We’ve already covered the continent of Africa in a broad sense on 24/7 Continents, looking at the continent as both a land mass and a population center, as well as a unique set of biomes that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. Today, we’re going to examine how many countries reside on the continent of Africa, and even examine some of the more unique aspects of several of them. After all, as we’ve written about before, Africa is far more diverse than most people give it credit–both in terms of population, as well as the wide variety of flora and fauna that can be found in the several environments on the continent.
Whether you’ve been to Africa, want to travel there, or are simply hungry for a bit of on-point information, read on! We’ve got you covered, and we’ll include links to further relevant literature throughout.
Both in terms of landmass and population, Africa is Earth’s second largest continent. In each of these categories, it ranks just below Asia, which holds and unprecedented and unquestioned lead. That said, Africa is comparatively massive when you stack it up next to North America and South America, the third and fourth largest continents, respectively. Similar to Asia, also, is the fact that Africa is growing at a record-setting rate, across many different regions. While this is an impressive number (and we’ll look more closely at numbers, below) it also provides several complications for the overall economic prosperity–or lack thereof–for many of the continent’s people.
The African Continent
Since we’ve already written about the continent of Africa, we don’t have to re-examine every little facet of life on the continent. After all, our purpose is to examine the countries of Africa, which means that we’re going to be looking at her people, politics, and history more than anything else.
Nevertheless, it can be helpful to recap a few important details.
The African continent is neatly bisected by Earth’s equator, meaning that a great amount of the landmass consists of tropical environments. These regions have been both fruitful for human civilization, while in other instances, they’ve been prohibitive. In a large way, the wild, tropical interior of Africa has implicitly encouraged humans to settle closer to the coast, where settlements face fewer challenges and also have that critical access to the advantages of living in such a place.
Countries of Africa
Similar to every other continent on Earth, the continent of Africa is made up of both sovereign territories (countries, mostly) as well as dependent states. We’ll be neatly dividing them below, but get ready for a long list!
Why? Because Africa has 54 officially recognized sovereign territories, and this isn’t including the number of dependent territories that aren’t recognized as sovereign entities. When we say that Africa is an incredibly diverse continent, this is exactly what we’re talking about.
How Many Countries?
There’s an interesting discussion to be had when it comes to talking about countries. After all, who is it that gets to determine whether or not a territory is sovereign, and how they’re recognized by the rest of the world? That isn’t a topic that gets brought to the forefront of discussions very often, so it’s a prime time to do just that, right here.
In most instances, sovereign territories become known as such when they’re recognized by the United Nations. This is augmented by the fact that the African Union also exists, and has been growing in strength and influence since 2002. In many ways, the African Union exists to perpetuate, strengthen, and safeguard the recognized, sovereign African territories that it consists of. Frequent collaboration between the various heads of state ensure that each territory gets representation in the Union.
It’s important to know, however, that the viewed of the United Nations and the African Union aren’t always the same. For example, the African Union recognizes 55 countries in Africa, while the United Nations only recognized 54. Why the disparity of one country? We’ll get to that!
Sovereign Countries & Territories
- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde
- Central African Republic**
- Democratic Republic of the Congo, The
- Republic of the Congo
- Equatorial Guinea
- Ivory Coast
- São Tomé and Príncipe
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
- South Sudan
**Due to ongoing conflicts, the Central African Republic is currently suspended from membership in the African Union, in spite of it being recognized as a sovereign nation by the United Nations.
Of course, this isn’t a list of every single territory on the African continent, but since we’re honing in specifically on the continent’s countries, it is a comprehensive list of those. African territories have undergone frequent destabilization, coups, and other disruptions to the systems of government employed by these countries. Because of this, the list that we’ve presented could easily change.
What About Population?
As stated above, Africa is the second most populated continent on the planet. And that populations is spread out across Africa’s many territories, as you can imagine. Interestingly, Africa also has the youngest median average age, which speaks to the rate at which the continent’s overall population is growing.
Below, we’re going to take a look at ten of the most heavily populated countries on the continent, as well as the major cities that tend to support the majorities of those surprisingly large populations. Most of these figures are accurate, and the most outdated only stretch back to 2012.
- Nigeria: 173,000,000
- Ethiopia: 99,391,000
- Egypt: 93,349,000
- Democratic Republic of Congo, The: 77,267,000
- South Africa: 54,956,900
- Tanzania: 51,046,000
- Kenya: 45,533,000
- Sudan: 40,235,000
- Algeria: 40,100,000
- Uganda: 34,856,813
Of course, this doesn’t comprise the entire population of the African continent. The sum total of that population is approaching 1,244,817,546 people. It’s an approximation, of course, built upon recent census data and predictive models, but if should help you to understand just how many people are living in Africa, today.
What Are Africa’s Biggest Cities?
And among those heavily populated countries, what about the cities? Certainly, you’d assume that the most heavily populated cities would be in the most people-heavy countries, and in that regard, you’d mostly be right. But the list of heavily populated cities doesn’t necessarily correlate with the list above, so let’s take a closer look!
- Lagos, Nigeria: 21,000,000
- Cairo, Egypt: 15,200,000
- Kinshasa-Brazzaville: 11,300,000
- Greater Johannesburg, South Africa: 7,550,000
- Mogadishu, Somalia: 5,845,000
- Khartoum-Omdurman, Sudan: 4,975,000
- Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: 4,700,000
- Alexandria, Egypt: 4,575,000
- Abidjan, Ivory Coast: 4,400,000
- Casablanca, Morocco: 3,975,000
- Cape Town, South Africa: 3,775,000
As you can see, a huge amount of the metropolitan areas on the African continent are located in a few major cities. Lagos, Nigeria and Cairo, Egypt, in particular, have massive metropolitan populations, and even though these are spread out over quite large expanses of land, it’s representative of how crowded certain heavily populated parts of Africa are becoming.
It speaks to some of the larger problems across the continent of Africa when you examine these population centers–where they’re the highest, you tend to see enormous disparities in wealth and ever-increasing poverty rates. South Africa, in particular, views poverty as one of the greatest problems in the country, and one that requires the most resources and care to be efficiently resolved in any real sense.
To gain a bit more perspective on the population of the various countries in Africa, we can stack them up to other heavily populated countries from around the world. As a prime first example, let’s look to the United States. The most recent census data paints the entire U.S. population at just over 321 million people. If you look to the most populated country in Africa–Nigeria–you’ll see that it has over 173 million people! Considering that it has a much smaller overall landmass than the United States, that hasn’t stopped the population from being just over half of the larger country.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that any of the countries in Africa are coming remotely close to the size of the most populated countries in the world. China has a population close to 1.3 billion people, and India has over 1.2 billion people.
Regardless, the median age of African citizens is getting lower, meaning that the number of young people in the population is swelling. It’s indicative of an overall increase in population, which means that almost every country on this continent is going to increase in population going forward.
We hope that the above information has been helpful in informing you on the various countries of Africa. Of course, being that there are so many separate territories on this continent, it’s very likely that we’ll take an even closer look at some of them in the future. Meanwhile, if you have any questions about the countries in the African continent–or any of the more minute details about any of them–never hesitate to ask in the comments section, below! Anything related to geography, populations, or specific places in the world, are topics that we’re happy to address. As always, thank you for reading!