- For a topic outline on this subject, see List of basic Africa topics.
Africa is the world's second largest and second most-populous continent, being behind Asia in both categories. At about 30.3 million km2 (11.7 million square miles) including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of Earth's total surface area and 20% of its land area. With
1.2 billion people as of 2016, it accounts for about 16% of the world's human population. The continent is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Isthmus of Suez and the Red Sea to the northeast, the Indian Ocean to the southeast and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The continent includes Madagascar and various archipelagos. It contains 54 fully recognised sovereign states (countries), nine territories and two de facto independent states with limited or no recognition. The majority of the continent and its countries are in the Northern Hemisphere, with a substantial portion and number of countries in the Southern Hemisphere.
Africa's average population is the youngest amongst all the continents; the median age in 2012 was 19.7, when the worldwide median age was 30.4. Algeria is Africa's largest country by area, and Nigeria is its largest by population. Africa, particularly central Eastern Africa, is widely accepted as the place of origin of humans and the Hominidae clade (great apes), as evidenced by the discovery of the earliest hominids and their ancestors as well as later ones that have been dated to around 7 million years ago, including Sahelanthropus tchadensis, Australopithecus africanus, A. afarensis, Homo erectus, H. habilis and H. ergaster—the earliest Homo sapiens (modern human), found in Ethiopia, date to circa 200,000 years ago. Africa straddles the equator and encompasses numerous climate areas; it is the only continent to stretch from the northern temperate to southern temperate zones.
Africa hosts a large diversity of ethnicities, cultures and languages. In the late 19th century, European countries colonised almost all of Africa; most present states in Africa originated from a process of decolonisation in the 20th century. African nations cooperate through the establishment of the African Union, which is headquartered in Addis Ababa.
The lion (Panthera leo) is a member of the family Felidae and one of four "big cats" in the genus Panthera. Reaching up to over 272 kg (600 lb), it is the second-largest cat after the tiger. They currently exist in the wild in sub-Saharan Africa and in Asia with a critically endangered remnant population in northwest India, having disappeared from North Africa, the Middle East and western Asia in historic times. Until the late Pleistocene (about 10,000 years ago), the lion was the most widespread large land mammal beside man.
The lion is a vulnerable species, having seen a possibly irreversible population decline of 30 to 50% over the past two decades in its African range; populations are untenable outside designated reserves and national parks. Although the cause of the decline is not well-understood, habitat loss and conflicts with humans are currently the greatest causes of concern. Lions have been kept in menageries since Roman times and have been a key species sought after and exhibited in zoos the world over since the late 18th century.
Did you know ...
Frederick Russell Burnham, DSO (May 11, 1861 – September 1, 1947), was an American scout and world traveling adventurer known for his service to the British Army in colonial Africa and for teaching woodcraft to Robert Baden-Powell, thus becoming one of the inspirations for the founding of the international Scouting Movement.
Burnham had little formal education, attending but never graduating high school. He began his career at 14 in the American Southwest as a scout and tracker. Burnham then went to Africa where this background proved useful. He soon became an officer in the British Army, serving in several battles there. During this time, Burnham became friends with Baden-Powell, and passed on to him both his outdoor skills and his spirit for what would later become known as Scouting.
Burnham eventually moved on to become involved in espionage, oil, conservation, writing and business. His descendants are still active in Scouting.
Topics in Africa