- For a topic outline on this subject, see List of basic Africa topics.
Africa is the world's second largest and second most-populous continent, being behind Asia in both categories. At about 30.3 million km2 (11.7 million square miles) including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of Earth's total surface area and 20% of its land area. With
1.2 billion people as of 2016, it accounts for about 16% of the world's human population. The continent is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Isthmus of Suez and the Red Sea to the northeast, the Indian Ocean to the southeast and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The continent includes Madagascar and various archipelagos. It contains 54 fully recognised sovereign states (countries), nine territories and two de facto independent states with limited or no recognition. The majority of the continent and its countries are in the Northern Hemisphere, with a substantial portion and number of countries in the Southern Hemisphere.
Africa's average population is the youngest amongst all the continents; the median age in 2012 was 19.7, when the worldwide median age was 30.4. Algeria is Africa's largest country by area, and Nigeria is its largest by population. Africa, particularly central Eastern Africa, is widely accepted as the place of 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 7 million years ago, including Sahelanthropus tchadensis, Australopithecus africanus, A. afarensis, Homo erectus, H. habilis and H. ergaster—the earliest Homo sapiens (modern human), found in Ethiopia, date 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.
Africa hosts a large diversity of ethnicities, cultures and languages. In the late 19th century, European countries colonised almost all of Africa; most present states in Africa emerged from a process of decolonisation in the 20th century. African nations cooperate through the establishment of the African Union, which is headquartered in Addis Ababa.
The Algerian Civil War was an armed conflict between the Algerian government and various Islamist rebel groups that is estimated to have cost between 150,000 and 200,000 lives. The conflict began in December 1991, when the government cancelled elections after the first round results had shown that the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) party would win, citing fears that the FIS would end democracy.
After the FIS was banned and thousands of its members arrested, Islamist guerrillas rapidly emerged and began an armed campaign against the government and its supporters. They formed themselves into several armed groups, principally the Islamic Armed Movement (MIA), based in the mountains, and the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), based in the towns. In 1994, as negotiations between the government and the FIS's imprisoned leadership reached their height, the GIA declared war on the FIS and its supporters, while the MIA and various smaller groups regrouped, becoming the Islamic Salvation Army (AIS). Soon after, the talks collapsed.
Did you know ...
Yoweri Kaguta Museveni (born c. 1944) has been the President of Uganda since January 29, 1986.
Museveni was involved in the war that toppled Idi Amin's (1971–79) rule and the rebellion that subsequently led to the demise of Milton Obote's (1980–85) regime. With the notable exception of northern areas, Museveni has brought relative stability and economic growth to a country that has endured decades of government mismanagement, rebel activity and civil war. His tenure has also witnessed one of the most effective national responses to HIV/AIDS in Africa.
In the mid to late 1990s, Museveni was lauded by the West as part of a new generation of African leaders. His presidency has been marred, however, by involvement in civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and other Great Lakes region conflicts. Rebellion in the north of Uganda by the Lord's Resistance Army continues to perpetuate one of the world's worst humanitarian emergencies. Recent developments, including the abolition of Presidential term limits before the 2006 elections and the harassment of democratic opposition, have attracted concern from domestic commentators and the international community.
Topics in Africa