The Regions of Africa

When understanding the intricacies of landmasses as large as the African continent, sometimes it is easier to divide the area into separate smaller geographic sections.

The vast African Continent is often divided into five major geographic regions. These regions are also known as sub-regions. Each region has its unique climatic and bio-geographic characteristics. The culture and economic activities of the people living in the various sub-regions also vary from one region to the other

5. Southern Africa

Victoria Falls is a famous watermark located on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe in southern Africa.

The Southern region of Africa lies in the southernmost part of the continent, as the name implies. It is a region of diverse people and cultures. Countries in this region comprise of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Swaziland, Namibia, Mozambique, Malawi, Lesotho, Botswana, and Angola. The region’s terrain ranges from grasslands and deserts to forests. The altitude also varies from high mountains to coastal regions of low altitude. South Africa is the most powerful country in the region, both politically and economically.

Southern Africa is rich in mineral resources, with the largest deposits of platinum and related elements such as vanadium, cobalt, and chromium in the world. It also has vast resources of uranium, titanium, gold, diamonds, and iron. One of the most common issues facing the countries in the region is food security, with poor governance and unfavorable climatic conditions being the main reasons behind the challenge. South Africa is the largest food producer in the region, and a major exporter as well.

4. East Africa

Mount Kilimanjaro is found in East Africa.

This sub-region is also known as Eastern Africa, and it occupies the eastern region of the massive African continent. The region is comprised of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda and South Sudan. These six states make up the East African Community. The four countries that lie in the Horn of Africa namely, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Djibouti, also lie in the region. Other countries include the island nations of Mauritius, Seychelles, and Comoros, all found in the Indian Ocean and two overseas territories of France which also lie in the Ocean. These two territories are Mayotte and Réunion.

The climate of the region is largely varied unlike that of other equatorial regions. The geography of East Africa is scenic, with the East African Rift cutting across the region. Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest peak in Africa as well as Mt. Kenya which is Africa’s second tallest peak are both in East Africa. The African Great Lakes region comprises of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi. Most of the countries in the region are home to many species of wildlife including mountain gorillas and the "big five". Countries in the Horn of Africa are rich in ancient history. Tourism and Agriculture are major economic activities in the area.

3. Equatorial Africa

The rainforests of the Republic of the Congo.

Six African nations make up the Equatorial region. These countries are Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Central African Republic (CAR), the Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, and Gabon. Tropical rainforests are a dominant physical characteristic of the region. The world’s fifth longest river, the Zaire River, passes through the region. It is also the second most voluminous river in the world after Amazon River. It is the least populated region in Africa. The inhabitants of the equatorial region speak a variety of ethnic languages, and the most practiced religions are Christianity and Islam.

Equatorial Africa is rich in natural resources, with rich mineral deposits and natural rainforests. Mineral and timber exports earn the countries a lot of income. Timber logging activities are a big threat to the natural rainforest ecology of the region. Agriculture in the area is mainly subsistence, with farmers practicing either animal herding or crop farming. In Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon however, farming of export crops like palm oil, coffee, and cocoa takes place in large plantations. The primary issue facing Equatorial African countries is lack of infrastructure, which hinders adequate exploration of the natural resources in the sub-region.

2. West Africa

Lagos, the capital of Nigeria and one of the largest cities in the world by population.

West Africa is a vast region on the westerly part of the African continent. As at 2016, the population of West Africa was approximately 362 million people. There are 18 countries in the region, all occupying a total area of 5,112,903 km2. These countries are Togo, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Nigeria, Niger, Mauritania, Mali, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Ghana, Gambia, Burkina Faso, and Benin and three island nations namely Cape Verde, Sāo Tomé and Principe, and Saint Helena, which is an overseas territory of the British. Majority of the population in West Africa practice Islam.

Low-lying plains mostly constitute the terrain of West Africa. The highest peaks in the region are mostly found in countries found on the southern shores. The cultures of the people of West Africa are varied, but they all exhibit similarities in their traditional dress, music, and cuisine. Nollywood, Nigeria’s film industry is the largest film industry in Africa and second largest in the world. Unlike other regions of Africa, the West African region is uninhabited by people of Bantu origin.

1. The African Transition Zone

A costal street in Saint-Louis, Senegal.

The other name for this region found in the Northern part of the African Continent is Sahel. The region lies between the Sahara Desert and the equatorial region of Central Africa. The African Zone cuts across ten countries. These countries, from East to west are Eritrea, Sudan, Chad, Nigeria, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Gambia, and Senegal. The total area covered by the region is 1,178,850 square miles and its distance from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea is 3,360 miles.

The land in this region is mostly flat. The vegetation is primarily Savannah with grasslands and thorny shrubs also thriving in some parts of the region. The climate of the Sahel is tropical semi-arid. Since the area experiences low and irregular rainfall, the inhabitants of the sub-region are mainly nomadic pastoralist communities like Berbers and the Tuareg. Desertification due to overgrazing and climate change is a big threat to the people of this region. As the Sahara Desert extends southwards, the livelihood of the people, as well as the existence of plant and animal life in the Sahel, remain under threat. Sandstorms are also a common phenomenon in the area.

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