There are 7 continents in the world. All of them, except Antarctica, are home to millions, if not billions, of inhabitants. Each continent also hosts many independent nation-states. Asia is the largest and most populous continent, while Australia and Oceania are the smallest and least populous. Africa has the most number of nation-states out of all the inhabited continents, while South America has the least number of countries.
1. Africa - 54
There are 54 countries on the African continent. The most populous country in Africa is Nigeria, which has a population of more than 206 million people. The smallest and least populous of Africa’s countries is the island country of the Seychelles, located in the Indian Ocean. The largest country in Africa by land area is the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is situated in Central Africa.
Because of the legacy of colonialism, Africa’s borders largely do not reflect the demographics on the continent in a way that respects the national aspirations of the continent’s people. Thus, most countries in Africa are multiethnic, multilingual, and multi-religious. This has often led to internal, often violent, conflicts in several African countries. Africa also has the dubious distinction of being the poorest continent in the world. Nearly all African countries are developing countries, and some of those countries are among the least developed in the world.
2. Asia - 48
There are a total of 48 countries in Asia. Asia is the world’s largest and most populous continent. About 4.677 billion people live in Asia, which constitutes more than half the world’s total population. Two countries in Asia, China and India, are the world’s first and second most populous countries respectively. Five other Asian countries, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Japan, and the Philippines, have populations in excess of 100 million. The least populous country in Asia is the sultanate of Brunei, which has just 437,000 people.
Asia is home to the world’s 2nd and 3rd largest economies, China and Japan, respectively. Japan is the most developed country on the continent, and the only Asian member of the G7. Most of the countries on the Asian continent are developing countries. This includes China, even though it is has the second biggest economy in the world.
3. Europe - 44
There are 44 countries situated on the continent of Europe. The largest and most populous on the continent is Russia, which has a population of about 146 million. Russia, however, is a transcontinental country, which means that it contains territory on more than one continent. In fact, most of Russia’s territory is not in Europe, but Asia.
Among Europe’s other most populous countries are Germany, with a population of about 84 million; the United Kingdom, with 68 million; France, with 65 million, and Italy, with 60 million. Europe also hosts some very tiny countries, like Monaco, Andorra, San Marino, and Liechtenstein. In fact, Europe plays host to the world’s smallest country, Vatican City, which has a population of less than 1,000 people.
Europe is the world’s most developed continent, as most of the countries that it hosts are developed countries. Some, like Germany and the Scandinavian countries, are among the most developed in the world. Europe is also home to 4 of the 7 members that constitute the G7. Germany, the U.K., France, and Italy are the 4th, 6th, 7th, and 8th largest economies in the world respectively.
4. North America - 23
The North American continent hosts 23 countries. The largest country in North America is the continent’s northernmost country, Canada, which is also the second biggest country in the world. Inasmuch as Canada is large, however, it is sparsely populated. Just 38 million people live in Canada. In contrast, its large neighbor to the south, the United States of America, hosts a population of more than 331 million.
North America’s third largest country is Mexico. It is also the continent’s second most populous country, with about 130 million people living within its borders. Compared to Canada, the U.S., and Mexico, the other countries in North America are relatively small. There are 7 countries in Central America and 13 in the Caribbean. The smallest and least populous country in North America is the Caribbean island country of St. Kitts and Nevis. North America hosts the world’s biggest economy, which is that of the U.S. The U.S. and Canada are North America’s most developed countries, while most of the other countries on the continent are considered developing countries.
5. Australia/Oceania - 14
Depending on one’s perspective, Australia is a continent in and of itself, though in some parts of the world, it is seen as part of the greater continent of Oceania, which also contains New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and many other countries that mostly consist of small islands. Australia and Papua New Guinea are the first and second largest countries in Oceania respectively. Australia is the most populous country in Oceania, while the tiny island country of Nauru is the smallest and least populous. In total, there are 14 countries in Oceania, including Australia.
Australia has the largest economy in Oceania. It and New Zealand are also the most developed countries of the region. Aside from Papua New Guinea, the economies of the countries in Oceania are miniscule compared to those of other countries. So much so, in fact, that these countries are heavily dependent on aid from larger, more advanced countries.
6. South America - 12
South America contains 12 independent countries. The largest and most populous country on the continent, by far, is Brazil, which is home to nearly 214 million people. This is almost half the population of the entire continent. Furthermore, Brazil is so large that it borders nearly all the other countries on the continent. Five of South America’s ten largest cities are located in Brazil, including the largest city on the continent, Sao Paolo, which has a metropolitan population of approximately 12 million people, making the city even more populous than some countries in South America.
The next most populous country situated on the South American continent is Columbia, with an estimated population of 51 million. Argentina trails closely behind with about 45 million people, followed by Peru at 33 million, and Venezuela at 29 million. The other countries on the continent have populations of less than 20 million people. Suriname is the least populous country in South America, with just 587,000 people living within its borders. Most of the economies of South America are still developing economies, including Brazil, which is the continent’s biggest economy, and the 9th biggest in the world.