Africa extends 8,000 km from north to south (from latitude 37 ° 20 ′ north to latitude 34 ° 52 ′ south) and over 7,600 km from west to east (from longitude 17 ° 33 ′ west to 51 ° 23 ′eastern longitude). Africa has the least indented coastline of all continents. The Gulf of Guinea, which extends deeply but with a shallow curve on the west side, divides it into a north part of wide, trapezoidal shape and a narrower, roughly triangular south part. Peninsulas are hardly indicated (Somali peninsula in the east). Africa is also poor on islands. Madagascar is the only large island in the southeast on its own submarine pedestal, to which the groups of the Comoros, Amiranten, Seychelles in the north and the Mascarene in the east join in a wide arc. The volcanic archipelagos of the Canary Islands and Cape Verde lie off the west coast, the volcanic islands Bioko, Príncipe, São Tomé and Pagalu in the Gulf of Guinea, and Socotra off the Somali peninsula. Otherwise Africa only has coastal islands such as Unguja Island (formerly Zanzibar) and Pemba in the east. The small rocky islands of Sankt Helena, Ascension, Tristan da Cunha and the island of Gough, located far away in the Atlantic Ocean, are usually also included in Africa.
According to COUNTRYAAH, Africa is separated from Europe by the basins of the Mediterranean; in the Strait of Gibraltar it comes close to it for 14 km. The distance between Sicily and Africa is about 140 km. Africa is directly connected to Asia on the 116 km wide isthmus of Suez; apart from that, it is separated from it by the elongated rift of the Red Sea. At its southern end, the two continents approach each other again to about 26 km (Strait Bab el-Mandeb).
Africa is the home and core area of the black African peoples, who make up the majority of the population and dominate the image south of the Sahara (Black Africa). These peoples are autochthonous; there is no evidence of non-African origin or immigration (except for Madagascar). The African peoples are divided into four large language families (African languages). Their very diverse traditional forms of society and economy (African peoples and cultures) are changing rapidly. In terms of culture and history, North Africa (including the Sahara) clearly stands out from sub-Saharan Africa. It has been a settlement area for immigrants from Europe (White Africa) since the Paleolithic with first Mediterranean (Berber, ancient Egyptian), later oriental-Arabic characteristics. Africa received the last significant inflows from Europe with modern colonization.
Africa has a mean population density of around 36 residents per km 2only apparently underpopulated, as the carrying capacity of the usable regions has already largely been reached, and in some cases even exceeded. The regional distribution is very different. Many areas are overpopulated, especially the industrial and mining centers, the coastal cities, and the Nile Valley; but also areas used for agriculture (nomadism, slash-and-burn farming) have reached the limit of their resilience (famine in the Sahel). In addition, Africa is the continent with the world’s largest population growth. The proportion of the urban population is increasing and is highest in the North African countries and the Republic of South Africa, and lowest in Burundi. Refugees pose particular problems in Africa, especially as a result of political power struggles and droughts.
So far it has not been possible to build a pan-African transport network with efficient transcontinental connections. Although the road network has been significantly improved since the 1970s (most important major projects: Trans-Saharan Road, Trans-Africa Road and Trans-Sahel Route), the investments in transport are mainly used to maintain the existing roads and railways.
A comprehensive railway network does not exist, only regional networks and branch lines from the coast to the interior, which serve to transport mineral resources and agricultural goods, are available. Only the Republic of South Africa has an efficient railway network. In most of the sub-Saharan countries, the railways are becoming less and less important because of the lack of funds for urgent investments and maintenance.
In addition to the African lakes (Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika, Lake Nyassa), inland waterways are the larger rivers (Nile, Congo, Niger, Zambezi, Gambia), which are not continuously navigable due to the seasonal fluctuations in water levels and numerous rapids and dams. The Suez Canal, which was completed in 1869 and has been expanded several times since then, is still of great importance for international maritime traffic. In coastal traffic, bulk goods and increasingly also container loads are transported.
The further expansion of maritime traffic has so far been limited by insufficient port capacities, particularly in container traffic. Major seaports in the north have Alexandria, Algiers, Tripoli and Casablanca; to the west Dakar, Abidjan, Freetown, Lagos, Luanda; in the east Mombasa, Mogadishu, Dar es Salaam; in south Richards Bay, Cape Town, Durban. The importance of the sea merchant fleets is low in international comparison (exception: Liberia, the leading »cheap flag country«).
Air traffic is of great importance. Almost all countries in Africa have their own airline; important hubs are Cairo, Khartoum, Nairobi, Johannesburg, Casablanca, Dakar, Lagos, Kinshasa. Compared to other regions of the world as well as to the population and area of Africa, however, air traffic is underdeveloped in many regions of the world.