Africa leads the world in the total number of state entities. African countries differ in size, natural resource potential and population size, but most of them have a similar history and the same problems in development.

Africa: general characteristics of the region

The “black” continent is the hottest and highest continent on the planet. Second in area, it occupies 20% of the entire surface of the Earth’s land.

African countries: history and development issues

Africa is considered the cradle of all mankind, because it was here that the most ancient remains of the so-called hominids were found - a transitional family between reasonable man and primate. Today, the continent is home to about a billion people in more than 50 public entities.

All African countries are different, but at the same time similar to each other. The study of historical, cultural and economic features, as well as the problems of development of this most interesting region of the Earth, is engaged in a special science - African studies.

The origin of the name “Africa” is interesting. Many scholars believe that it comes from the Phoenician word “afar”, which translates as “dust”. Thus, Africa is nothing more than a “dusty land” in the understanding of the ancient Romans.

Today, African territorialists divide all African countries into five geographical regions:

  • North Africa;
  • West Africa;
  • Central Africa;
  • East Africa;
  • South Africa.

African countries: a list of the largest countries

If you look at the political map of the continent, you can see one distinctive feature. It is not very noticeable contrast between the territories of different African states, which is very striking when viewing the map of Asia or the same America. In other words, in Africa there are no too large or too small states, and most of the countries have approximately comparable area. This is one of the consequences of Africa’s colonial past: many of the official borders between states are not objective, which provokes a huge number of inter-ethnic conflicts.

To date, there are 62 territorial entities on the mainland (including sovereign states, unrecognized and dependent territories). 54 of them are independent.

We suggest to get acquainted with the table “Largest African countries”. The list of the 10 largest states in terms of area is presented below.

The largest states of Africa

African history

The historical path of most African states went through three stages:

  • European colonization.
  • National liberation movements.
  • Decolonization and the formation of new independent states.

The colonization of African lands by Europeans took place differently in the northern and southern parts of the continent. So, if North Africa was completely divided among the colonialists throughout the 19th century, then the conquest of the southern and central part of the continent was slower and more difficult. The reason for this was the complete lack of infrastructure in these areas, as well as various dangerous tropical diseases.

One way or another, but by the beginning of the twentieth century in Africa there were only two independent states: Ethiopia and Liberia. All other countries were controlled by European metropolises: France, Italy, Germany, Portugal and Britain.

Different countries in Africa experienced differently the period of decolonization, which began in the 20s and ended at the end of the twentieth century. And if in North Africa the national liberation movements were more successful, in the South they were in the nature of separate situational uprisings.

The first to gain independence was Libya in 1951. And the culmination for the decolonization of the continent was the year 1961, which historians called the “Year of Africa”. This year, as many as 17 mainland countries have become independent!

The main problems of regional development

The development of African countries, as a rule, inhibits the same problems. Here are the most important ones:

  • the colossal social “abyss” between those in power and the common people;
  • constant military conflicts, riots and coups;
  • the wide development of the so-called destructive sectors of the economy (production of drugs, the sale of weapons, human trafficking, etc.);
  • the discrepancy between state and ethnic boundaries;
  • low level of development of the manufacturing industry;
  • lack of quality medicine, high infant mortality.


On the continent today there are 54 independent states. Almost all African countries, despite their cultural, religious or ethnic differences, have a similar path of historical development, as well as common problems. Among the most acute problems of these countries are poverty, poor-quality medicine and poor ecology.