ty Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² (11.7 million sq mi) including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area. With 1.0 billion people (as of 2009) in 61 territories, it accounts for about 14.72% of the world's human population. The continent is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, both the Suez Canal and the Read Sea along the Sinai Peninsula to the northeast, the Indian Ocean to the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The continent has 54 sovereign states, including Madagascar and various island groups.
Africa is the largest of the three great southward projections from the largest landmass of the Earth. Separated from Europe by the Mediterranean Sea, it is joined to Asia at its northeast extremity by the Isthmus Canal (transected by the Suez Canal), 163 km (101 mi) wide.
From the most northerly point, Ras ben Sakka in Tunisia, to the most southerly point, Cape Agulhas in South Africa, is a distance of approximately 5,000 miles; from Cape Verde, the westernmost point, to Ras Hafun in Somalia, the most easterly projection, is a distance of approximately 4,600 miles. The coastline is 16,000 miles long.Africa's largest country is Algeria, and its smallest country is the Seychelles, an archipelago off the east coast. The smallest nation on the continental mainland is The Gambia.
According to the ancient Romans, Africa lay to the west of Egypt, while "Asia" was used to refer to Anatolia and lands to the east. A definite line was drawn between the two continents by the geographer Ptolmey, indicating Alexandria along the Prime Meridian and making the Suez Canal and the Red Sea the boundary between Asia and Africa. As Europeans came to understand the real extent of the continent, the idea of Africa expanded with their knowledge. Geologically, Africa include the Arabian Peninsula; the Zargos Mountains of Iran and the Anatolian Plateau of Turkey mark where the African Plate collided with Eurasia. The Afrotropic ecozone and the Saharo-Arabian Region to its north unite the region biogeographically, and the Afro-Asiatic language family unites the north linguistically.
The climate of Africa ranges from tropical to subartic on its highest peaks. Its northern half is primarily desert or arid, while its central and southern areas contain both savanna plains and very dense jungle regions. In between, there is a convergence where vegetation patterns such as sahel, and steppe dominate. Africa is the hottest continent on earth; drylands and deserts comprise 60% of the entire land surface. The record for the highest temperature recorded was set in Libya in 1992.
Africa's population has rapidly increased over the last 40 years, and consequently, it is relatively young. In some African states, half or more of the population is under 25 years of age. The total number of people in Africa grew from 221 million in 1950 to 1 billion in 2009.
Speakers of Bantu languages are the majority in southern, central and southeast Africa. The Bantu-speaking farmers from West Africa's inland savanna progressively expanded over most of Sub-Saharan Africa. But there are also several Nilotic groups in South Sudan and East Africa, the mixed Swahili people on the Swahili Coast , and a few remaining indigenous Khoisan and Pygmy peoples in southern and central Africa, respectively. Bantu-speaking Africans also predominate in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, and are found in parts of southern Cameroon. In the Kalahari Desert of Southern Africa, the distinct people known as the Bushmen have long been present. The San are physically distinct from other Africans and are the indigenous people of southern Africa. Pygmies are the pre-Bantu indigenous peoples of central Africa.
The peoples of North Africa comprise two main groups: Berbers and Arabic-speaking peoples in the west, and Egyptians and Libyans in the east. The Arabs who arrived in the 7th century introduced the Arabic language and Islam to North Africa. The Semitic Phoenicians and Hyksos, the Indo-Iranian Alans, the Indo- European Greeks, Romans and Vandals settled in North Africa as well. Berbers still make up the majority in Morocco, while they are a significant minority within Algeria. They are also present in Tunisiaand Libya. The Berber-speaking Taureg and other often-nomadic peoples are the principal inhabitants of the Saharan interior of North Africa.
Some Ethiopian and Eritrean groups speak languages from the Semitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family, while the Oromo and Somali speak languages from the Cushitic branch of Afro-Asiatic. Sudan is mostly inhabited by Nubian and Beja people , with northern Mauritania somewhat similarly structured.
Prior to the decolonization movements of the post-WW2 era, Europeans were represented in every part of Africa. Decolonisation during the 1960s and 1970s often resulted in the mass emigration of European-descended settlers out of Africa – especially from Algeria and Morocco, Kenya, Congo, Rhodesia, Mozambique and Angola. By the end of 1977, more than one million Portuguese were thought to have returned from Africa. Nevertheless, White Africans remain an important minority in many African states, particularly South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Reunion. The African country with the largest White African population is South Africa. The Afrikaners, the Anglo-Africans and the Coloureds are the largest European-descended groups in Africa today.
European colonization also brought sizable groups of Asians, particularly people from the Indian subcontinent, to British colonies. Large Indian communities are found in South Africa, and smaller ones are present in Kenya, Tanzania, and some other southern and East African countries. The large Indian community in Uganda was expelled by the dictator Idi Amin in 1972, though many have since returned. The islands in the Indian Ocean are also populated primarily by people of Asian origin, often mixed with Africans and Europeans. The Malagasy people of Madagascar are an Austronesian people, but those along the coast are generally mixed with Bantu, Arab, Indian and European origins. Malay and Indian ancestries are also important components in the group of people known in South Africa as Cape Coloureds. During the 20th century, small but economically important communities of Lebanese and Chinese have also developed in the larger coastal cities of West and East Africa, respectively.
By most estimates, well over a thousand languages are spoken in Africa. Most are of African origin, though some are of European or Asian origin. Africa is the most multilingual continent in the world, and it is not rare for individuals to fluently speak not only multiple African languages, but one or more European ones as well. There are four major language families indigenous to Africa.
- The Afro-Asiatic languages are a language family of about 240 languages and 285 million people widespread throughout the Horn of Africa, North Africa, the Sahel, and Southwest Asia.
- The Nilo-Saharan language family consists of more than a hundred languages spoken by 30 million people. Nilo-Saharan languages are spoken by tribes in Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, and northern Tanzania.
- The Niger-Congo language family covers much of Sub-Saharan Africa and is probably the largest language family in the world in terms of different languages.
- The Khoisan languages number about fifty and are spoken in Southern Africa by approximately 120,000 people. Many of the Khoisan languages are endangered. The Kohi and San peoples are considered the original inhabitants of this part of Africa.
Following the end of colonialism, nearly all African countries adopted official languages that originated outside the continent, although several countries also granted legal recognition to indigenous languages. In numerous countries, English and French are used for communication in the public sphere such as government, commerce, education and the media. Arabic, Portuguese, Afrikaans, Malagasy, and Spanish are examples of languages that trace their origin to outside of Africa, and that are used by millions of Africans today, both in the public and private spheres. Italian is spoken by some in former Italian colonies in Africa. Prior to World War I, German was used in certain areas also.
Africans profess a wide variety of religious beliefs. and statistics on religious affiliation are difficult to come by since they are too sensitive a topic for governments with mixed populations. According to the World Book Encyclopedia, Islam is the largest religion in Africa, followed by Christianity. However, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, 45% of the population are Christians, 40% are Muslims and less than 15% continue to follow traditional African religions. A small number of Africans are Hindu, Baha'i, or have beliefs from the Judaic tradition. Examples of African Jews are the Beta Israel, Lemba peoples and the Abayudaya of Eastern Uganda. There is also a small minority of Africans who are non-religious.