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Geography of Africa
Africa covers an area of just over 30 million square kilometers. This makes it the second largest landmass on the earth. It is also the largest southwards landmass on the globe.
Africa features a number of well-known geographic features. The famed Nile is the continent’s longest river measuring 6,853 km in length. This river passes through eleven different countries and is the primary source of water for both Sudan and Egypt.
The source of the Nile River is the Great Lakes region in central Africa. Among the Great Lakes is Lake Victoria, which is the second largest freshwater lake in the world. Lake Victoria covers an area of just under 68,000 square kilometers. The lake takes its name from Queen Victoria. In 1858, the British explorer John Speke was the first European to document the lake naming it after his Queen.
The highest mountain in Africa is Mount Kilimanjaro with a summit of 5,895 meters above sea level. Mt. Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcano consisting of three volcanic cones. It was first summited in 1889 by the German climbers H and Ludwig Purtscheller and Hans Meyer. Since then it has become a destination with both professional and amateur climbers.
Countries and Cultures of Africa
Africa is made up of 64 different political territories. These are made up of 54 sovereign states and 10 non-sovereign states. All 53 of the sovereign states are part of the African Union, the exception being Morocco. The most populous country in the African Union is Nigeria with approximately 174 million people. This is followed by Ethiopia with a population of 99 million people and Egypt with a population of 90 million. The least populous country in Africa is the Seychelles with only 80,000 people.
Christianity and Islam are the two dominant religions in Africa. Traditional African Religions also play an important, although lesser, role. Islam is the continent’s largest religion. Approximately 47% of the population of Africa is Muslim. This is a quarter of the world’s total Muslim population. Islam in Africa began when disciples of the Prophet Muhammad migrated to Abyssinia. Christianity is the second most popular religion in Africa with 40% of the population adhering to the faith. It is the largest religion in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Africa is frequently referred to as the “cradle of civilization”. This is for very good reason. In fact, in a genetic sense, every human on the planet can lay claim to being an “African” originally.
Africa is also the world’s oldest landmass. About 97% of the continent’s land has been virtually the same for the past 300 million years. Between five and ten million years a type of African ape called the Australopithecines started to walk upright. This set along an evolutionary path towards what became the modern Homo Sapien approximately 200,000 years ago.
Around 150,000 years ago, a woman was born in area close to what is known as modern-day Ethiopia. Scientists refer to this woman as “Eve” because all of the humans that are alive today are descended from her. Flash forward another 50,000 years down the timeline and a group of Homo Sapiens started to move out of North Africa and into the Middle East. While it is estimated that this group may have only contained several dozen people, it was from this start that the other continents would come to be populated.
The people of the Kingdom were known as the Sabeans. They ruled the region from between the tenth to the sixth century B.C. The Sabean society collapsed after the spice route was changed and along with it the source of their fortunes.
The Swahili Sultans eventually fell victim to infighting. Ambitious viziers and emirs sought to take power from the ruling family. In a weakened state the Swahili Sultans were vulnerable when in the 16th century they came into contact with the Portuguese. Through force and guile the Portuguese were able to turn the region into vassal states.
The 19th to 20th century was the period known as the “Scramble for Africa”. During this period, the European countries sought to colonize the continent and build their own African empires. The involvement of multiple European countries building their own empires in Africa inevitably lead to conflict. The French sought to create a continuous region under their rule from the West to the East coast of Africa.
This put them in direct opposition to the English who wished to build their own empire along a North and South Axis. In 1898, this lead to what is known as the Fashoda Incident. French forces arrived in the Southern Sudan to claim the area. They were confronted by a much larger force of British troops. The French were eventually forced to withdraw. Eventually, an agreement was reached which gave Britain control of Africa and France power over Morocco.
Until the 1950s, Africa was largely divided up and ruled by European powers. In 1951, the decolonization of Africa began with Libya gaining its freedom. This move toward decolonization peaked in the 1960 when 17 African nations declared their independence. This is now known as the year of Africa.