Africa is the second largest continent in the world, after Asia.
It has more countries than any other continent in the world.
Africa is made up many large plateaus and deep basins. The Great Rift Valley, which is characterized by large lakes and volcanic highlands, is a trench in the eastern part of Africa that stretches from northern Syria, which is in Asia, to central Mozambique.
The Great Rift Valley was formed when continental plates moved about 35 million years ago. This led to the crackling and buckling of basement rocks, eventually resulting in huge blocks of land being lifted and lowered.
In East Africa, the Great Rift Valley is divided into two arms. The eastern arm runs from Djibouti southward to Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania.The western arm runs throught Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi and Tanzania.
Both rifts come together again in Malawi.
The Atlas Mountains are in northern Africa. They were formed when Africa collided with Europe between about 65 million and 2 million years ago.
Africa's climate varies and includes Mediterranean, savannah, desert and humid equatorial climates. In mountainous eastern Africa, altitude has a great affect on climate. The peaks of mountains such as Kilimanjaro are covered in snow.
The winds of the Sahara Desert blow millions of tons of dust north and east.
Desertification continue to take place in marginal areas such the Sahel as a result of overgrazing and the clearing of scrub and forests.
Growing populations have led to many animal native species becoming endangered. Game reserves in eastern and southern Africa help to protect these species. However, there are conflicts over the right to use the land and poaching has become a problem.
Africa was once part of the supercontinent Gondwana, also known as Gondwanaland, which included what is now Africa, Madagascar, South America, the Arabian Peninsula, the Indian Subcontinent, Australia and Antarctica.
About 180 million years ago, the western half of Gondwana, which consisted of present day Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and South America, broke away from the eastern half, which was made up of present day Madagascar, Australia, Antarctica and the Indian subcontinent.
Around 140 million years ago, Africa broke away from South America, and India and Madagascar separated from Australia and Antarctica.
India and Madagascar remained attached to one another until Madagascar broke away sometime between about 90 and 50 million years ago.
Between 55 million and 23 million years ago, the Red Sea began to form, separating the Arabian Peninsula from Africa.
Africa has over 90 million people. However, three fourths of the continent is sparsely populated.
Most Africans live in rural areas, but more and more people are moving to cities.
People are concentrated around areas near water, such as the northern and western coasts, the Nile Valley, along the Niger River, in the highlands of east Africa and in South Africa.
There are at least two thousand African languages. However, three act as lingua francas: Arabic in northern Africa, English in eastern and southern Africa and Nigeria, and French in western and central Africa and Madagascar. Many people in southern Africa speak Bantu.
In general, Africans have a low standard of living. 28 of the 30 most deprived countries in the word are in Africa. However, since the 1960s, there have been significant improvements in healthcare, life expectancy and education.
Most African economies are based on subsistence and cash crops. More than three fifths of the people have agricultural jobs.
Pastoral herding is often practiced in areas where rainfall is unreliable.
Fishing is an important industry along the coasts and near large lakes, such as Lake Victoria and Lake Nyasa.
The majority of industries are focused on extracting and processing raw materials. These include mining, the oil industry, food processing and textile production.
Africa has some of the largest reserves of precious metals and precious stones in the world, including gold in South Africa; diamonds in South Africa, Botswana and the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and copper in Zambia.
The economies of Nigeria, Algeria and Libya have benefited from their oil reserves.
Many of the countries in Africa depend on a single resource, such as gold or coffee, for export. This makes them very vulnerable to fluctuating commodity prices. Many African governments are seeking foreign investment to allow them to diversify their economies.
South Africa is the only African country with a significant manufacturing industry. It creates more than half of the continent's industrial output.
Every country in Africa, except for Ethiopia and Liberia, was once a colony of a European country. They all gained independence during the half century after World War II.
Many African countries are still working toward forming stable governments after independence. There are problems with ethnic tensions and corrupt governments. Infrastructures, including transportation systems, were designed during colonial times in order to exploit Africa's resources, and are often a detriment to economic development.
Total Area: 11,712,434 square miles (30,335,000 square kilometers)
Highest Point: Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania - 19,330 feet (5,892 meters) above sea level
Lowest Point: Lake Assal in Djibouti - 509 feet (155 meters) below sea level
Largest Lake: Lake Victoria in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania - 26,591 square miles (68,870 square kilometers)
Longest River: Nile - 4,160 miles (6,695 kilometers) - longest river on Earth
Largest Drainage Basin: Congo River Basin - 1,550,000 square miles (4,014,500 square kilometers)
Largest Island: Madagascar - 226,656 square miles (587,040 kilometers)
Burkina Faso (1)
Cape Verde (1)
Côte d'Ivoire (1)
Sierra Leone (1)
South Africa (1)