Africa is the second largest continent on earth. The surface shape is
characterized by spacious pools and thresholds, in the east by trench systems
with large lakes. Africa is almost entirely in the tropics and therefore has all
tropical climates and vegetation zones.
The majority of African countries are predominantly agrarian structured
developing countries. Poverty, hunger and high child mortality are mass
phenomena in many countries. Due to their underdeveloped industry, the states
are heavily dependent on the industrialized nations and are often heavily
indebted. Political instability and ethnic conflicts often characterize the
situation in the countries.
Africa is the second largest continent after Asia. With 30 million km², it
takes up a fifth of the earth's land area and is three times the size of
Europe. It is approximately 8000 km from the northernmost point of Africa to the
southern tip. The largest east-west distance is approximately 7600 km (Fig. 1).
Africa is almost halved by the equator and extends approximately equally far
north and south to the 35th parallel. In comparison to Europe, the coast is only
weakly structured. There are only a few islands in front of it, of which
Madagascar is the only large one. Africa is separated from Europe by the rupture
basin of the Mediterranean. It is only directly connected to Asia on the isthmus
of Suez. It is separated from Asia by the Red Sea ditch.
Most of the continent consists of the old, rigid African plate. The
geologically young Atlas is an exception. The relief is largely determined by
plateaus or plateau countries that rise in the south and east on average over
1000 m (High Africa). More than half of the continent is less than 500 m (Lower
Africa). Large-scale rises and falls in the Tertiary created today's surface
shapes. Africa is the continent of the basins and thresholds (Photo
2). Shallow pools lie between the likewise flat sleepers. The Niger, Chad and
Weissnil basins are connected to the smaller drainless basins of the Sahara to
In Central Africa follows the huge Congo basin, which is closed to the north
by the north equatorial threshold, to the south by the Lunda threshold.
In the center of South Africa is the Kalahari basin, which is bordered in the
southeast by an old mountain system (in the Drakensberg mountains up to almost
3500 m high).
East Africa from the Red Sea to the Zambezi runs through the East
African Trench System and the Central African Rift Valley. Here plate parts
drift apart. In connection with this are the formation of lava blankets and
volcanoes. The highlands of Ethiopia are covered with basalt ceilings up to 2000
m thick. To the south of it, high, mostly inactive volcanoes rise on the edges
of the ditches. These include the highest mountains in Africa, the 5895 m high Kilimanjaro and
Mount Kenya (5194 m above sea level).
Large trench lakes with considerable depth such as Lake
Tanganyika (up to almost 1500 m deep), Lake Malawi or Lake Albert were created
in the trenches in East Africa. The largest lake in Africa, however, is Lake Victoria. As
a typical round Beckensee, it only reaches a maximum depth of
80 m. In the basins of the arid areas there are drainless lakes, e.g. B. Lake
Chad in the basin of the same name, or extensive salt lakes and pans are formed
by the high evaporation, such as the bulkheads in the Algerian Sahara on the
southern edge of the Atlas Mountains in Algeria and Tunisia.
The most powerful rivers in Africa, including the Nile (with 6671 km the
longest river in the world), Congo, Niger and Zambezi, develop in the tropical
wetlands. The streams break through the thresholds on their sides facing away
from the basins with mighty waterfalls and rapids. In the subtropical winter
rain regions of North and South Africa, the rivers only carry water
periodically. In the desert-like arid regions there are only the episodically
Climate / vegetation
Due to its location on both sides of the equator, Africa has the climate
and vegetation zones in an almost ideal arrangement (Fig. 6).
The always humid tropics at the equator with high rainfall
all year round and constant temperatures around 25 °C are the zone of
the tropical rainforests. To the north and south are the alternating,
moist tropics. Two rainy seasons alternate here with a short summer and
a longer winter dry season. The changeable tropics are the zones of
the savannah ; First the wet savannah (Fig. 7) with meter-high
grasses (elephant grass) and evergreen trees standing in groups or forming light
forests. Towards the northern and southern fringes of the tropics, the two rainy
seasons merge into one in summer.
The rainy season becomes shorter and shorter with increasing distance from
the equator and brings less and less rainfall. The savannas are therefore
initially transformed into dry savannas (Fig. 8) and further
north into thorn savannas.
Finally, the savannas pass into the subtropical semi-deserts and deserts,
into the Sahara in the north and into the Namib in the south, where only
episodic precipitation falls.
The north and south coasts have a Mediterranean climate.
the African continent is inhabited by over a billion people. The population
density fluctuates very strongly (Figure 10). Large areas are not or
only sparsely populated (e.g. the Sahara). Gun dreams, such as
the industrial and mining centers of Nigeria or South Africa, the coastal cities
or the Nile Delta, are extremely densely populated.
The population growth is extremely high. In Africa in 1950 there were still 222
million people, compared to 730 million in 1996. Urban growth is weaker than in
rural areas, where 80% of Africans live.
