Africa, a continent of the eastern hemisphere, forming a south-western extension of Asia, to which it is attached by the narrow isthmus of Suez, now pierced by a canal 90 miles long. Africa is thus constituted an insular mass of irregular triangular shape, with base on the Mediterranean, and apex at the junction of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, which bathe its eastern and western shores respectively. From Cape Blanco in Tunis, to Cape Agulhas in Cape Colony, it stretches southward across about 5000 miles, disposed almost equally on both sides of the equator. The extreme eastern and western points are Capes Guardafui on the Indian Ocean, and Verd on the Atlantic, a distance of about 4500 miles. But owing to the sudden contraction of the land at the Gulf of Guinea, whence, like both Americas, India, and other peninsular masses, it tapers continuously southwards, the total area is considerably less than would seem to be indicated by these extreme distances. Including Madagascar and all adjacent insular groups, it cannot be estimated at much more than 11,500,000 sq. m., or some 5,000,000 less than either Asia or America. Of all the continents except Australia, Africa is the most uniform and monotonous in its general outlines, unrelieved by broad estuaries, bights, or inlets of any kind penetrating far inland. Hence, although about three times larger than Europe, its coast-line scarcely exceeds 15,000 miles, as compared with the 19,000 of that more highly favoured continent.
Geologically, Africa is nearly destitute of insular groups, almost the only islands that belong physically to the mainland being Ierba and one or two islets in the Mediterranean, and a few on the east side, such as Socotra, and farther south, Pemba, Zanzibar, and Mafia, almost forming parts of the adjacent coast. Perim, Dahlak, and a few others in the Red Sea, are mere coral reefs, dominated here and there by volcanic crests. The Comoro group between Madagascar and Mozambique is also volcanic; while Madagascar itself and the outlying Mascarenhas (Mauritius, Reunion, and Rodriguez) appear to be surviving fragments of a Miocene continent, now flooded by the waters of the Indian Ocean. On the west side, the little Bissagos group alone forms a geological dependency of the mainland. Annabon, St Thomas, Prince, and Fernando Po, in the Gulf of Guinea, as well as Madeira, the Canary, and Cape Verd archipelagoes, are all of volcanic origin, the latter being separated by profound abysses of over 3000 feet from the continent. Lastly, St Helena and Ascension are mere rocks lost amid the Atlantic waters.
Corresponding with the uniform continental contour, is the generally monotonous character of the interior, which is relieved by no great central highlands or conspicuous water-partings at all comparable to those of the other great continental regions. The somewhat premature generalisation, which compared it to ' an inverted basin,' gives a misleading idea of its true conformation. The outer rim of mountain-ranges is not nearly so continuous and uniform as this comparison would imply; while the interior is disposed, not in one vast elevated plain, but in two well-marked physical regions - a great southern tableland with a mean altitude of over 3500 feet, falling northwards to a much lower but still elevated plain with a mean altitude of about 1300 feet. Owing to this generally high altitude, and to the almost total absence of extensive low-lying plains, Africa, notwithstanding the lack of vast alpine regions like the European Alps and Pyrenees, has nevertheless a greater mean elevation (1900 to 2000 feet) than Europe (1000).
The southern plateau is intersected by several mountain-ranges, very little or not at all explored. The chief mountain systems of the north are the Atlas and the Abyssinian highlands. The culminating points of the continent are near the equator: Ruwenzori (19,000), Kenia (19,000), and Kilima-njaro (19,680 feet).
Hydrographically, the two great southern basins of the Congo and Zambesi balance those of the Nile and Niger of the northern plain, while the secondary Orange and Limpopo in the extreme south find their counterparts in the Senegal and Draa of the NW. The Zambesi and Limpopo, together with the Rovuma, Juba, and a few other coast streams, flow to the Indian Ocean; all the others, together with the Cunene, Koanza, Ogoway, Volta, Gambia, Tensift, Muluya, and Mejerdah, to the Atlantic, either directly or through the Mediterranean. The Makua-Welle is a tributary of the Congo; the Shari flows into Lake Tsad or Chad.
Africa possesses a magnificent equatorial lake system, elsewhere unrivalled except by the great North American lacustrine basins. They are grouped towards the east side of the continent between 15° S. and 4° N. lat., and all stand on the southern tableland, draining seaward through the Zambesi (Nyassa, with outflow Shire), the Congo (Tanganyika, with intermittent outflow Lukuga), and the Nile (Alexandra Nyanza, Victoria Nyanza, Albert-Edward Nyanza, and Albert Nyanza, with outflow Somerset Nile). The Alexandra (Akanyaru) drains north-eastwards through the Alexandra Nile (Kagera) to the Victoria, queen of African lakes, and, next to Superior (31,200 sq. m.), the largest fresh-water basin (over 30,000 sq. m.) on the globe. Lakes Tsad (Chad) and Ngami have no seaward outflow; the Abyssinian Lake Tana, Tzana, or Dem-bea, 6100 feet, is a true alpine lake.
