Understanding the Number of Countries in Africa: A Comprehensive Guide

Africa is the second-largest continent on Earth, covering an area of over 30 million square kilometers. With such a vast landmass, it’s no wonder that Africa is home to numerous countries and territories. However, do you know exactly how many countries are in Africa? The answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think. The official count varies depending on who you ask, and there are also territories and regions that aren’t universally recognized as independent nations. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the geography of Africa and delve into the complex issue of determining the number of countries on the continent.


Africa is a continent of great diversity, with numerous countries each with their own unique cultures, languages, and histories. With over 30 million square kilometers of landmass, it is the second-largest continent in the world and is home to more than 1.2 billion people. From the Sahara desert in the north to the Cape of Good Hope in the south, Africa boasts some of the most breathtaking landscapes on the planet.

Understanding the geography of Africa is crucial to comprehending the number of countries that exist on the continent. The borders of African countries were often drawn by colonial powers without consideration for the people that lived there, resulting in some unique geographical features and challenges. Despite these obstacles, Africans have worked hard to build strong, vibrant communities, each with their own distinct culture and identity.

In this comprehensive guide, we will take a closer look at the geography of Africa and explore how it has influenced the number of countries that exist on the continent today. By gaining a deeper understanding of the complex factors that shape Africa’s political landscape, we can better appreciate the rich diversity and history of this remarkable region of the world.

Geography of Africa

Size and Location of Africa

Size and Location of Africa

Africa is the second-largest continent in the world, covering an area of over 30 million square kilometers. Its location makes it an important crossroad between the eastern and western hemispheres, as it extends from 37 degrees west longitude to 52 degrees east longitude and from 37 degrees south latitude to 37 degrees north latitude.

The equator runs through the center of the continent, dividing it almost equally into northern and southern hemispheres. The prime meridian, which marks 0 degrees longitude, also passes through Africa, running through the city of Greenwich in London, England and extending to the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic Ocean.

The vast size of Africa means that it encompasses a diverse range of landscapes, climates, and cultures. The continent spans across 54 countries, each with its own unique history and traditions. From the deserts of the Sahara in the north to the lush rainforests of Central Africa, there is no shortage of natural wonders and cultural treasures to discover.

Understanding the size and location of Africa is essential for appreciating the diversity and richness of this continent. It is also crucial for businesses and organizations looking to expand their reach in this region. By taking into account the geographical features and climate patterns of different areas, they can develop effective strategies that cater to the specific needs and interests of their target audience.

Borders of Africa

Borders of Africa

Africa is the world’s second-largest continent, with an area of 30.37 million kmĀ². The continent is surrounded by water on three sides – the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the Indian Ocean to the east, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north.

To the south of the continent lies the Southern Ocean, which surrounds Antarctica. However, despite being isolated from other continents, Africa shares borders with several neighboring countries. In fact, Africa has a total of 54 recognized countries, most of which share land borders with one or more neighboring nations.

Some of the African countries that share borders with multiple neighbors include Nigeria, which shares borders with Benin, Niger, Chad, and Cameroon; and Tanzania, which shares borders with Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In addition to these recognized countries, there are also several territories in Africa that are disputed or not widely recognized. One example is Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony that is now mostly controlled by Morocco but still claimed by the Polisario Front, a rebel group.

Overall, the borders of Africa are complex and constantly evolving. While some countries have well-defined borders that have been established for decades or even centuries, others continue to experience border disputes and territorial conflicts. Despite these challenges, however, the people and cultures of Africa remain diverse and resilient, united by their shared history and heritage.

How Many Countries Are in Africa?

The Official Count of African Countries

The official count of African countries is a matter of some debate, with different organizations and governments recognizing different numbers. However, the two most widely accepted sources for determining the number of African countries are the African Union and the United Nations.

The African Union (AU), formerly known as the Organization of African Unity (OAU), is a continental organization consisting of 55 member states located in Africa. It was established on May 26, 2001, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with the aim of promoting political unity and cooperation among African countries. According to the AU, there are 54 recognized African countries, including Morocco, which rejoined the organization in 2017 after a 33-year absence.

On the other hand, the United Nations (UN) recognizes 54 African states, including the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, which is not recognized by all countries. The UN also recognizes the State of Palestine as an observer state but does not consider it a sovereign state.

It’s worth noting that the discrepancies between the AU and UN lists of African countries can be attributed to political reasons, historical events, and border disputes. For instance, the Western Sahara conflict has made it difficult for the international community to recognize Western Sahara as a sovereign state. Similarly, Somaliland claims independence from Somalia but has not been recognized internationally.

Overall, while the exact number of African countries may vary depending on the source consulted, the African Union and United Nations remain the most credible sources for determining the official count of African countries.

