About this section
The diversity of the African continent is also evident in its geographical features. This section spotlights a number these features.
Africa is the second largest continent. With a total area of about 11,750,000 square miles (30,500,000 sq km), it makes up a fifth of the earth's landmass, stretching nearly 5,000 mi (8100 km) from north to south and about 4700 mi (7600 km) from east to west. Although the equator cuts the continent's north-south axis into two nearly equal halves, Africa is generally geographically divided into two regions with reference to the Sahara, the world's largest desert: the part north of the Sahara, extending right up to the Mediterranean Sea and containing countries such as Egypt, Libya and Algeria, and the much bigger sub-Saharan region, extending to the coasts of South Africa and including such large countries as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, and The Sudan.
Although the African landmass largely consists of plateau land, there are several mountain ranges in Africa, such as the Atlas Mountains in the northwest. The continent's geography is further defined by the presence of many rivers, including the world's longest river, the Nile, and many large lakes, such as Lake Victoria. A major factor determining Africa's climate is that three quarters of the continent lies within the tropics. In terms of vegetation, the continent's diversity is reflected in the presence of tropical rain forests besides savanna grasslands.
africa: the continent
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