The Longest Rivers in Africa

The Nile River in Egypt.

As the world's second largest continent, Africa is home to some of the longest rivers in the world. The longest river in Africa is the Nile, which flows from the north for 6,853 km through 11 African countries (Egypt, Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, and South Sudan). The Nile has been considered the longest in the world for years now, but numerous Peruvian and Brazilian studies have concluded that Amazon River may be in fact longer after examining the Amazon River more closely in a way that includes the Para estuary and its longest connecting canal.

Top 6 Longest Rivers in Africa

The Nile River, or the Nile-Kagera, is Africa's longest river at 6,853 km in total. Kagera is an East African river which forms an upper part of the river Nile’s headwaters. It is also responsible for carrying water from the Nile’s furthest source. The section known as Kagera starts in Burundi and it flows out of Lake Rweru through the Burundi-Rwanda and the Tanzania-Rwanda borders to convergence with river Ruvubu. From the confluence, it flows over the Rusumo falls, through the Akagera National Park before turning east and flowing into Lake Victoria. Akagera River is fed by Ruvubu from Burundi and Nyabarongo from Rwanda.

2. Chambeshi - 4,700 km

Stretching 4,700 km, the Chambeshi River finds its source in the Congo River. The Chambezi starts as a stream from the mountains located in Northeastern part of Zambia, right next to Lake Tanganyika and flows into Bangweulu swamps. It has numerous channels in countless wetlands. Chambeshi passes through multiple countries including Rwanda, Burundi, Cameroon, Zambia, Angola, Congo, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

3. Niger - 4,200 km

Extending over 4,200 km, the River Niger is the principal river in West Africa whose drainage basin is approximately 2,117,700 square km. The source of the River Niger is in the highlands of Guinea, and it flows in a crescent through Nigeria, Benin’s border, Niger, and the Niger Delta before flowing into the Atlantic Ocean. Niger is the third longest African river whose main tributary is River Benue.

4. Zambezi - 2,693 km

The Zambezi is the fourth longest river in Africa and the largest east flowing river that drains into the Indian Ocean. The 2,693 km river originates in Zambia and then flows through numerous nations including Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, and Angola before emptying into the Indian Ocean. Some of the crucial features of the Zambezi River include Ngoye, Chavuma, and Victoria Falls. The Zambezi has two hydroelectric power sources which power Zimbabwe, South Africa, Mozambique, and Zambia.

5. Ubangi-uele - 2,270 km

The Ubangi-uele is the most significant tributary of the Congo River. It is located in central Africa, where it rises from the convergence of Uele and Mbomou rivers and flows through Congo and the Democratic republic of Congo (DRC) before joining the Congo River in Liranga. Ubangi is 1,060 km long, but with Uele which is 1,210 miles long, they form the most extended branch which is approximately 2,270 km long.

6. Kasai River - 2,153 km

Situated in central Africa, the Kasai River begins in Angola and serves as the border between DRC and Angola before flowing into DRC. Some of Kasai's tributaries include the rivers of Sankuru, Kwango, and Fimi. The Kasai basin is composed mainly of the equatorial rainforest which is a farming region for an area known for its fertility and sandy soil. The 2,153 km Kasai River is a branch of the Congo River.

Significance of Africa's Longest Rivers

These rivers play a significant role in the economy of the countries where they flow through, like the region surrounding the Kasai basin which a fertile farming land. Some of these streams act as boundaries between two nations like river Nile which runs through the Rwanda-Tanzania border and Kasai river. A number of the rivers in Africa flow into some of the local lakes thus helping replenish the lake ecology with nutrients collected as the river flows from one throughout the continent.

The Longest Rivers in Africa

RankRiver Length (kilometres) Countries
1Nile-Kagera6,853Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Egypt, Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan
2Congo-Chambeshi4,700Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Angola, Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Cameroon, Zambia, Burundi, Rwanda
3Niger4,200Nigeria, Mali, Niger, Algeria, Guinea, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Benin, Chad
4Zambezi2,693Zambia, Angola, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Namibia, Botswana
5Ubangi-Uele2,270Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo
6Kasai2,153Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo
7Orange2,092South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho
8Limpopo1,800Mozambique, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana
9Senegal 1,641Guinea, Senegal, Mali, Mauritania
10Blue Nile1,600Ethiopia, Sudan

More in World Facts