Above all the great divisions of the globe, Africa is distinguished by the general uniformity of its climatic phenomena, a circumstance due to its massive form and intertropical position. In the region approaching nearest to the northern or southern equinoctial lines, rain falls throughout the year, thanks to the opposing trade-winds. In the northern hemisphere a zone of two wet seasons stretches from the equator to the 15° lat. In summer, copious showers are caused by the moisture-bearing SW. winds; in winter, the NW. currents become in their turn the bearers of heavy rain-charged clouds to the southern plateau. But on both sides of the torrid zone, comprising about seven-tenths of the whole continent, the difference in the disposition of the winds causes a corresponding contrast in the rainfall. Here the trade-winds maintain their normal direction constantly, or with but slight temporary deviations. Blowing from the NE. in the northern, from the SE. in the southern hemisphere, they divert to the equator most of the vapours crossing their path, leaving elsewhere clear skies and arid lands. Thus it happens that Africa has two almost completely barren zones of rocks, gravels, marls, clay, and sand - the Sahara and Libyan desert in the north, Kalahari and other wastes in the south. This regular disposition of the climates is completed by the regular alternation of winds and rains in the zones of Mauritania and the Cape, both belonging to the region of subtropical rains, which fall in the respective winters of each hemisphere. Africa is thus disposed from north to south in successive gray and more or less intensely green belts, whose limits coincide in several places with the isothermals, or lines of equal temperature. The lines indicating mean annual temperatures of 68° and 75° F., traverse, in the north, the Mediterranean seaboard and the Sahara respectively; in the south, the Orange basin and a zone stretching obliquely from Mozambique to the Cameroons; while the area of greatest mean heat (82° P.) is comprised within an irregular curve enclosing the Upper Nile basin between Khartoum and the Albert Nyanza north and south, Lake Tsad and Massowah (Massawah) west and east. The climate, except on the Mediterranean, Saharan, Red Sea, and extreme south coasts, is nearly everywhere malarious on the low-lying and generally marshy coast-lands between the outer rim and the sea. It is the same in the Chambeze, Malagarazi (Unyamwesi), Shari, and other inland districts, which are either constantly or periodically under water. But elsewhere, with due precautions, one continent cannot be regarded as insalubrious; and the Sahara, for instance, is distinctly a healthy region, although, owing to rapid radiation, the hot days are here succeeded by cool and occasionally even frosty nights.
About 41 per cent. of the surface is said to be either desert, or under scrub, or otherwise absolutely waste, and 35 per cent. steppe, or nearly treeless grass-grown savannah, leaving only 24 per cent. for forest and arable lands. The continuous forest growths are confined mainly to the vast equatorial region between the Upper Zambesi and Soudan, and to some isolated tracts about the Abyssinian plateau, in the Moroccan Atlas, all along the Guinea coast, about the Middle Limpopo and Zambesi, and in parts of Masai Land and the Upper Nile basin.
Fauna. - Africa is the peculiar home of the large fauna - such as the lion, the panther and leopard, the hyena, fox, and jackal. The great herbivora are represented by the elephant, the rhinoceros, the buffalo, the giraffe, the hippopotamus, and the crocodile. Africa is also the special home of the gnu, and several other species of antelopes. The monkey family is also spread over the whole continent. Peculiar also are such equidAe as the zebra and quagga. Of land mammals there are altogether enumerated about 480 species peculiar to this continent, amongst which are 95 of the simian and 50 of the antelope family. The avi-fauna includes the ostrich, the secretary, ibis, guinea-fowl, weaver-bird, roller-bird, lovebird, waxbill, whydah, sun-bird, parrots, quail, and several other indigenous species. Reptiles and insects also abound - the tsetse fly being one of the great impediments to the progress of culture.
