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African countries

Satellite map of AfricaSatellite map of AfricaThere are 54 countries in Africa. A further two countries have established themselves but are not officially recognized by other countries: Somaliland (part of northern Somalia) and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (Western Sahara). Algeria is the continent's largest country by area, while Nigeria is the largest by population. The African Union is a union of African countries. The only fully recognized African country that is not a member is Morocco: it left in 1984 when the majority of the other members recognized the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, which is partly in territory disputed with Morocco. The key aim of the union is to achieve greater unity between African countries and peoples.

A Moroccan village in the Atlas MountainsA Moroccan village in the Atlas Mountains

North Africa

The northern half of Africa stretches down from the fertile coast bordering the Mediterranean Sea, through vast areas of desert and savanna, into the forests of west and central Africa. Apart from the Atlas Mountains, the Ethiopian Highlands and Saharan ranges, much of the region is a level plateau.

The River Nile in EgyptThe River Nile in EgyptThe River Nile, which rises in the uplands to the south (the Ethiopian Highlands for the Blue Nile; streams flowing into Lake Victoria for the White Nile), winds its way across swampy grasslands before laying a fertile strip through the Sahara Desert and flowing into the Mediterranean Sea. At 6670 kilometres (4140 miles) long, the Nile is the longest river in Africa—and the world.

Most of the Sahara Desert is not sandy at all, but covered with rock and gravel. At night, it is usually freezing cold.

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