Here are some interesting facts about Africa that may surprise you. The African continent houses 54 sovereign countries. More than 1.37 billion people were living on the continent as of 2021, making it the third-most populous continent in the world.
You may know that Africa is the second biggest continent in the world and that it is the home of black people. You may also know about certain tourist attraction sites like the Gaza pyramids, the Sahara Desert, and the River Nile. But what if I told you there is much more about Africa than what catches the eye at first glance?
In this article, I will be covering the most stunning, interesting facts about Africa; its people, its ancient civilizations, the most stunning architecture, climate, etc. These are going to be interesting facts you most likely have never heard of before.
Interesting Facts About Africa History
Many anthropologists say that Africa is the oldest place on earth where human life can currently be found! The second oldest civilization in the world is an African civilization. It is Egypt—the dwelling place of powerful Pharaohs, whose stories are told in many ancient books and relics, including even the bible.
Some of the oldest artifacts in the world have originated in Africa. The Lomekwi Stone Tools point toward the stone age. These tools are 3.3 million years old and take origin in Kenya, a country in East Africa.
The second oldest artifact in the world can also be traced back to Africa. It is called the Oldowan stone tool and also points toward the stone age. This tool is just around 2.6 million years old and was discovered in Gona, Ethiopia.
One of the oldest universities in the world—believed to be the second oldest—is in Africa. It is called the Al-Azhar University and is believed to be founded around c.972 CE. It is a public university and currently trains about two million students.
The university was created to teach Shitte Islam in Egypt. It was only officially recognized as a University in 1961, and it’s one of the only standing universities in the Arabic world.
The oldest university in the world is in Africa. It is called the University of Al-Qarawiyyin and is located in the North African country Morocco. The University of Al-Qarawiyyin is believed to have been established in 859CE. It is a state university and currently trains up to eight thousand students.
The Al-Qarawiyyin was not established at first as a modern-day university. It was meant to be some kind of primary school where Islam is taught. But it grew rapidly, influenced by many leaders in Morocco, and soon attained university status.
The origin of the name ‘Africa’ is an interesting one. One of the most interesting assertions is that of Leo Africanus, a widely travelled scholar. This scholar suggested that ‘Africa’ got its name from a Greek word that translates ‘void of cold.’ The word is ‘A-phrike.’
Another interesting African fact and take are offered by some historians who believe that Africa takes its name from Latin. From Roman chiefs. They believe that Romans called the continent ‘Aprica’, which translates to ‘hot’.
Interesting Facts About Africa Geography
In terms of size, Africa is second only to Asia. It is the second-largest continent in the entire world and the second-most populous.
The size of this vast continent is 30,221, 532 sq. km. 54 countries, some large and some small, are spread across this vast land area.
The continent is bounded by:
- The Atlantic Ocean along the West
- The Mediterranean Sea along the North
- The red sea along the East
- The Indian Ocean along the East
Another amazing fact that will surely interest you is Africa’s coastline. Africa’s coastline measures about 18,950 miles. Europe’s coastline beats it by only a few figures. Africa is the most centrally placed continent in the world. The equator cuts into it almost asymmetrically.
Africa, at least most of it, lies in the tropical region in relation to the equator. This is why you will always hear stuff like: “In the tropics” whenever anyone makes reference to Africa. Being in the tropics means Africa is quite warm. Tropical regions in the world are warm all year.
There are assertions that Africa may soon split into two continents. This is because recently, a huge rift was noticed in the Southwestern area of Kenya. The rift has since continued to grow. The rift is due to the movements of the earth’s tectonic plates. Scientists believe a new Ocean is being born in Africa.
What does this mean for Africa? We don’t know for sure, but we know that it may just mean someone as eager as you are is going to be reading one new fact about Africa in the coming hundred years.
Who knows, it may be something like: “Once a single continent, Africa is now the home to a new Ocean and the mother of another continent.”
Also, one can see Africa from Europe. That is, from certain points in Europe, you can have a clear view of Africa. From Gibraltar, for example, one can have a view of Africa.
Interesting Facts About African People and Races
As of 2016, there were at least 1.216 billion people living in Africa. That’s just about 16 percent of the population of the entire world. Now, I know you may think that all these people are blacks or those with darker skin. But what if I told you that Africa is home to a number of different races, even whites, and Indians.
In South Africa, you can find white Africans and can find Indian Africans. There are just about 4.5 Million South Africans. In the Northern region of Africa, you can also find whites. The Northern region of Africa comprises many Arab-speaking whites who are predominantly Muslims.
Black people in Africa get their color from a pigment in their skin called melanin. It makes their skin black and also darkens their hair.
Nigeria is the most populous black nation in the world. It is often said that this populous country makes up about 18 percent of the continent’s population. This means that out of every 100 Africans you meet, 18 of them are likely going to be Nigerians.
Interesting Facts About Africa Waters
One cannot possibly write about interesting facts about Africa without leaving her waters out. As mentioned earlier, Africa is surrounded by many vast water bodies, many of which African waters drain into.
There are hundreds of water bodies in Africa, but we would like to take note of these few interesting facts about African waters;
The Nile is one of the most popular bodies of water in the world. It is believed to be at least 30 million years old. Imagine that! Many of the animals that lived around that time have gone extinct. One can find stories about the Nile in many old texts, including the bible. In Exodus, there is a story about frogs infesting the Nile.
