How many countries are there in Africa?
The UN says there are 54. Are they right? Probably….
As you guys know, I’ve visited every country in Africa (and the world), and I admit, I’m a bit obsessed with these kinds of conversations. One time, I took public transport from Cape Town to Cairo, from the bottom of the African continent to the top, for the best part of a year, it cost me $10k and was the trip of a lifetime! Even before my journey to every country in the world, I love delving into how many countries are on each continent. So if you’re getting asked ‘how many countries are there in Africa?’ during a quiz then you should probably say 54, that’s the official number according to the United Nations.
The main issue with 54 being the number of countries in Africa stems around Morocco and Western Sahara – so is 54 the actual number of countries? Ask the African Union how many countries are there in Africa then you’ll be told there are 55, as they recognise Western Sahara where the UN don’t. Then there are a few disputed territories which could extend the list further, I explain that at the bottom of the article.
I wrote an article about how many are countries in the world and I came to 197 countries on face value, but that could reach up to 215 countries. When it came to my personal goal of visiting every country in the world, I used the number 197. But to make sure I didn’t cheat, I extended it to 215 after! Either way, the African continent makes up about a quarter of the world’s countries.
How many countries in Africa? Who is on the United Nations list of Countries?
If the UN and the AU can’t agree on the number of countries then you know this is going to be tricky to figure out! Generally speaking, to stay on the right side of political debates, you can stick to the UN number of 54 African countries on the main continent of Africa and the nearby island nations.
So here is the official United Nations 54 African countries, I’ve noted which countries are on the continent proper (of which there are 47), but also nearby island countries too which are also included within the 54 countries (there are 7 of those), just to be clear:
- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde (ISLAND NATION)
- The Central African Republic
- Comoros (ISLAND NATION)
- The Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Republic of the Congo
- Equatorial Guinea (ISLAND NATION)
- The Gambia
- Ivory Coast
- Madagascar (ISLAND NATION)
- Mauritius (ISLAND NATION)
- Sao Tome and Principe (ISLAND NATION)
- Seychelles (ISLAND NATION)
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
- South Sudan
Here’s an easy google map of Africa, if you’re wondering where these countries are:
So, 54 countries in Africa? What about these?
So now let’s put our focus on the territories that are not recognised as countries by the UN. If you’re wondering what is considered a country or what’s a disputed territory then click here to read all about my explanation, as you can see, it’s difficult to decide what is and what isn’t a country! Here are the other disputed territories in Africa that would make the ’54’ number incorrect
55. Western Sahara
Western Sahara or Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic is recognised by the African Union but not the folks over at the UN. We may disagree, but this disputed territory used to be a Spanish colony, nowadays it is claimed by two different groups; Morocco and Polisario Front (that’s an independent group who are located in Algeria). The UN have it listed as a Non-Self Governing Territory and that’s why Western Sahara doesn’t make their list.
Over half a million call Western Sahara home and the land is blessed with a wealth of natural resources. Even though big players in the region such as Nigeria and South Africa see it as an independent state it’s still a tricky issue with Morocco claiming the territory.
In my opinion, this is very much a country. So are there 55 countries in Africa?
With its own elected government, I think it’s hard to argue with Somaliland being recognised as a country. The government declared independence from Somalia nearly 20 years ago in 1991 but there isn’t a single country or major international body that sees it as an independent country.
Somaliland is, for all intent and purposes, a country. Many people who try to visit every country in the world visit Somaliland and count it as Somalia, simply because it’s so scary to go to Somalia! But it’s cheating. If you really want to have visited every country in the world, you have to visit Somaliland AND Somalia.
Once you see where this small island is on the map you’d be very surprised to hear that it’s actually part of the Eurozone. Reunion is owned by the French so therefore isn’t added to the UN list of countries. Just under a million people call this remote island home. It’s well worth a visit with a volcano, waterfalls, beaches and loads more to enjoy. In my opinion, not a country though.
58. St Helena
This small island is one of the oldest overseas territories belonging to the British, only Bermuda is older. Even though St Helena is so far away from the UK I can still spend my sterling there, the local currency is St Helena Pound. An interesting fact about this beautiful place is that it’s one of the safest remote islands on the planet and in my opinion one of the most beautiful. In my opinion, not a country though.
Similar to Reunion, it is owned by the French, you’ll find it in the middle of Madagascar and Mozambique (nearly 10,000 KM from Paris). Mayotte is an interesting one because even though the French-run the island and it’s officially part of the Eurozone, Comoros actually lays claim to it. A quarter of a million people live in Mayotte, and they must be happy with the French because they voted to keep that status after a referendum in 2009. In my opinion, not a country though.
Did you know?
Here are a few facts about Africa to refresh your memory.
- Nigeria has the largest population in Africa
- Algeria is the largest country in Africa
- Around 15% of the world’s population live in Arica, that’s roughly 1 billion people – second only to Asia.
- The latest count showed that there are more than 1,000 official dialects spoken in the continent.
- Islam is the biggest religion in Africa with Christianity coming in second.
- My favourite countries to visit in Africa would be Algeria, Ivory Coast, Tanzania, Morocco, and Namibia.
What do you think about how many countries in Africa?
So, the UN says 54, the AU says 55 and as you can see I’ve listed 59 potentials. Let me know what you guys think. How many countries are there in Africa according to your count? I’d say there are 54 countries + 2 (Western Sahara and Somaliland). Do you agree with my count? Pop your opinions and any additions to the list below, looking forward to seeing what you guys have to say!
Also if you want to know how many countries in the world, click here. Or how many countries in Asia, here. Or how many countries in Europe, click here. Or how many countries in North America, or South America!
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