Africa is the second largest continent in the world. It makes up about a fifth of the world's land. It is surrounded by large areas of water. There are 54 fully recognised and independent countries in Africa, and 14.7% (about a billion) of the world's population lives there. It is thought to be the continent where the first humans evolved.
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, the further development of societies outside the Nile River Valley and the interaction between them and civilizations outside of Africa. In the late 7th century North and East Africa were heavily influenced by the spread of Islam. That led to the appearance of new cultures such as those of the Swahili people. This also led to an increase in the slave trade that had a very bad influence for the development of the whole continent until the 19th century.
Between the fifteenth and the nineteenth 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.
In the late nineteenth century, the European powers occupied much of the continent, creating many colonial and dependent territories. They left only two fully independent states: Ethiopia (known to Europeans as "Abyssinia"), and Liberia.
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 as well as the growth of modern African economies and democratization across the continent.
A civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) began in 1998. Neighbouring African countries have become involved. Since the conflict began, 5,5 million are estimated to have died because of it.
Political associations such as the African Union offer hope for greater co-operation and peace between the continent's many countries.
From north to south, Africa has most types of climate. In sequence from the north:
- Alpine and mediterranean climate
- Dry sandy desert
- Fairly dry savannah (grassland)
- Rain forest
- More grassland
- More deserts
- Table Mountain
In fact Africa has examples of most of the Earth's climate types.
Much of North Africa is dry and hot: it is dominated by the Sahara Desert and does not receive much rain. In Saharan Africa there are few rivers or other water sources. 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.
In that part of the world the wind comes mostly from the east. That does bring rain, but the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau blocks the monsoon rain and prevents it getting to North Africa. Also, the Atlas Mountains near the north coast of Africa prevent rain from coming in from the north. That is another rain shadow.
These two rain shadows are mainly responsible for the Sahara desert.
Conditions and winds are different further south, where huge amounts of rain falls near the equator. The equator runs across the middle of Africa (see red line drawn on map). That means much of Africa is between the two tropics:
Plants and animals
Africa has a lot of wildlife. There are many types of animals there. 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, zebra, cheetah, elephant, lion, giraffe, rhinoceros, apes, hyaena, and a lot more. Over 2,000 types of fish live in African lakes and rivers.
The African Union (AU) is an international organisation consisting of all of Africa's states except Morocco. It aims to transform the African Economic Community, a federated commonwealth, into a state under established international conventions. The African Union has a parliamentary government, known as the African Union Government, consisting of legislative, judicial and executive organs. 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 oversight 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 on the south 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.
|Canary Islands (Spain)||7,492||2,118,519||2010||226||Las Palmas de Gran Canaria,
Santa Cruz de Tenerife
|Western Sahara||266,000||405,210||2009||2||El Aaiún|
|Horn of Africa|
|Central African Republic||622,984||4,511,488||2009||7||Bangui|
|Republic of the Congo||342,000||4,012,809||2009||12||Brazzaville|
|Democratic Republic of the Congo||2,345,410||69,575,000||2012||30||Kinshasa|
|São Tomé and Príncipe||1,001||212,679||2009||212||São Tomé|
|South Africa||1,219,912||51,770,560||2011||42||Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Pretoria|
|Côte d'Ivoire||322,460||20,617,068||2009||64||Abidjan, Yamoussoukro|
|Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha (United Kingdom)||420||7,728||2012||13||Jamestown|
Countries with significant African descendents outside Africa:
- Haiti: 98%
- Saint Kitts and Nevis: 96.9%
- Anguilla: 91.4%
- Bahamas: 86.1%
- Barbados: 81.1%
- Jamaica: 76.3%
- Dominican Republic: 71.1%
- Cayman Islands: 60.0%
- Trinidad and Tobago: 39.5%
- Cuba: 34.9%
- Turks and Caicos: 34.0%
- Belize: 29.8%
- Venezuela: 24.0%
- Panama: 22.0%
- Colombia: 21.0%
- Brazil: 13-19%
- United States: 12.9%
- Puerto Rico: 6.9%
- Argentina: less than 2%
Images for kids
The origins and spread of the Bantu languages c. 1000 BC to c. 500 AD
The intricate 9th-century bronzes from Igbo-Ukwu, in Nigeria displayed a level of technical accomplishment that was notably more advanced than European bronze casting of the same period.
Ruins of Great Zimbabwe (eleventh to fifteenth centuries)
South African paratroops on a raid in Angola during the South African Border War
Satellite photo of Africa. The Sahara Desert in the north can be clearly seen.
Tropical beach in Trou-aux-Biches, Mauritius
Woman from Benin
San Bushman man from Botswana
Beja bedouins from Northeast Africa
A musician from South Africa
The Great Mosque of Kairouan, founded in 670, is the oldest mosque in North Africa; it is located in Kairouan, Tunisia
Vodun altar in Abomey, Benin
National Church of Nigeria, Abuja
Africa Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.