Africa is the world’s second-largest and second-most-populous continent. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers six percent of the Earth‘s total surface area and 20.4 percent of the total land area. With 1.1 billion people as of 2013, it accounts for about 15% of the world’s human population. The continent is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, both the Suez Canal and the Red Sea along the Sinai Peninsula to the northeast, the Indian Ocean to the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The continent includes Madagascar and various archipelagoes. It has 54 fully recognized sovereign states (“countries“), 9 territories and two de facto independent states with limited or no recognition.
Algeria is Africa’s largest country by area, and Nigeria is the largest by population. Africa, particularly central Eastern Africa, is widely accepted as the origin of humans and the Hominidae clade (great apes), as evidenced by the discovery of the earliest hominids and their ancestors, as well as later ones that have been dated to around seven million years ago, including Sahelanthropus tchadensis, Australopithecus africanus, A. afarensis, Homo erectus, H. habilis and H. ergaster – with the earliest Homo sapiens (modern human) found in Ethiopia being dated to circa 200,000 years ago.Africa straddles the equator and encompasses numerous climate areas; it is the only continent to stretch from the northern temperate to southern temperate zones.
The climate of Africa ranges from tropical to subarctic on its highest peaks. Its northern half is primarily desert, or arid, while its central and southern areas contain both savanna plains and very dense jungle(rainforest) regions. In between, there is a convergence, where vegetation patterns such as sahel and steppe dominate. Africa is the hottest continent on earth and 60% of the entire land surface consists of drylands and deserts. The record for the highest-ever recorded temperature, in Libya in 1922 (58 °C (136 °F)), was discredited in 2013.
Africa boasts perhaps the world’s largest combination of density and “range of freedom” of wild animal populations and diversity, with wild populations of large carnivores (such as lions, hyenas, and cheetahs) and herbivores (such as buffalo, elephants, camels, and giraffes) ranging freely on primarily open non-private plains. It is also home to a variety of “jungle” animals including snakes and primates and aquatic life such as crocodiles and amphibians. In addition, Africa has the largest number of megafauna species, as it was least affected by the extinction of the Pleistocene megafauna.
Deforestation is affecting Africa at twice the world rate, according to the United Nations Environment Programe (UNEP). According to the University of Pennsylvania African Studies Center, 31% of Africa’s pasture lands and 19% of its forests and woodlands are classified as degraded, and Africa is losing over four million hectares of forest every year, which is twice the average deforestation rate compared to the rest of the world. Some sources claim that deforestation has already destroyed roughly 90% of the original, virgin forests in West Africa. Since the arrival of humans 2000 years ago, Madagascar has lost more than 90% of its original forest. About 65% of Africa’s agricultural land suffers from soil degradation.
Visual art and architecture
African art and architecture reflect the diversity of African cultures. The oldest existing examples of art from Africa are 82,000-year-old beads made from Nassarius shells that were found in the Aterian levels at Grotte des Pigeons, Taforalt, Morocco.
The Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt was the world’s tallest structure for 4,000 years, until the completion of Lincoln Cathedral around the year 1300.
The stone ruins of Great Zimbabwe are also noteworthy for their architecture, and the complexity of monolithic churches at Lalibela, Ethiopia, of which the Church of Saint George is representative.
Music and dance
Egypt has long been a cultural focus of the Arab world, while remembrance of the rhythms of sub-Saharan Africa, in particular West Africa, was transmitted through the Atlantic slave trade to modern samba, blues, jazz, reggae, hip hop, and rock. The 1950s through the 1970s saw a conglomeration of these various styles with the popularization of Afrobeat and Highlife music.
Modern music of the continent includes the highly complex choral singing of southern Africa and the dance rhythms of the musical genre of soukous, dominated by the music of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Indigenous musical and dance traditions of Africa are maintained by oral traditions, and they are distinct from the music and dance styles of North Africa and Southern Africa. Arab influences are visible in North African music and dance and, in Southern Africa, Western influences are apparent due to colonization.
Fifty-three African countries have football (soccer) teams in the Confederation of African Football, while Cameroon, Nigeria, Senegal, and Ghana have advanced to the knockout stage of recent FIFA World Cups. South Africa hosted the 2010 World Cup tournament, becoming the first African country to do so. According to FIFA ranking, Egypt currently has the best soccer team in Africa. Their team has won the African Cup 7 times, and a record-making 3 times in a row.
Cricket is popular in some African nations. South Africa and Zimbabwe have Test status, while Kenya is the leading non-test team in One-Day International cricket and has attained permanent One-Day International status.
The three countries jointly hosted the 2003 Cricket World Cup. Namibia is the other African country to have played in a World Cup. Morocco in northern Africa has also hosted the 2002 Morocco Cup, but the national team has never qualified for a major tournament. Rugby is a popular sport in South Africa and Namibia.