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The Geography and Early History of Africa

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1 The Geography and Early History of Africa
Geographic features have influence where people live in Africa and contributed to the cultural diversity of the continent. Since earliest times, people, goods, and ideas have crossed the physical barriers that divide Africa and separate it from other regions. Recent evidence suggests that the first humans lived in Africa. The fertile Nile Valley supported one of the world’s first great civilizations.

2 The Shape of the Land Africa is the world’s second largest continent.
It straddles the equator and extends for thousands of miles north and south of that line. It is more than 3 times the size of the US. It contains more independent countries than any other continent on Earth, 55. It lies between two major oceans, the Atlantic to the West, and the Indian to the East, with the Mediterranean Sea bordering on the North.

3 The location of the continent linked it to Europe, the Middle East, India, and Asia via its sea routes. The ships carried people, goods, and ideas around the world. In the present global economy, Africa is situated right in the center of the world transportation routes. There are many specific geographic regions in Africa, but our focus will be just on the main ones.

4 The Five Main Regions North Africa stretches from Morocco to Egypt and is linked to the Sahara regions (sometimes called the sub-Saharan regions). West Africa reaches into the Atlantic with many smaller nations from Mauritania to Nigeria. Central Africa includes the large nation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the Equator. In East Africa, the largest nations are Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. South Africa stretches from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean and includes Zimbabwe, Zambia, and South Africa.

5 The Landforms Most of Africa is a vast plateau.
Toward the edges of the continent are mountains like the Atlas in the northwest and the Drakensburg in the southeast. Narrow plains fringe the coasts. The many plateaus of Africa cause escarpments or steep cliffs, which divide the plateau from the coastal plain. The rivers that run across the plateaus are often not navigable because they have a series of cataracts, which are either waterfalls or rapids.

6 The Great Rift Valley slices through the eastern part of the continent
The Great Rift Valley slices through the eastern part of the continent. It is a giant fault in the earth’s surface that runs from the Red Sea to the Zambezi River. It contains rich soil and some of the most productive farmland in Africa. It is also rich in minerals and metals but mining and transportation is difficult because of the steep cliffs, high mountains, and deep valleys.

7 Rivers The rivers of Africa provide fish, water for irrigation, and transportation. They are also a source of hydroelectric power. The Nile is the longest at 4,160 miles. Until recently the Nile used to flood annually depositing rich soil for farming. The Nile River valley is one of the most agriculturally productive areas in the world. The Nile is actually 2 rivers at its origin, the Blue and the White coming off of the Ethiopian highlands.

8 The Congo River drains a huge area of Central Africa into the Atlantic Ocean. Only part of the river can be navigated but it carries a huge volume of water. The Niger River rises in the West African nations of Sierra Leone and Guinea. The river winds north toward the Sahara, forming an inland swamp, then turns southeast and heads for the sea. The Zambezi River in the south has its sources in Angola and Zambia. Victoria Falls are located on the Zambezi River. The river forms a border between Zimbabwe and Zambia.

9 The 4 Climate Zones in Africa
Tropical Wet Climate Region Occupies the narrow belt along the Equator, covers about 8% of Africa. Hot and humid year round. 80 degree average. Abundant rainfall and warm temperatures promote lush plant growth. Soil is poor, due to leaching, rain washing away nutrients.

10 Tropical Wet and Dry Climate Region
Largest climate zone in Africa. The savanna, grassland, occupies this region which covers almost half of the continent. Home to most Africans. Warm all year, summer is the rainy season, winter the dry season. Vegetation growth depends on distance from the Equator. Close to Equator, more trees and grasses. Farther away, scattered grasses. Droughts are common.

11 Desert Climate Region Deserts cover about 40% of Africa.
Sahara, Kalahari Namib, and Libyan. Sahara means desert. Temperatures reach 130 degrees F. Less than 10 inches of water a year. Kalahari has some growth of grasses and melons, but the Namib is the driest on the earth.

12 Mediterranean Climate Regions
Along the northern coast and the southern tip of Africa. Summers are hot and dry, winters are cooler and moist. Mild climate and fertile soil support a variety of crops as well as herding. French, Italian, and Spanish colonists carved out farms along the North African fringe. Dutch and British settlers claimed lands in the South.

13 Places to Remember Nairobi is the capital of Kenya and has become a popular tourist stepping off point to wild Africa. This area of the Great Rift Valley is home to Nairobi’s National parks and to wildlife tours. The Masai Mara National Reserve is the Kenyan portion of the Serengeti Plains. The Serengeti is mostly in Tanzania and also hosts millions of migrating birds to Lake Nakuru and other “soda” lakes formed by volcanoes. This region is teeming with wildlife. It’s similar to the Sahel region (just below the Sahara) but it suffers from desertification.


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