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Africa Geography


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Geography of Africa

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 of Suez (transected by the Suez Canal), 163 km (101 mi) wide. (Geopolitically, Egypt's Sinai Peninsula east of the Suez Canal is often considered part of Africa, as well.)

Africa is a continent comprising 62 political territories, representing the largest of the great southward projections from the main mass of Earth's surface. It includes, within its remarkably regular outline, an area of 30,368,609 km2 (11,725,385 sq mi), including adjacent islands.
Separated from Europe by the Mediterranean Sea and from much of Asia by the Red Sea, Africa is joined to Asia at its northeast extremity by the Isthmus of Suez (which is transected by the Suez Canal), 130 km (81 mi) wide. For geopolitical purposes, the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt – east of the Suez Canal – is often considered part of Africa. From the most northerly point, Ras ben Sakka in Tunisia, in 37°21′ N, to the most southerly point, Cape Agulhas in South Africa, 34°51′15″ S, is a distance approximately of 8,000 km (5,000 mi); from Cape Verde, 17°33′22″ W, the westernmost point, to Ras Hafun in Somalia, 51°27′52″ E, the most easterly projection, is a distance (also approximately) of 7,400 km (4,600 mi). The length of coast-line is 26,000 km (16,000 mi) and the absence of deep indentations of the shore is shown by the fact that Europe, which covers only 10,400,000 km2 (4,000,000 sq mi), has a coastline of 32,000 km (20,000 mi).
The main structural lines of the continent show both the east-to-west direction characteristic, at least in the eastern hemisphere, of the more northern parts of the world, and the north-to-south direction seen in the southern peninsulas. Africa is thus mainly composed of two segments at right angles, the northern running from east to west, and the southern from north to south.



Main features

The average elevation of the continent approximates closely to 600 m (2,000 ft) above sea level, roughly near to the mean elevation of both North and South America, but considerably less than that of Asia, 950 m (3,120 ft). In contrast with other continents, it is marked by the comparatively small area of either very high or very low ground, lands under 180 m (590 ft) occupying an unusually small part of the surface; while not only are the highest elevations inferior to those of Asia or South America, but the area of land over 3,000 m (9,800 ft) is also quite insignificant, being represented almost entirely by individual peaks and mountain ranges. Moderately elevated tablelands are thus the characteristic feature of the continent, though the surface of these is broken by higher peaks and ridges. (So prevalent are these isolated peaks and ridges that a specialised term has been adopted in Germany to describe this kind of country, thought to be in great part the result of wind action.)

As a general rule, the higher tablelands lie to the east and south, while a progressive diminution in altitude towards the west and north is observable. Apart from the lowlands and the Atlas mountainrange, the continent may be divided into two regions of higher and lower plateaus, the dividing line (somewhat concave to the north-west) running from the middle of the Red Sea to about 6 deg. S. on the west coast.

Africa can be divided into a number of geographic zones:

  • The coastal plains — often fringed seawards by mangrove swamps — never stretching far from the coast, apart from the lower courses of streams. Recent alluvial flats are found chiefly in the delta of the more important rivers. Elsewhere, the coastal lowlands merely form the lowest steps of the system of terraces that constitutes the ascent to the inner plateaus.
  • The Atlas range — orthographically distinct from the rest of the continent, being unconnected with and separated from the south by a depressed and desert area (the Sahara).

This is the list of countrie's in Africa continent..