Countries Not Recognized by All

Countries Not Recognized by All

One of the fascinating things about Africa is its diverse cultural, ethnic, and linguistic groups. However, this diversity can also create conflicts between different nations or regions. One such conflict that has lasted for over four decades is the Western Sahara dispute. The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) is a self-proclaimed state that claims sovereignty over the Western Sahara. However, not all countries recognize SADR as a legitimate state.

Morocco is one of the countries that do not recognize SADR’s sovereignty over the Western Sahara. Morocco claims that the Western Sahara is an integral part of its territory, while SADR insists on its right to self-determination. This dispute has been ongoing since 1975 when Spain withdrew from the region, leaving a power vacuum that both Morocco and SADR sought to fill.

Currently, SADR is recognized by around 40 countries worldwide, mainly from Africa, South America, and Asia. However, it is not a member of the United Nations nor the African Union. On the other hand, Morocco is recognized as the legitimate government of the Western Sahara by most countries worldwide, including the United States and the European Union.

Another country that is not recognized by all is Somaliland. It declared independence from Somalia in 1991, following a civil war that led to the collapse of the central government. Somaliland operates as a de facto state with its own political institutions, military, and currency. However, Somalia and most other countries do not recognize Somaliland as an independent state.

In conclusion, the issue of countries not recognized by all is not unique to Africa. Still, it remains a significant challenge to peace and stability in the region. The case of SADR and Morocco highlights how disputes over borders and sovereignty can persist for decades without a clear resolution. Similarly, the case of Somaliland underscores how difficult it can be to establish a new state in the international system.

Dependent Territories

Dependent Territories

In addition to the independent countries, there are several dependent territories in Africa. These are regions that are officially part of another country but have some degree of autonomy. The status of these territories varies widely – some are self-governing, while others have limited control over their own affairs.

Overseas Territories

Overseas territories are a type of dependent territory that is administered by a sovereign state located outside the territory itself. There are two main types of overseas territories: those that are integrated into the governing country’s national system, and those that are not.

For example, the French Southern and Antarctic Lands are classified as overseas territories of France, but they are not part of the French Republic. Similarly, the British Indian Ocean Territory is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom but is not part of the UK or the European Union.


Colonies are another type of dependent territory, which historically were territories taken over by one country from another. They were usually acquired through conquest or settlement and governed by the colonial power.

Today, most colonies have been granted independence, but a few remain under the control of other countries. For example, Western Sahara is claimed by Morocco but also recognized as a non-self-governing territory by the United Nations.

Dependent territories can be controversial, as some argue that they represent a form of neocolonialism and deny people the right to self-determination. However, others argue that they provide economic and strategic benefits to both the territories themselves and the countries that administer them.

Overall, dependent territories are an important aspect of the political and social landscape of Africa, and understanding their role is key to understanding the continent as a whole.



In conclusion, having knowledge of the number of countries in Africa is not only informative but also important. By understanding the geography and political landscape of the continent, we can gain a deeper appreciation for its rich diversity and cultural heritage.

Furthermore, knowing the official count of African countries allows us to better engage with global affairs and understand the dynamics of international relations. It also sheds light on the challenges that some countries face in terms of economic development and political stability.

Overall, expanding our knowledge base on Africa and its countries can lead to greater understanding and empathy towards the people and cultures that make up this vast and diverse continent. In a world where interconnectedness and globalization are becoming increasingly important, being well-informed about different regions of the world is crucial.

So, take the time to learn about Africa, its countries, and the various issues they face today. By doing so, we can broaden our horizons and become more compassionate and informed global citizens.
After a comprehensive exploration of the topic, it is clear that Africa is a continent with a rich and diverse geography, culture, and history. The exact number of countries in Africa may vary depending on the source and perspective, but it is safe to say that there are at least 54 states recognized by the African Union and the United Nations, with several dependent territories and disputed territories as well.

This knowledge is not just a matter of trivia or intellectual curiosity; it has practical implications for various fields such as politics, economics, education, and diplomacy. Understanding the complexity and diversity of Africa’s countries can help us appreciate their unique contributions and challenges, as well as foster better relationships and cooperation among them.

Moreover, learning about Africa and its countries can broaden our horizons, challenge our biases, and inspire us to take action towards greater social justice and equality. By embracing the richness and complexity of Africa, we can also enhance our own humanity and empathy towards others, regardless of their nationality or origin.

In conclusion, the question “how many countries are in Africa” may seem simple at first glance, but it opens up a world of fascinating insights and opportunities for learning and growth. Whether you are a student, a traveler, an entrepreneur, or a global citizen, let us celebrate the diversity and unity of Africa’s countries, and strive to build a more inclusive and peaceful world together.

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