Different sources quote Africa as having either 54 or 56 countries. Africa ranks second in regards to the largest sized continent. The largest nation in the continent regarding size is Algeria while Nigeria has the continent's largest population. Africa has a rich diversity of languages and ethnicities with an estimated 1250-3000 languages spoken across the continent. Some of Africa's largest cities include Cairo, Khartoum, Accra, Johannesburg, Casablanca, Lagos, Nairobi, and Algiers.
The continent occupies nearly 11.7 million square miles, encompassing the adjacent islands as well. The Mediterranean Sea separates Africa and Europe while the Isthmus of Suez joins Africa and Asia. Africa is surrounded by the Red Sea and the Suez Canal to the northeast, the Indian Ocean to the southeast, the Mediterranean Sea to the north, and finally the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The distance between the most southerly point at Cape Agulhas and the most northerly point at Ras ben Sakka, Tunisia is an estimated 5,000 miles. The distance between the most easternly points at Ras Fun, Somalia to the most westerly projection in Cape Verde is approximately 4,600 miles. The continent straddles the equator, and it is home to multiple climate areas.
Anthropologists have unearthed numerous fossils as well as other evidence which suggest that the continent has been inhabited as far back as seven million years ago BP (Before Present). Africa became home to communities of hunter-gatherers an estimated 150,000 to 100,000 years BP. The domestication of animals, agriculture, and ironworking all facilitated settlement in various parts of the continent. Africa was the cradle of such civilizations as the Pharaonic civilization in medieval Egypt. The Romans and Greeks were the first Europeans to explore Africa. Christianity entered Africa through Egypt from Judaea while the Arab expansion into Egypt in the 7th century introduced Islam to the continent. Before colonization, Africa was home to about 10,000 different polities and states. Slavery was also practiced in Africa from the 7th century all the way to the 20th century. The late 19th century saw European powers scramble for various regions in Africa and only Liberia and Ethiopia were spared of colonialism. After the Second World War, colonial territories began agitating for independence. Most of the sovereign nations in Africa today have borders which were drawn up by their former colonial powers.
Countries of Africa
The continent is subdivided into five regions. North Africa is considered to lie north of the Sahara, and it stretches along the Mediterranean coast. Six countries and territories are included in this region namely Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Western Sahara, Egypt, and Morocco. Egypt, with an estimated population of 93,226,000, is the most populous of the Northern African nations. The region of West Africa includes the Adamawa Mountains and large parts of the Sahara Desert. 18 nations have been identified as being in this region namely Gambia, Cape Verde, Mali, Benin, Senegal, Mauritania, Ivory Coast, Togo, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Niger, Liberia, and Saint Helena. The region that is East Africa runs from the Red Sea down to Mozambique. Eastern African countries include Rwanda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Seychelles, Mauritius, Comoros, Mayotte, Reunion, and Sudan. Central Africa occupies the center of the continent. The countries commonly included in this region are Gabon, São Tomé and Principe, the Republic of the Congo, Chad, Angola, Burundi, Equatorial Guinea, and the Central African Republic. The continent's southernmost region is termed as Southern Africa, and it includes the countries of Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland, Angola, Malawi, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, and Mozambique.
Ecology and Biodiversity of AfricaMore than 3,000 protected areas,198 marine protected areas as well as biosphere and wetlands reserves have been established on the continent. Africa is known for harboring populations of wild animals ranging from giraffes, lions, camels, snakes, buffalo, crocodiles, cheetahs, and elephants. The rich biodiversity is under threat from civil conflicts, increasing population, habitat destruction, lack of adequate protection, poaching, soil degradation, and clearing of forests.