In connection with the spread of the immunodeficiency disease AIDS, however,
an opposing tendency is developing in some regions of Africa up to the collapse
of all public life.
Africa is the core area of the dark-skinned Negrids. They
represent the largest part of the population in the area south of the Sahara
(sub-Saharan Africa). In addition to more recently immigrated Europeans and
Asians (or their descendants), smaller groups of the population also live in
Black Africa. B. the Pygmies and Bushmen (Fig. 11).
The light-skinned Arabs and Berbers predominate in North Africa.
In the southern countries of the continent, u. a. in South Africa or Namibia,
white Europeans as a minority play a large role until recently the decisive role
in politics and business.
The African peoples are mostly differentiated according to their
languages. There are four major language areas in Africa, including the
Nigernian languages spoken in Niger and Congo, which include the Bantu
languages in East Africa, or the Nile-Saharan languages spoken in the Sahara
region and northeastern Africa.
Christianity and Islam stand out among the religions. Islam
dominates from North Africa to the countries of the Sahel and in the countries
of East Africa, except in Ethiopia and Eritrea. Christianity is well represented
there and in the states on the west coast south of the Sahel.
Many Africans maintain traditional natural religions and cults. So the Vodu
comes from West Africa and has z. B. still a lot of followers in Benin. Such
cults and rites have often mixed with the major religions.
The standard of living in most African countries is very low
by global comparison. Apart from a few countries in North and South Africa, a
large part of the population in the rest of Africa is very at risk of poverty,
hunger, illness (the highest rate of AIDS in the world) and wars, which lead to
large waves of refugees.
Africa is largely agricultural.
In agriculture, however, primitive forms of economy
In the tropical rainforest, arable land is obtained through
slash-and-burn. However, these are only fertile for a short time and
must be created again and again at new locations. The farmers therefore “walk”
through the forest with their fields. The most important tools are the hoe and
digging stick. This is why this less productive form of economy is called
Chopping is also common in the savannas.
Traditional land use is mostly for self-sufficiency because the low productivity
does not allow the products to be marketed. A more developed, more productive
form of agriculture is plowing in subtropical areas and oases.
Here z. T. achieved yields through irrigation that enable the marketing of
agricultural products. Plantations are large farms that produce
specifically for export. If the first processing takes place on site, one speaks
of a plantation. Since in the past production was exclusively determined by the
customers, there was a one-sided orientation of the economy of entire countries
(e.g. Kenya: sisal; Angola: bananas, coffee; Ghana: cocoa). TheseThe
mono-economy results in one-sided dependence on the world market and leads to
country debt through fluctuating prices. The main products of
African agriculture are shown in Figure 15.
Africa is rich in mineral resources. So z. B. in the Republic of South
Africa, in Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of the Congo u.
a. Gold, diamonds, platinum, antimony, copper, manganese and chrome mined.
Significant oil deposits are exploited in Nigeria, Algeria and Libya.
In addition to agricultural and mining products, precious woods are also
exported. The main trading partners are the EU countries and the USA. The
finished products are mainly imported from these countries. However, the trade
balance is mostly negative.
Debt levels have even increased in most countries in recent years as the gap
between raw material and finished goods prices widened.
An all-African transport network that has efficient transcontinental
connections does not exist. Railway networks exist only in North and South
Africa. The road network is still very wide-meshed, but is being expanded.
Significant African empires still existed until the 19th century.
The massive colonization of the continent by the European
powers began in the second half of the 19th century. Portugal, Great Britain,
Belgium, France, Italy and Germany in particular conquered, occupied or acquired
large areas of Africa (Fig. 16).
The principles of division among the powers were laid down at the Berlin
Conference in 1884/85. France (West and Central Africa) and
Great Britain (East and South Africa) emerged as the dominant colonial powers.
After the Second World War, the colonial system began to
disintegrate and the countries of Africa gradually became independent.
Especially in the 1960s, the independence movement spread like wildfire across
the continent. However, many countries are still connected to the former
colonial power through business and language.
In many countries, the colonial regimes were replaced by corrupt dictators from
the local upper class. Only after 1989/90 did successful
democratization take place in Africa, such as the abolition of apartheid
in South Africa.
However, coups and revolts that culminate in long civil wars are very common.
This also applies to massacres and pogroms, e.g. B. 1994 in
Rwanda or currently in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which can lead to
the extermination of almost entire peoples.
Deeper cause for this is u. a. the arbitrary demarcation by the colonial
masters, which has led to serious ethnic or religious conflicts.
Another problem is corruption, which is widespread in many countries at all
levels of society.
And finally, most countries have little opportunity to use their sometimes great
economic potential. Because of the extreme debt the necessary
capital is not available to them or multinational corporations primarily assert
their interests, as in Nigeria's oil industry.