Africa contains a total of 54 independent countries, 3 dependencies, and one disputed territory. The United Nations divides Africa into five subregions for statistical purposes. They are Northern Africa, Eastern Africa, Western Africa, Middle Africa, and Southern Africa. The borders of Africa were largely drawn up by former European colonial powers, and for the most part do not reflect the ethnic, linguistic, or religious divisions of the continent. The African subregions and their countries have been mentioned below:
Northern Africa has a population of more than 249 million and contains six different countries. The most populous country in Northern Africa is Egypt, which has a total population of more than 102 million. The least populous county in the subregion is Libya, with around 6.87 million people. All the countries of Northern Africa identify themselves as Arab and Muslim countries. Hence, most of the people in these countries speak Arabic and practice the religion of Islam. Cairo, the Egyptian capital, is the most populous city in the subregion, with a population of more than 20 million. Other large cities in the subregion include Egypt’s Alexandria and Morocco’s Casablanca.
- South Sudan
Eastern Africa contains more than 453 million people living in 18 different countries. The subregion’s most populous country is Ethiopia, with a population of nearly 115 million. The least populous country in Eastern Africa is the island country of the Seychelles, which is located in the Indian Ocean, off the east coast of Eastern Africa. It has just over 98 thousand people. Like most parts of Africa, Eastern Africa is extremely diverse, with a multitude of different ethnic and linguistic groups. Christianity and Islam are the most dominant religions in the subregion, though some of the population also practices traditional African religions. The biggest city in Eastern Africa is Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, which has a population of approximately 6.5 million people. Other major cities in the subregion include Mogadishu in Somalia, and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.
- Burkina Faso
- Cabo Verde
- Guinea Bissau
- Ivory Coast
- Sierra Leone
The subregion of Western Africa is home to approximately 409 million people living in 16 different countries. The most populous country in the subregion is Nigeria, which is also the most populous country in Africa and the seventh most populous country in the world. The country has a total of over 206 million people. The least populous country in the subregion is Cape Verde, which is an island nation, lying off the coast of Western Africa. It has less than 556 thousand people. Western Africa contains a vast number of ethnic and linguistic groups. Islam is the most dominant religion of the subregion, especially in the north, while Christianity generally dominates the southern parts of the region’s southernmost countries. Western Africa was once the home of vast empires, including Ghana and Mali, which are now the names of two of the subregion’s countries. The most populous city in Western Africa is Lagos, the former capital of Nigeria, which is home to about 21 million people. Other very populous cities in the subregion are Abidjan, the capital of Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Accra, the capital of Ghana, and Kano, Nigeria’s second largest city.
- Central African Republic
- DR Congo
- Equatorial Guinea
- Sao Tome and Principe
More than 183 million people live in Middle Africa’s 9 different countries. The subregion’s most populous country is The Democratic Republic of the Congo, where more than 89 million people live. The subregion’s least populous country, Sao Tome and Principe, which can be found off Middle Africa’s west coats, contains around just 219 thousand people. The subregion’s biggest city is the capital of DR Congo, Kinshasa. The city boasts a population of 13.3 million, making it the third most populous city in Africa. Africa’s fourth most populous city, Luanda, the capital of Angola, is also located in Middle Africa. Middle Africa has been the scene of some of Africa’s most recent conflicts. Rwanda, one of the subregion’s countries, was where a mass genocide took place in 1994, when leaders of the country’s Hutu majority led the slaughter of roughly one million members of the country’s ethnic Tutsi minority. Armed conflicts involving different ethnic groups and militias continue to plague Middle Africa, making it a hotbed of ineffective governance and instability.
- South Africa
Southern Africa’s population is an estimated 68 million people, making it the least populous of all of Africa’s subregions. Most of these people live in just one of the subregion’s 5 countries, South Africa, which has a total population of around 59 million people. Southern Africa’s least populous country is the landlocked country of Eswatini, also called Swaziland, with a population numbering approximately 1.1 million people. Southern Africa’s most populous city is Johannesburg, which is located in South Africa and is home to around 4.4 million people. The subregion’s second largest city, Durban, is also located in South Africa. Southern Africa is probably best known historically for the struggle against the racist system of apartheid in South Africa, which came to an end in the 1990s, when the country became a multiracial democracy. Since then, the subregion has been relatively stable compared to other African subregions, though it still faces some internal conflicts and is also dealing with ongoing economic stagnation.
Other African Territories
In addition to 54 countries, Africa also includes 3 dependencies and one disputed territory. Two of the dependencies, Reunion and Mayotte, are controlled by France. Reunion is an island located just west of the small island country of Mauritius, and east of the large island country of Madagascar. It is the most populous of Africa’s dependencies, containing approximately 895 thousand inhabitants. Mayotte is located in the Comoro Islands off the coast of Mozambique, and borders the country known as the Comoros. The least populous territory in Africa is the British-controlled dependency of St. Helena, which is located far off the coast of Middle Africa, practically in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean. The aforementioned disputed territory is known as Western Sahara. It is located on the west coast of Northern Africa, between Morocco to the north and Mauritania to the south. The territory is now the scene of a long-running conflict between its local inhabitants, who want independence, and the country of Morocco, which claims the territory as its own.