May 25 is Africa Day, a holiday originally created to celebrate the foundation of the Organization of African Unity (now known as the African Union) on May 25, 1963. In honor of the commemoration, here are 25 facts you should know about the continent:
- The continent has 54 independent states and one “non-self-governing territory” (Western Sahara).
- Before colonial rule, Africa comprised up to 10,000 different states and autonomous groups with distinct languages and customs.
- The most common language spoken on the continent is Arabic (spoken by 170 million people), followed in popularity by English (130 million), Swahili (100), French (115), Berber (50), Hausa (50), Portuguese (20) and Spanish (10).
- Over 25 percent of all languages are spoken only in Africa with over 2,000 recognized languages spoken on the continent.
- In 2034, Africa is expected to have the world’s largest working-age population of 1.1 billion.
- Between 2000 and 2010 the continent achieved average real annual GDP growth of 5.4 percent, adding $78 billion annually to GDP (in 2015 prices). But growth slowed to 3.3 percent, or $69 billion, a year between 2010 and 2015.
- About over three-quarters of African countries are still ranked in the bottom half for the per capita GDP ranking worldwide. Over 20 African countries have a power purchasing parity GDP of less than $2,000 per capita. Another 10 have a GDP per capita PPP between $2,000 and $3,000.
- The continent’s richest country is Equatorial Guinea, with over $33,000 of GDP per capita. This puts the country comparable to Spain.
- Africa is the world’s hottest continent and the second driest after Australia. Although it is nearly four times the size of Europe, it has a shorter overall coastline because of its straighter shores.
- Because of high fertility rates and rising numbers of women of reproductive age, the continent is expected over the next 35 years to have nearly 2 billion babies. This will double the size of the population, and its under-18 population will increase by two thirds, to almost a billion children.
- In sub-Saharan Africa, more than one-third of adults cannot read and write.
- An estimated 25.5 million people living with HIV live in sub-Saharan Africa. The vast majority of them (an estimated 19 million) live in east and southern Africa which saw 46 percent of new HIV infections globally in 2015.
- Almost half of the gold ever mined on Earth has come from a single place—Witwatersrand, South Africa.
- Africa’s urbanization rate is around 37 percent, comparable to China’s and larger than India’s. It’s expected to be the fastest urbanizing region from 2020 to 2050.
- Since the Cold War ended, the number of armed conflicts on the continent has fallen from more than 30 to about a dozen.
- Between 2000 and 2015, the estimated number of malaria cases in Africa declined by 88 percent while malaria death rates declined by 90 percent. This is as a result of the scale-up of use of insecticide-treated nets, indoor residual spraying, intermittent preventive treatment during pregnancy and artemisinin-based combination therapy. Despite the improvement, malaria remains a major killer of children, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, taking the life of a child every two minutes. In 2015, there were 438,000 deaths from malaria globally, and about 306,000 of these were in children under five years of age.
- The deadliest war since World War II occurred in Africa. The Second Congo War (1998-2003) caused 5.4 million deaths.
- Household air pollution causes around half a million premature deaths annually in sub-Saharan Africa, where four-fifths of the population rely on the traditional use of solid biomass for cooking, and candles and kerosene lamps are extensively used for indoor lighting.
- Africa has eight of the 11 major biomes and the largest-remaining populations of lion, elephant, rhinoceros, cheetah, hyena, leopard, and hundreds of other species.
- Megafauna like giraffe, zebra, gorilla, hippopotamus, chimpanzee, and wildebeest are unique to the continent.
- Africa has over 25 percent of the world’s bird species.
- The majority of Africans are adherents of Christianity or Islam.
- While those who identify as practitioners of traditional African religions are often in the minority, many who identify as Muslims or Christians are involved in traditional religions to one degree or another.
- Agriculture employs 65 percent of Africa’s labor force and accounts for 32 percent of gross domestic product.
- Africa is bigger than China, India, the continental U.S., and most of Europe—combined. The Sahara alone is bigger than the continental USA.
Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History’s Greatest Communicator (Crossway).
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