cameroon 182,514 27,819,516 2022 145 Yaoundé
 Central African Republic 240,534 4,991,649 2022 20 Bangui
 Chad 486,180 17,334,293 2022 34 N'Djamena
 Republic of the Congo 131,854 5,779,882 2022 42 Brazzaville
 Democratic Republic of the Congo 875,313 94,809,089 2022 102 Kinshasa
 Equatorial Guinea 10,830 1,491,816 2022 130 Malabo
 Gabon 99,487 2,326,964 2022 22 Libreville
 São Tomé and Príncipe 371 227,004 2022 591 São Tomé
Southern Africa
 Botswana 218,816 2,443,156 2022 11 Gaborone
 Lesotho 11,722 2,174,990 2022 183 Maseru
 Namibia 317,874 2,629,611 2022 8 Windhoek
 South Africa 468,376 60,750,322 2022 127 Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Pretoria
 Swaziland 6,641 1,183,323 2022 175 Mbabane
West Africa
 Benin 43,537 12,735,234 2022 278 Porto-Novo
 Burkina Faso 105,638 22,008,021 2022 198 Ouagadougou
 Cape Verde 1,556 567,629 2022 327 Praia
 Côte d'Ivoire 122,780 27,637,309 2022 215 Abidjan, Yamoussoukro
 Gambia 3,907 2,547,523 2022 618 Banjul
 Ghana 87,854 32,323,235 2022 354 Accra
 Guinea 94,873 13,819,375 2022 138 Conakry
 Guinea-Bissau 10,857 2,057,657 2022 181 Bissau
 Liberia 37,189 5,286,815 2022 136 Monrovia
 Mali 471,118 21,375,017 2022 43 Bamako
 Mauritania 397,955 4,885,222 2022 12 Nouakchott
 Niger 489,075 25,895,281 2022 49 Niamey
 Nigeria 351,650 215,987,465 2022 586 Abuja
 Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha (United Kingdom) 151 6,112 2022 40 Jamestown
 Senegal 74,336 17,594,382 2022 225 Dakar
 Sierra Leone 27,869 8,289,685 2022 286 Freetown
 Togo 21,000 8,652,723 2022 394 Lomé
  Africa Total 11,447,338 1,402,538,258 2022 117

African diaspora

Countries with significant African descendents outside Africa:

Key facts about Africa

  • Africa is the second-largest continent (after Asia) in the world with 54 countries.
  • Africa is surrounded by large areas of water.
  • Africa's climate varies from desert to rainforest. The desert is in the northern part of Africa and the rainforest is in the middle near the equator. The rest of Africa is mountains or grasslands.
  • Africa has many different kinds of wildlife, each living in a climate that is best for them.
  • Africa has been influenced by Egyptian civilization and by Islam.
  • Slavery has been practiced in Africa for centuries. The Arab slave trade took 18 million slaves from Africa and the Atlantic slave trade took 7-12 million slaves to the New World.
  • In the late 19th century, different European powers occupied many of the countries in Africa.
  • In 1951, Libya became the first former colony to become independent.
  • The African Union was made to help keep the peace among Africa's many countries.

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