In northern South Africa near Johannesburg, there is a cave formation called the Sterkfontein. Within these caves, archaeologists have uncovered some of the earliest human fossils ever found. Some are more than two million years old. The find earned the region the nickname "Cradle of Humankind."
About 24,000 years ago, tribes of hunter-gatherers known as the San, or Bushmen, began moving into South Africa. Many San still live, much as their ancestors did, around the Kalahari Desert in the northwest.
In the 1400s, European ships heading to the Far East began stopping on the South African coast for supplies. In 1652, the Netherlands established the southern city of Cape Town, and Dutch farmers, called Boers, began settling in the areas around the city.
In 1806, wars in Europe left the British in control of the Cape Town colony. In 1910, the British united four colonies in the region and created South Africa. They established laws that separated whites from black South Africans, a practice of segregation called apartheid, which led to decades of conflict.
In 1963, Nelson Mandela, head of the anti-apartheid African National Congress, was given a life sentence in jail for "terrorist" activities. In 1990, after 27 years behind bars, he was freed by President F.W. de Klerk. In 1994, Mandela was elected president of South Africa.
Our Africa Facts for Kids bring you lots of interesting and fun facts on the African continent.
The African continent is located mainly in the Eastern hemisphere and to the major part in the Northern hemisphere. Did you know that Africa, which covers over 30 million square kilometres, is bigger than the USA, Canada and India together?
Top 20 Africa Facts
1. There are 54 countries in Africa - and 9 territories -with a total of more than 1.1 billion people living on the continent, which is 15% of the world's total population. Find a clickable Africa map here.
2. Largest Country: Algeria. The country is covering more than half the continent's landmass. However, the most populous country is Nigeria, with more than 185 million people, but the country is only a third of the size of Algeria.
3. Largest City: Lagos in Nigeria. With more than 21 million inhabitants, Lagos is also one of the six biggest metropolitan cities in the world.
4. Smallest Country: Seychelles, which is an archipelago (nation of islands) in the Indian Ocean. On the African mainland, the smallest country is The Gambia. Read our Seychelles Facts here.
5. Biggest Island: Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world (after Greenland, New Guinea and Borneo).
6. Longest River: Nile (6,852metres/4,258miles). The Nile is the longest river in the world. The Nile has two sources: The White Nile coming from Lake Victoria in Tanzania and the Blue Nile coming from Lake Tana in Ethiopia. The river mouth is in Egypt. The confluence in Khartoum/Sudan.
7. Highest Mountain: Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. The highest peak of the mountain 'Kibo Peak', also called 'Uhuru Peak', (4,895metres/16,060ft) is located in the Tanzanian highlands.
8. Biggest Lake: Lake Victoria (bordering Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya) is also the world's second largest freshwater lake. Only Lake Superior in North America is bigger!
9. Driest Place: The Sahara in northern Africa is the largest hot desert in the world. The climate is extremely dry (arid) in this region.
10. There are sixteen landlocked countries in Africa. Two tiny countries, Swaziland and Lesotho, are located within South Africa. These countries are all located in the interior of the continent and have neither access to the Atlantic Ocean nor to the Indian Ocean. Two of these countries, the tiny countries, Swaziland and Lesotho, are located within South Africa.
More Africa Facts
11. History: Africa is the 'cradle of humankind', the place where the first hominids, human beings and their closest relatives the gorilla and chimpanzees, evolved 5 to 10 million years ago. Fossils found in Africa, show that the modern human beings spread from this continent. One of the earliest evidences of human life were found in South Africa. 'Mrs Ples and the Taung Child are among the most important fossils found. Many powerful kingdoms existed on the African continent in the early history and the Middle Ages. Between the 5th and 15th century, African slaves were traded mainly by Arab traders. In the late 19th century Europeans started conquering Africa which was then colonised in the 19th and 20th century mainly from Britain and France, but also from the Dutch, Italian and Germans.
12. People of Africa: There are more than 3,000 different groups of indigenous people living in Africa. They have their own language and culture. The majority of Africans is poor. The poorest countries are the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) and Zimbabwe. Among the most developed and richest countries are the Seychelles, Libya, Mauritius, Algeria, Egypt, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa.
13. Languages in Africa: It is estimated that about 2,000 different languages are spoken on the African continent! Many Africans speak several African languages and also often another 'European' language. In many countries, people speak English, French or Portuguese as an additional language, as these languages are often used in communication and business. English is widely spoken in Africa as many countries were formerly British colonies. Arabic, the language spoken in northern Africa, is also used as official language.
14. Religion: Most of the African people are Christians and Muslims. In North Africa and many West African countries, most people follow the Islam. There are also almost 10% of Africans that follow traditional religious rituals which means they have traditional healing rituals such as bone-throwing, 'magic' and herbal medicine and celebrating the spirit of the ancestors.
15. Tourist attractions in Africa: The most popular African tourist attractions are:
Another 5 Interesting Africa Facts
16. Biggest Cities: The most populous city in Africa is Lagos with more than 16 million people. Cairo in Egypt is the second largest city in Africa.
Other big cities in Africa are:
- Kinshasa (DR Congo)
- Johannesburg (South Africa)
- Casablanca (Morocco)
- Nairobi (Kenya)
- Cape Town (South Africa)
Africa Facts - Did you know? The southernmost city in Africa is Cape Town in South Africa! However, the southernmost point of the African continent is Cape Agulhas, which is roughly 170km/100 miles southeast from Cape Town.
17. Animals: In Africa, you will find some of the largest mammals on this planet. Among them are the largest land mammal, the African elephant, the tallest mammal, the giraffe, and the fastest mammal, the cheetah, which can run with speeds up to 113km/hour or 70 miles/hour!
Africa is also home to many endangered animals such as the White and Black Rhinoceros. Kruger National Park where one can admire the beautiful African wildlife is one of the biggest national parks and wildlife conservation areas in the world.
18. Main natural resources in Africa are minerals such as oil, copper, gold, diamonds, platinum and agricultural produce such as corn, coffee, wheat and fruits. Almost 65% of all Africans work in the agricultural sector.
19. Nature superlatives:
- Sahara desert is the driest hot desert on earth
- The Nile is the world's longest river
- Tugela Falls in South Africa are Africa's highest waterfalls
- Blyde River Canyon in South Africa is the world's largest green canyon
20. More than half of the African continent is covered by grassland or savannah. Northern Africa is dominated by the vast Sahara desert and the semi-arid Sahel zone which also includes fertile land in the Nile delta. Central Africa has rainforests, coastal plains and the continents highest mountains and lakes. Southern Africa lies mainly on a high plateau and only has a small coastal band.
And one more interesting fact: The Cape Floral Region in South Africa has the most plant varieties in the world!
Useful Resources for Africa Facts
- National Geographic Photogallery: Africa. Last accessed: 29.01.2018
- Nations Online Project: Clickable Africa Map - last accessed: 29.01.2018
- National Geographic: World Atlas for Young Explorers. Washington: 2010
- Earth Condensed. The World Atlas by Millennium House. 2009
Image Credits on Africa Facts page: Shutterstock.com, wikipedia commons and own
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