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The predominant relief of Africa is formed by plateau, with the presence of rare plains and mountain ranges located mainly in the eastern portion.


Most of North Africa are covered by large expanses of the Sahara, the 2nd most arid region of the planet. The Sahara portion includes smaller deserts such as the Libyan and Nubian deserts in the east, and the Great Eastern Erg, the Great Western Erg and the Erg Iguidi in the west. In the middle of the desert are two important plateaus: Tibesti and Hoggar, in the central part of the Sahara. The relief of the region is also marked by depressions, with emphasis on the Assal Lake basin, 156 meters below sea level.

In the northwest portion, between Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia is the Atlas Range, a mountainous complex that is approximately 2,500 km long, with altitudes of more than 4,000 meters. Its location between the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Sahara waters contributes to the formation of dry areas.

Along the south bank of the Sahara are three large sedimentary basins: the Djouf basin, through which the Niger River flows; Chad basin, containing Lake Chad and the Sudan basin, where a stretch of the Nile River is located. The Congo River basin in Central Africa is almost entirely surrounded by plateaus, with the East African Plateau having the highest altitudes. The basin contains most of the Congo River valley, which ends up narrowing in the Cristal Mountains, near the Atlantic coast.

In the eastern and southern portions of Sudan and the Congo basin are located the highest plateaus on the continent. There are considerable expanses of plateaus inland, especially in Tanzania, Zambia and South Africa. In the eastern part of the plateau region, from northern Ethiopia to southern Mozambique, runs the Great Rift Valley, a series of unevenness caused by a huge tectonic fault. In some areas of the steep slopes of the Rift Valleyappear the Ruwenzori mountains in Central Africa and numerous volcanoes, including the two largest peaks in Africa, Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania (5,895 m), and Mount Kenya, in Kenya (5,199 m). Along the edges of the eastern plateau and southeast coast, a series of escarpments is found. The highest, reaching 3,350 meters, is Drakensberg, in South Africa. 


Africa has some important and large rivers, but its hydrography cannot be considered balanced. Its rivers are poorly distributed due to the presence of several areas of desert climate, which aggravates the situation of drought and water scarcity in several locations on the continent. In the Sahara region there are many temporary rivers, also known as intermittent, as the flow of these rivers decreases in the driest period until it stops completely. Only the Nile River, the second largest in the world in extension, with about 6,700 km, does not lose its flow in the route from the desert to the sea. The Nile is born in the equatorial region near the Nyungwe forest in Rwanda. As it emptied into the Mediterranean Sea, forming a huge delta, it was historically used for irrigation and agriculture.

The equatorial regions have a well-developed drainage, mainly due to the presence of the Congo River, which has the second largest flow on the planet, with approximately 41,000 m 3 / second. The main river in West Africa is the Niger (4,800 km), while in the southern portion there are Orange (2,200 km), Zambezi (2,574 km) and Limpopo (1,600 km). Many of the rivers and waterfalls reduce the potential for navigation, but provide great hydroelectric potential. The most important are the Victoria Falls, on the Zambezi River, and Boyomsa (formerly Stanley Falls), a series of falls on the Congo River.

The main lake region is in the Great Rift Valley, where Lakes Victoria, Albert, Tanganyika and Niassa (or Malawi) are located. Because they are related to the relief modified by the movements of the tectonic plates, these lakes are called tectonic lakes. Lake Victoria, on the plateau between the branches of the Rift Valley , is the largest lake in Africa, with a total area comparable to the territory of Ireland and full of springs that head towards the River Nile. The only large natural lake located outside East Africa is Lake Chad, in the southern tip of the Sahara. Its size varies, depending on seasonal rainfall, but its area has been intensely reduced in recent decades due to agricultural practices that disregarded its conservation.

  • The ABBREVIATIONFINDER provides most commonly used abbreviations and initials containing the continent name of Africa.
Maps of Africa
Satellite imaging and political map-making create a zoomable map of this African country, with cities, rivers and topography.

Guinea-Bissau - CIA World Factbook
Check out the map of this country between Senegal and Guinea. Includes statistics on population, education and industrialization.

National Geographic Map Machine - Gabon
Take a look at the topographical map of this African nation. Learn about the economy and population.

National Geographic Map Machine - Togo
Offers a topographical map along with a brief overview of the country's economy and population.

Niger - National Geographic
Satellite imaging and political map-making create a zoomable map of this African country, with cities, rivers and topography.

Sao Tome and Principe - National Geographic
Satellite imaging and political map-making create a zoomable map of this African country, with cities, rivers and topography. - Historical Maps of Africa
Browse a collection of historical maps. Check out the maps of Madagascar, Morocco, Namibia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Togo Land, Central Africa, North and West Africa. - Maps of Africa
Browse a collection of political, reference and historical maps of the African continent. Check out the maps of population density and natural vegetation.

Africa - America's Roof
Learn about the highest mountain peaks in the African continent from this map listing each summit by its country.

Africa - Brock University Map Library
Features a simple, black and white graphical map outlining the countries of Africa and pinpointing capital cities. Best used as a outline map.

Africa - Digital Chart of the World
Select a country in Africa and choose from maps that reveal the locations of population centers, roads, drainage, and political boundaries.

Africa - Earthrise Satellite Image Database
View an outline map of Africa and click on a country to retrieve a list of place names with accompanying satellite images.

Africa - Exploring Africa
Visit this exhibit of maps, travel narratives and illustrations from early European expeditions to the continent.

Africa - Frontier Forest Map
Interactive map provides an overview of the continent's national parks and surrounding forests. Find out which ones are at risk.

Africa -
Slick graphical map of Africa offers viewers a color-coded perspective. With country outlines and capital cities.

Africa - Historical Maps
Perry-Castaneda Library Map Collection at the University of Texas offers a look at archived maps from 1808 through 1978.

Africa - Locator Map
Presents an blank map of the continent of which the only details are the outlines and names of the more than 50 countries. Ideal for learning.

Africa - Map of Modern Africa
Features a full-color map of Africa and part of Europe. Includes borders, rivers and capital cities.

Africa - Mapping Africa and the Diaspora Movement
Kennedy Center offers a map detailing the African diaspora caused by slave trading. Includes a map showing the return of slave descendents.

Africa - National Geographic Map Machine
Offers an interactive map of the continent, with links to countries and regions.

Africa - Outline Map
See and print a blank outline map of Africa, featuring more than 50 countries. Useful for educators and parents in teaching kids geography.

Africa - Map
Features a large, graphical map of the continent with each country outlined and identified. Click on any one for a brief country almanac.

Africa - Variety of Map Types
Find a variety of maps detailing political boundaries, topography and vegetation. Includes early African hominid and Australopithecine sites.

Africa -
High-definition, interactive map of Africa allows visitors to click on a country to find a portal that includes member messages and travel tips.

African Maps - African Roof
Presents an alphabetical list of African countries with information about highest elevations and links to maps for that area. - Africa Map
Peruse this professional, color map of Africa to study the countries of the continent and geographic locations. Each country includes a profile.

East Africa Maps - ReliefWeb
Browse a long list of relief and other types of maps for various countries and regions of East Africa.

Northwestern Africa - Atlapedia Online
Access a richly-colored physical map of northwestern Africa, including the Ivory Coast, Morrocco and the Sahara Desert.
Maps of Africa
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