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Plateau region

The high southern and eastern plateaus, rarely falling below 600 m (2,000 ft), have a mean elevation of about 1,000 m (3,300 ft). The South African plateau, as far as about 12° S, is bounded east, west and south by bands of high ground which fall steeply to the coasts. On this account South Africa has a general resemblance to an inverted saucer. Due south the plateau rim is formed by three parallel steps with level ground between them. The largest of these level areas, the Great Karoo, is a dry, barren region, and a large tract of the plateau proper is of a still more arid character and is known as the Kalahari Desert.
The South African plateau is connected towards East African plateau, with probably a slightly greater average elevation, and marked by some distinct features. It is formed by a widening out of the eastern axis of high ground, which becomes subdivided into a number of zones running north and south and consisting in turn of ranges, tablelands and depressions. The most striking feature is the existence of two great lines of depression, due largely to the subsidence of whole segments of the Earth's crust, the lowest parts of which are occupied by vast lakes. Towards the south the two lines converge and give place to one great valley (occupied by Lake Nyasa), the southern part of which is less distinctly due to rifting and subsidence than the rest of the system.
Farther north the western depression, known as the Albertine Rift is occupied for more than half its length by water, forming the Great Lakes of Tanganyika, Kivu, Lake Edward and Lake Albert, the first-named over 400 miles (600 km) long and the longest freshwater lake in the world. Associated with these great valleys are a number of volcanic peaks, the greatest of which occur on a meridional line east of the eastern trough. The eastern branch of the East African Rift, contains much smaller lakes, many of them brackish and without outlet, the only one comparable to those of the western trough being Lake Turkana or Basso Norok.
At no great distance east of this rift-valley is Mount Kilimanjaro - with its two peaks Kibo and Mawenzi, the latter being 5,889 m (19,321 ft), and the culminating point of the whole continent — and Mount Kenya, which is 5,184 m (17,008 ft). Hardly less important is the Ruwenzori Range, over 5,060 m (16,600 ft), which lies east of the western trough. Other volcanic peaks rise from the floor of the valleys, some of the Kirunga (Mfumbiro) group, north of Lake Kivu, being still partially active.
The third division of the higher region of Africa is formed by the Ethiopian Highlands, a rugged mass of mountains forming the largest continuous area of its altitude in the whole continent, little of its surface falling below 1,500 m (4,900 ft), while the summits reach heights of 4600 m to 4900 m (15,000 to 16,000 ft). This block of country lies just west of the line of the great East African Trough, the northern continuation of which passes along its eastern escarpment as it runs up to join the Red Sea. There is, however, in the centre a circular basin occupied by Lake Tsana.
Both in the east and west of the continent the bordering highlands are continued as strips of plateau parallel to the coast, the Ethiopian mountains being continued northwards along the Red Sea coast by a series of ridges reaching in places a height of 2,000 m (6,600 ft). In the west the zone of high land is broader but somewhat lower. The most mountainous districts lie inland from the head of the Gulf of Guinea (Adamawa, etc.), where heights of 1800 m to 2400 m (6000 to 8000 ft) are reached. Exactly at the head of the gulf the great peak of the Cameroon, on a line of volcanic action continued by the islands to the south-west, has a height of 4,075 m (13,369 ft), while Clarence Peak, in Fernando Po, the first of the line of islands, rises to over 2,700 m (8,900 ft). Towards the extreme west the Futa Jallon highlands form an important diverging point of rivers, but beyond this, as far as the Atlas chain, the elevated rim of the continent is almost wanting.



Africa Plains

The area between the east and west coast highlands, which north of 17° N is mainly desert, is divided into separate basins by other bands of high ground, one of which runs nearly centrally through North Africa in a line corresponding roughly with the curved axis of the continent as a whole. The best marked of the basins so formed (the Congo basin) occupies a circular area bisected by the equator, once probably the site of an inland sea.
Running along the south of desert is the plains region known as the Sahel.
The arid region, the Sahara — the largest desert in the world, covering 9,000,000 km2 (3,500,000 sq mi) — extends from the Atlantic to the Red Sea. Though generally of slight elevation it contains mountain ranges with peaks rising to 2,400 m (7,900 ft) Bordered N.W. by the Atlas range, to the northeast a rocky plateau separates it from the Mediterranean; this plateau gives place at the extreme east to the delta of the Nile. That river (see below) pierces the desert without modifying its character. The Atlas range, the north-westerly part of the continent, between its seaward and landward heights encloses elevated steppes in places 160 km (99 mi) broad. From the inner slopes of the plateau numerous wadis take a direction towards the Sahara. The greater part of that now desert region is, indeed, furrowed by old water-channels.

Africa Islands

With the exception of Madagascar the African islands are small. Madagascar, with an area of 229,820 square miles (595,200 km2), is, after Greenland, New Guinea and Borneo, the fourth largest island on the Earth. It lies in the Indian Ocean, off the S.E. coast of the continent, from which it is separated by the deep Mozambique channel, 250 miles (400 km) wide at its narrowest point. Madagascar in its general structure, as in flora and fauna, forms a connecting link between Africa and southern Asia. East of Madagascar are the small islands of Mauritius and Reunion. There are also islands in the Gulf of Guinea on which lies the Republic of Sao Tome and Principe (islands of São Tome and Principe). Part of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea is laying on the island of Bioko (with the capital Malabo and the town of Lubu) and the island of Annobón. Socotra lies E.N.E. of Cape Guardafui. Off the north-west coast are the Canary and Cape Verde archipelagoes. which, like some small islands in the Gulf of Guinea, are of volcanic origin.

Africa Extreme points

These are the points that are farther north, south, east or west than any other location on the continent.

Africa
  • Northernmost Point — Iles des Chiens, Tunisia (37°32'N)
  • Southernmost Point — Cape Agulhas, South Africa (34°51'15"S)
  • Westernmost Point — Santo Antão, Cape Verde Islands (25°25'W)
  • Easternmost Point — Rodrigues, Mauritius (63°30'E)
  • African pole of inaccessibility is close to the border of Central African Republic, Sudan and Congo, near the town Obo.
Africa (mainland)
  • Northernmost Point — Ras ben Sakka (Ra's al Abyad) (Cape Blanc), Tunisia
  • Southernmost Point — Cape Agulhas, South Africa
  • Westernmost Point — Pointe des Almadies, Cap Vert Peninsula, Senegal (17°33'22"W)
  • Easternmost Point — Ras Hafun (Raas Xaafuun), Somalia (51°27'52"E)

The highest point in Africa is Mount Kilimanjaro, 5,891.8 m (19,330 ft) in Tanzania. The lowest point is Lake Asal, 153 m (502 ft) below sea level, in Djibouti.

 

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