Africa is the world’s second-largest and second-most-populous continent. 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 1.3 billion people as of 2018, 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.
Algeria is Africa’s largest country by area, and Nigeria is its largest by population. Its smallest country is Seychelles, an archipelago off the east coast. The smallest nation on the continental mainland is The Gambia. Africa straddles the equator and encompasses numerous climate areas; it is the only continent to stretch from the northern temperate to southern temperate zones.
The coastline is 26,000 km (16,000 mi) long, and the absence of deep indentations of the shore is illustrated by the fact that Europe, which covers only 10,400,000 km2 (4,000,000 sq mi) – about a third of the surface of Africa – has a coastline of 32,000 km (20,000 mi). From the most northerly point, Ras ben Sakka in Tunisia (37°21′ N), to the most southerly point, Cape Agulhas in South Africa (34°51’15” S), is a distance of approximately 8,000 km (5,000 mi). Cape Verde, 17°33’22” W, the westernmost point, is a distance of approximately 7,400 km (4,600 mi) to Ras Hafun, 51°27’52” E, the most easterly projection that neighbours Cape Guardafui, the tip of the Horn of Africa.
Africa boasts perhaps the world’s largest combination of density and “range of freedom” of wild animal populations and diversity, with wild populations of large carnivores (such as lions, hyenas, and cheetahs) and herbivores (such as buffalo, elephants, camels, and giraffes) ranging freely on primarily open non-private plains. It is also home to a variety of “jungle” animals including snakes and primates and aquatic life such as crocodiles and amphibians. In addition, Africa has the largest number of megafauna species, as it was least affected by the extinction of the Pleistocene megafauna.