How Many Countries Are There in Africa?
Africa is the world’s second largest continent, both in terms of area and population. This diverse location is home to incredible people, amazing wildlife, and a wide variety of different countries, but just how many countries are there in Africa?
Well, as with most geography related questions, it sort of depends on who you ask.
Defining the Countries in Africa
The countries in Africa are almost as diverse as the people who live within them. From some of the biggest locations in the world, like Algeria, which is home to more than 33 million people, to some of the smallest destinations, like the Seychelles, locations in Africa cover a wide scope of geographical wonder. The African countries that the UN and Sporcle recognize include:
- Burkina Faso
- Cabo Verde
- Central African Republic
- Cote d’Ivoire
- Democratic Republic of Congo
- Equatorial Guinea
- The Gambia
- Republic of Congo
- São Tomé and Príncipe
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
- South Sudan
Have These Always Been the Countries of Africa?
No! The history of Africa is long, rich, and complex.
Africa is thought to be the birthplace of modern humans. These early humans were hunter-gatherers who lived nomadic lifestyles. Overtime, they would settle fertile regions of the continent, establishing small communities.
After 1000 AD, we begin to see an increased interest in Africa among Arab and European traders, who came to the continent to barter for goods, slaves, and gold. To protect control of their land, larger African kingdoms started to form.
In the nineteenth century, European countries began to take control of coastal areas in Africa, eventually carving up most of the continent into different regions and territories, often with little regard for the people actually living there.
World War II would then decimate Europe, and after the war, many European countries no longer had the economic means to continue their rule in Africa. From the 1950s onward, many African countries would gain their independence, keeping many of the original territorial boundaries created by the European powers.
Since those boundaries often grouped together people of different tribes, cultures, religions, and backgrounds, tensions would arise in many newly independent African nations, some of which continue today.
These ongoing disputes are partly why there is no definitive consensus on the number of countries in Africa.
What Are the Other Countries in Africa People Recognize?
As noted above, 54 is the number of African countries recognized by many major organizations today, but not everyone will agree with that total.
Inconsistencies and disputes across various nations have prompted some confusion around whether certain places should be considered countries or not. For example, Somaliland is one of the most-disputed possible countries in Africa. The government in Somaliland officially declared independence from Somalia during 1991. Since then, they’ve been governing territory from their capital in Hargeisa. According to the United Nations, Somaliland is a de jure region within Somalia.
Western Sahara is another disputed region. Located on the Atlantic coast in Northern Africa, Western Sahara is bordered by Algeria, Mauritania, and Morocco. In the late nineteenth century, the space was colonized by Spain, and became a part of the Spanish kingdom. The land was then annexed by Morocco in 1975. However, the Sahrawi population of Western Sahara have been pushing to earn back their independence in recent years, and the location is already recognized as an independent country by both South Africa and Nigeria.
For now, however, Sporcle and many other organizations around the world will continue to recognize 54 African countries. Though given the history of the continent, the number of countries in Africa could certainly change in the near future.
Mark Heald is an Associate Product Manager and Sporcle Admin. He enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, and bemoaning the fact the Sonics left Seattle.