The Nile is easily the longest river in the world. It spans up to eleven countries! Terrific! This is due to its record-breaking length of about 4,132 miles.
The direction of flow is South-North, mostly. For years, the River Nile has been a tourist attraction site. It is one of those places that leave tourists gasping in wonder.
The River Congo
An exciting fact about the African continent is The River Congo. The River Congo is the second largest river in the African continent. It was formerly called the Zaire River. It is the river with the deepest recorded depth. It spans about 2,900 miles, which places its position as the ninth longest river in the world.
The source of this vast river is a body of water called Lualaba. The Lualaba is found in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The mouth of the River Congo is the Atlantic Ocean.
The River Zambezi is a vast river that is birthed in Angola. Its journey is a somewhat long one. Just after its rising, it passed into Zambia, flowing along the Namibian and Botswanan Border. It drains into the Indian Ocean just after crossing Mozambique.
The Zambezi River is the source of Victoria Falls, one of the most spectacular falls in the world. The water from the Victoria falls lands on rocks to pronounce a sound similar to thundering. This is what gives it its nickname amongst the locals; “The thunder that claps.”
The River Niger
It will surprise you to know that the most populous black nation in Africa, Nigeria, derives its name from this river. Nigeria is just a way of saying ‘Niger’ ‘area .’The British colonists choose this name for easy identification of the country.
Niger is the third-longest river in Africa. It flows through three countries; Guinea, Mali, and Ghana. It flows into Nigeria, where it forms the Niger Delta. The Niger Delta is the oil-rich area of Nigeria. It produces most of the oil upon which the Nigerian economy thrives.
Interesting Facts About Africa Deserts
One-third of Africa is desert land. There are a stunning nine deserts in Africa, spread across many areas of the continent.
Some of the most magnificent deserts in Africa include:
The Sahara Desert
The Sahara Desert is undoubtedly the vastest and hottest desert in the world. This vast desert spans around 9.2 million sq. km. It is spread across up to twelve African countries. Algeria. Chad. Egypt. Morocco. Niger. Sudan. Tunisia.
There are assertions that the Sahara Desert came to be when Tethys, a large body of water, closed up several millions of years ago.
Many believe the Sahara Desert is bare and does not house any life. This is not true. The Sahara Desert does house life. In this vast area, you will find animals and plants. The rare sand foxes and gazelles can be found in the Sahara Desert.
The Kalahari Desert can be found in Southern Africa, spanning three countries. Botswana. Namibia, and South Africa. This is the second-largest desert in Africa and covers an area of 930,000 sq. km.
The Kalahari Desert is not a real desert, per se, when one takes into consideration the amount of rainfall it receives per year.
A true desert is supposed to receive less than ten inches of rainfall every year. But the Kalahari Desert receives up to 20 inches of rainfall every year. This means that some areas of the Kalahari Desert allow the growth of plants.
You can find lions, antelopes, and many varieties of animal life in the Kalahari Desert.
Interesting Facts About Africa Languages and Cultures
Even though Africa, at least most of it, speaks the language of its colonizers—English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, etc.—Africa is home to 1,500 – 2,000 indigenous languages.
The most common language in Africa is called Swahili. Approximately 100 million Africans speak it in the eastern and southern regions of the continent.
Yoruba, a language spoken by Nigerians, Togolese, etc., comes close, gathering up to 20 million native speakers.
There’s also Igbo. The Igbo Language is the indigenous language of the Igbos in Nigeria, who are known for their prowess in trading—buying and selling.
The Igbo-apprentice system is a common system in Nigeria and is gaining recognition from scholars around the world.
The ethnic groups in Africa number up to two thousand, some small and others quite large—Some of the largest and commonest ethnic groups are Zulu, Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, etc.
Startling Facts About Africa Architecture
One will expect, and rightly so, for a continent as ancient and vast as Africa to be the home of some of the most amazing architecture in the world. And, of course, it is.
African architecture holds a lot of history and beauty. Some of the most renowned ones include:
The Kasubi Tombs
The Kasubi tombs were found in Uganda and were formed around 1882. The tombs were made from wood. The wood is so heavy that it has withstood so many years of climate change.
Hikma complex is one of the most beautiful architectural studios on the continent of Africa. It is made from brick and reaches many feet into the sky.
The tallest building in Africa is the Iconic tower. It reaches up to 1,265 feet tall and has up to 77 floors.
Interesting Facts About the Animals in Africa
There are over 1100 species of mammals in Africa, including elephants, hippos, giraffes, buffalo, leopards, lions, etc. There are 815 amphibians in Africa, including frogs, caecilians, and salamanders.
Africa also has the world’s most dangerous animals, also known as the big 5. The Big 5 of Africa brings a lot of tourists to Africa every year. The big 5 are:
- Black rhinoceros
- African bush elephant
- African buffalo.
If you want to see the big 5 live, then visit African wildlife safaris, and you’ll be able to spot them.
Interesting Facts About Africa Resources
Africa may be covered by desert, but it sure has a number of resources.
First, it contains the most fertile land on the planet. Most of the land in Africa can be cultivated to yield crops.
The continent gains a lot from agricultural produce. Africa is also the most oil-producing continent in the world. Five of the countries in the world top 30 which produce oil are African countries!
Photo by James Wiseman on Unsplash