Recent authorities roughly estimate the population of Africa at about 210,000,000, or 18 to the square mile, a density five times less than that of Europe. According to the nature of soil and climate, the population is distributed very unevenly over the surface, being massed somewhat densely in the Nile delta, in the Upper Nile Valley, and generally throughout Soudan, less thickly over the southern plateau, and very thinly in Mauritania and Tripolitana; while large tracts, especially in the Western Sahara, the Libyan and Kalahari wastes, are absolutely uninhabited. Of the whole number, probably less than 1,000,000 are recent immigrants from Europe, settled chiefly in the extreme north (Egypt and Algeria) and in the extreme south (Cape Colony, Natal, and the former Boer States). About 34,000,000, all of Semitic stock, are intruders from Asia, some in remote or prehistoric times (3,000,000 Himyarites in Abyssinia and Harar from South Arabia), some since the spread of Islam (over 30,000,000 nomad and other Arabs, chiefly along the Mediterranean seaboard, in West Sahara, and Central and East Soudan). All the rest, numbering about 175,000,000 altogether, may be regarded as the true aboriginal element, and may be regarded as falling into two main groups - the Negro and Negroid peoples, and the Hamitic. The Negroes proper, including the Fanti, Ashanti, Mandingo, Haussa, Bari, and Monbuttu stocks, are mainly in Upper Guinea, Senegambia, and the Soudan. The Bantus to the south of them include Kaffirs, Zulus, Bechu-anas, Matabele, Wagandas; and the other Negroids are the Hottentots and the Bushmen, Batwas, and Akkas. To the Hamitic stock are referred the Berbers, Gallas, and Somalis, as also the Fans, Fulahs, and the Egyptian Fellahs. Speaking generally, the northern Hamites and Semites are Mohammedans and stock-breeders, the southern Bantus nature-worshippers and agriculturists; all these factors intermingling in the intervening zone of Soudan. The chief exceptions to this broad statement are the Christian Abys-sinians (Monophysite sect); the Hottentots, who are mainly cattle-breeders; and the Algerian Berbers, who prefer tillage to pasturage. Nearly the whole of Africa is under the direct or indirect control of seven European states - Great Britain, France, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Turkey - or within their recognised spheres of influence. The only independent states remaining are Morocco, Abyssinia, and Liberia.
Of African soil, Great Britain holds (1) in South Africa, the Cape Colony, Natal, Transvaal, Orange River Colon}, Basutoland, Bechnana-land (as a protectorate), Rhodesia, British Central Africa Protectorate; (2) in East Africa, Zanzibar (as a protectorate) and dependencies, British East Africa Protectorate, Uganda, British Somaliland; (3) in West Africa, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Gold Coast, Lagos, and Northern and Southern Nigeria; (4) Mauritius, Ascension, St Helena, etc.; (5) Egypt (temporarily occupied); (6) Anglo-Egyptian Soudan, held by Britain and Egypt jointly. France holds Algeria, Tunis, Senegal, French Guinea, the Ivory Coast, Dahomey, the Western Soudan, the Sahara, French Congo, Obok or French Somaliland, Madagascar, Reunion, and the Mayottes and the Comoros.
German Africa includes Togoland, the Camer-oons, German South-west Africa (Damaraland, Namaqualand), and German East Africa. Portuguese Africa: Angola, Portuguese East Africa, Madeira, Cape Verde Islands. Spanish Africa: Ceuta, Spanish Sahara (Rio de Oro and Adran); the Canaries, Fernando Po, and other Islands. Italian Africa: Eritrea, Italian Somaliland. Belgian Africa is the Congo Free State.
According to estimates based on the latest available data, British Africa in all (without Egypt, but including the Egyptian Soudan) includes about 3,510,000 sq. m., with about 84,000,000 inhabitants; French Africa, 2,970,000 sq. m., 27,500,000 inhabitants; German Africa, 742,000 sq. m., 6,750,000 inhabitants; Portuguese Africa, 804,000 sq. m., 7,750,000 inhabitants; Spanish Africa, 250,000 sq. m., population not known; Italian Africa, 136,000 sq. m., 1,000,000 inhabitants; Belgian Africa (Congo Free State), 900,000 sq. m., pop. 30,000,000; Turkish Africa (Egypt and Tripoli), 8,000,000 sq. m., pop. 11,300,000; Abyssinia, 150,000 sq. m,, pop. 3,500,000; Morocco, 219,000 sq. m., pop. 5,000,000; Liberia, 14,000 sq. m., pop. 1,000,000.
See works on Africa by Keith Johnston, Reclus, Hartmann, and others; the works and the lives of Bruce, Mungo Park, Livingstone, Baker, Burton, Speke and Grant, Barth, Schweinfurth, Cameron, Stanley, Johnston, Thomson, and other travellers; Jones's History of African Exploration (New York, 1875); books on the partition of Africa by Silva White (1892) and Scott Keltie (1893); and Sir H. H. Johnston's Colonization of Africa (1899).