To the north lies Sahara, the largestdesert in the world. Equatorial area is covered by tropical rain forests.
Farther south there are areas of grassy flat highlands giving way to coastal plains. Major mountain ranges include Atlas in the north and Ruwenzri on the Uganda-Zaire border.
Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, is a dormant volcano in Tanzania. To the east is the Great Rift Valley containing several huge lakes.
Some of the world’s longest rivers drain the continent, including the Nile, Niger, Zaire, and Zambezi.
North Africa reflects the influence of many invaders, both European and Arab, giving the region Islamic flavor and a common Arabic language.
Morocco and Tunisia exploit their culture and landscape for tourism, while Libya and Algeria aid their development through the use of oil and gas, despite political unrest. Egypt, with its Nile-watered agricultural land and industrial base, is the most populous nation.
The Atlas Mountains run from Morocco to Tunisia more than 1,200 miles (1,931 km).
The European influence began with slave trade and quickened later in 19th century, when the discovery of a huge mineral wealth secured South Africa’s economic dominance.
The struggle against the white minority led to conflict in Namibia, Zimbabwe, and the former Portuguese territories of Angola and Mozambique.
South Africa’s apartheid laws, which denied basic human rights to more than 75% of the people, led to international exclusion until 1994, when the democratic elections began a new era of racial justice.
At Victoria Falls, the Zambezi River has cut out a spectacular gorge. A wide range of crops, such as tea, cotton, sisal, tobacco, grapes, citrus fruits, corn, cassava, legumes, and potatoes, are grown here, some with the help of irrigation systems, such as the Orange River Project, which supplements the irregular rainfall.
The great rain forest basin of the Congo River embraces most of the Central Africa. Late in the 19th century, Europeans colonized the region. The tribal kingdoms were split between France, Belgium, Portugal and Spain. Many who belong to a small growing urban population speak French, along with hundreds of dialects.
Crops for export include cocoa, coffee, and rubber. Cattle farming is limited to areas free of the tsetse fly, and fish from the rivers are protein sources. Timber provides export revenues for several countries, although concern about the uncontrolled logging is growing.
East Africa falls into two distinct cultural regions. Sudan and the “Horn” nations have been influenced by the Middle East. Ethiopia was the home of one of the earliest Christian civilizations.
Sudan reflects both Muslim and Christian influences. The southern countries share a cultural affinity with sub-Saharan nations. Some Africa’s most densely populated countries lie in this region, which puts pressure on fragile environments. Kenya developed an industrial base, while other East African economies rely on agriculture.
The magnificent National Parks of Kenya and Tanzania provide essential refuges for many rare animals. Tourism flows in the cash needed to sustain these conservation efforts. The Lake Victoria is the world’s second largest lake in the terms of surface 26,828 sq miles (69,484 sq km). Around it, the rich volcanic soils support coffee, tea, cotton, sugar cane and vegetables. Lake Tanganyika is 16,400 ft (5,000 m) in depth and lies 8,202 ft (2,500 m) above the sea level. An extinct volcano, Kilimanjaro, is Africa’s highest mountain 19,340 ft (5,895 m). In the dry regions, camels are common, elsewhere herds of cattle, sheep, and goats. Tsetse Fly limits human settlement and agriculture in much of this region.
West Africa is a very diverse region. It has desert landscapes and also the tropical rain forests of the more humid south. The mainly Muslim populations of the Saharan countries have a variety of local languages and cultures. The rich natural resources of this area were exploited by Europeans.
Most of the slaves came from this region, causing serious depopulation. Former leading colonial powers, Britain and France, have influenced the languages and institutions of the countries they once governed.
Virgin rain forest, which once covered much of the West African coast, has been drastically reduced by logging and agriculture. The southern regions’ tropical rain forest grows some of the world’s most prized hardwood trees, such as mahogany and iroko. The Niger River flows 2,600 miles (4,181 km) and supports rich fish stocks.