Africa Quick Facts

The numbers

  • Land area:

    12 million sq mi [30 million sq km]
  • Continent rank:

    2nd largest (out of 7) [23% of the world's total land area]
  • Countries:

    53 [47 nations on the mainland, 6 island nations]
  • Population:

    887 million in 2005 [13% world population]
  • Religion:

    40% christianity, 40% Islam, 20% African animism
  • Languages:

    between 2000 and 3000, varying with experts
Africa location map

Africa

Fashion show in Cameroon

Fashion show in Douala, Cameroon

Mount Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro: The highest point in Africa (Tanzania)

Johannesburg city center

Johannesburg, South Africa

Smiling African school girl

The culture

With ethnic groups ranging in the thousands, the African continent is rich in culture which is reflected in part through the arts, music, clothing and of course cuisine. Culture and family values still play an important role in daily aspects of life in rural and urban areas. Oral tradition (songs and folktales) plays a fundamental role in passing customs and traditions to younger generation. Similarly religion plays an important role in the life of many Africans. Today, tradition, religion and western influences all shape and arrange African lives in various ways, especially in urban areas.

The people

It is not totally proper to refer to one person from Africa as an "African" as the term is very vague. Similarly, you would not refer to one Mexican or one Costa Rican as an American (or a North-American). Characteristics vary greatly with the regions and only a few common demeanors are true for all. However, The term "African" can readily be used to refer to a group of persons from Africa (e.g., the African Students' Association). It can be noted that most Africans are multilingual, meaning that they speak two or more different languages. Few can afford to be otherwise, since daily life often brings people into contact with others who speak different languages.

The misconceptions

Negative connotations have long been attached with the word Africa. Early on, many Europeans referred to it as the "Dark continent". The prominent western philosopher Hegel wrote important and influential thesis that stated the inferiority of sub-Saharan Africans while he knew close to nothing about the continent. All this reinforced preconceived ideas and inspired a racism that still exists today. Today coupled with extensive negative media coverage of the region, many are not aware about the real state and beauty that can be found in Africa. While it is true that the continent, land of young new nations, is facing challenges in this new century, Africa has given birth to a wide array of astonishing cultures, dazzling landscape, blooming cities, thriving intellectuals, respected innovators, dominating athletes, praised authors and a young-eager-to-succeed new generation!

Join us throughout the year as we study, learn and celebrate the many faces of our continent!