The continent of Africa is the world’s second most extensive and second most populous continent. It has a total area of around 30,244,050 square km. It is estimated that Africa has about 30,000 cubic km of water in large lakes, the largest volume of any continent. Africa has a great number of both natural and artificial lakes. Some of the world’s biggest lakes that straddle one or more international borders are found in this continent. For example, Lake Victoria, the continent’s largest lake and the world’s second largest freshwater body, is divided among Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. The WORLDLAKE database reports that Africa has 677 lakes of which 88 are listed as principal lakes. These lakes are distributed among the various African countries. Some of them have very few lakes while others abound in these water bodies. The three African countries with the highest number of lakes are Uganda, Kenya, and Cameroon.
3. Cameroon - 59 lakes
Wedged between Central and West African, Cameroon is an African nation with the third highest number of lakes on the continent. With 59 lakes, Cameroon has 8.7% of the total number of lakes in Africa. Lake Chad and Lake Nyos are two of the country’s most well-known lakes. Other lakes include Lake Dissoni, Lake Ossa, Lake Oku, Lake Monoun, Lake Fianga, etc. Lake Chad is a large and shallow endorheic lake whose basin includes the four countries of Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria. In Cameroon, Lake Chad occupies the extreme north-eastern corner edge of the country. Lake Nyos and Lake Monoun are two of Cameroon’s “killer lakes.” These “exploding lakes” are located above pockets of magma. Thus, carbon-dioxide leaks into the lake waters and change into carbonic acid. The waters of these lakes are thus saturated with carbon-dioxide. In 1986, a sudden release of carbon dioxide from Lake Nyos (possibly triggered by a landslide), suffocated and killed 1,746 people and 3,500 livestock living in villages and towns near the lake. It is possible that Lake Nyos and Monoun might explode in the future although some measures have been adopted to degas the lake with the help of degassing tubes.
2. Kenya - 64 lakes
Kenya, an eastern African nation, has the second highest number of lakes in Africa. It has 64 lakes that constitute 9.5% of the total number of lakes on the continent. Some of the country’s major lakes are Lake Bogoria, Lake Nakuru, Lake Elementaita, Lake Naivasha, etc. The Kenya Lakes System that is part of the Great Rift Valley system consists of three main lakes which are separate but related to each other both geologically and ecologically. These lakes are Lake Bogoria, Lake Nakuru, and Lake Elementaita. All of them are alkaline and shallow in nature and are connected via underground seepage of water. The alkalinity of these lakes supports the growth of algae which attracts flamingos in large numbers of these lakes. Lake Naivasha is also another large lake in the country’s Great Rift Valley region. Kenya also has a small part (6% of the total lake area) of Lake Victoria located within its territory. Another major lake located in Kenya is Lake Turkana. It is located in northern Kenya’s Kenyan Rift Valley. It is the largest alkaline lake and the largest permanent desert lake in the world.
1. Uganda - 69 lakes
The east African nation of Uganda has the largest number of lakes (69) among the African countries. Uganda's lakes account for about 10% of the total number of lakes on the continent. Although it is a landlocked country, much of its border is lakeshore. Uganda is located in Africa’s Great Lakes region. Nearly one-fifth of its total area is covered by open water or swampland. Lake Victoria, Lake Albert, and Lake Edward surround much of the country. Lake Victoria dominates Uganda’s south-eastern region with nearly half of the lake’s area being located within Ugandan territory. Many large Ugandan cities including its capital of Kampala are based around Lake Victoria. The Victoria Nile river drains this lake and feeds Lake Kyoga which lies at the heart of Uganda and is surrounded by vast tracks of marshy areas. Lake Kwaina, Lake Opeta, and Lake Bugondo are extensions of Lake Kyowa. All lakes in the Lake Kyoga basin are shallow in nature. Several lakes are located in or near Uganda’s borders with the Democratic Republic of Congo. The major ones include Lake Albert, Lake Edward, and Lake George. The Victoria Nile River is joined by the Kafu River in Lake Kyoga. The Nile then leaves the lake, travels northward and enters Lake Albert. It then passes through the lake and leaves it as Albert Nile River and then travels for about 200 km to the Sudan border. The Katonga River flows from Lake Victoria westwards to Lake George. The latter is connected to Lake Edward via the Kizinga Channel.
Importance of Africa’s Lakes
The lakes in Africa are the source of life and livelihoods for millions of Africans. These lakes support very important fisheries. They are also centers of tourist activities. The scenic views and the plethora of wildlife living in and around the lake draw tourists from far and wide. Today, however, the lakes of Africa are under great threat. They are undergoing significant changes due to climate change and human activities. These changes are bound to have serious adverse repercussions on the aquatic biodiversity and people’s livelihoods. Eutrophication, pollution, the proliferation of invasive species of flora and fauna, etc., threaten the water quality of these lakes. Desertification due to global warming and damming have reduced the volume of water in many of these lakes. Without immediate remedial measures, the lakes of Africa might be unable to support the life and livelihood of its people in the coming years.