Nov 22 2013

Five Fast Facts About Africa

africa Africa has been a life calling and passion of mine for the past eight years. Yet the more I learn about Africa, I realize how little I really know!

You may have heard Africa referred to as the “Dark Continent.” Did you know that name has nothing to do with skin tone, but was coined by 19th-century European explorers because of the mystery this vast land held?

While much has now been discovered, here are five things you may not know.

1. Africa is the second largest continent in the world.

Africa is home to 54 or 56 countries. The number varies based on recent assessments of how the United Nations recognizes African states. Take a look at Africa’s massive size on this map.

africa true size

As you can see, Africa is larger than much of Europe, all of China, the United States, and India… combined!

2. Africa has the youngest population in the world.

For all you readers who like numbers, I’ve got a few!

By 2050, more than a third of the world’s young people (ages 15-24) will live in sub-Saharan Africa. Currently, the average age in sub-Saharan Africa is 18.6 years old.*


As the population gets younger, Compassion will have more opportunity to help young people thrive into adulthood. To this end, we are working to ensure the average age of our registered children is lower so that we can help them as young as possible.

The top 10 youngest populations in the world are all from Africa. Three of them are in countries Compassion works in: Uganda, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso. For instance, nearly half of Uganda’s population is under the age of 14.

3. Not every African lives in a hut.

Many of our more than 500,000 beneficiaries in Africa do live in huts.

africa huts

However, some Africans live in lavish homes. Some live in abandoned, unfinished buildings. Some live in rural areas, some in large urban cities and slums bigger than cities in the United States.

4. Africa can be cold.

It was the middle of June in Nairobi. I didn’t even bother to check the weather while packing for my third trip to Kenya. It was going to be hot and humid. It’s Africa, right?

Wrong. Africa has winter just like the USA has winter. Mind you, it’s not necessarily the snowing-kind-of-winter, but it was winter. And it was cold. The kind of cold that sticks to your bones and forces you to take a hot shower to warm up … until you realize the hotel’s hot water isn’t working that evening. :-)

Massive fire places warmed the outdoor verandas in the hotel. I wore a coat all the time and slept with the extra blanket the hotel provided.

5. Africa has more than 3,000 languages.

Many times, people think of Swahili as the language of Africa. And yes, Swahili is a common language in East Africa. However, an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 languages are spoken across the continent and up to 8,000 dialects! I am always amazed that most of our Compassion Africa staff speak at least two or three different languages.

What other discoveries are you making to shed light on our understanding of this once “dark continent”?

africa wave

*Facts from the World Economic Forum

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    Katy works in our International Program Group as the Africa Communications and Administrative Specialist.

10 Comments Add a Comment
  1. Carol Voogd
    Nov 22, 2013
    at 10:42 am

    We have been Compassion International child sponsors for many years. I recently went on a Vision Mission trip to Ethiopia, and was happy to see signs pointing to Compassion locations along several roads. Ethiopia has 88 languages alone. Africa is amazing, even if I saw only one “small” part. Ethiopia is about the size of the Eastern half of the U.S. !

  2. Ndamyumugabe Jean Claude
    Nov 22, 2013
    at 11:51 am

    The weather in Africa is always perfect.

  3. Emily
    Nov 22, 2013
    at 2:36 pm

    So you say not all live in huts. Why do u show huts. Why not the beautiful homes Africans live in. South Africa is very mixed with almost all of the world’s nationalities there. Share this diversity with the rest of the world. Americans call people “black” and not just Americans. We lived in South Africa. Beautiful beaches, boating, fishing, the Arts is taken seriously and the ages range from the very young to very senior artist. I get really mad when just the worst of Africa is shared. I dont mean to sound mad, but the best of all countries is always shared, except Africa and the Middle East.

    • Katy Causey
      Dec 11, 2013
      at 11:21 am

      Hi Emily,

      I agree that often, the media does not show the full picture of Africa. Like Amber said in a comment below, so often Africa is depicted as one homogeneous entity. At Compassion, we want to show the full picture. The truth is, many of our beneficiaries do live in huts. But, as you’ll see in the link above, not all live in huts… some Africans do live in lavish homes, just not our beneficiaries. Keep an eye out on the Compassion blog and other places as we continue to give a more complete picture of Africa.

  4. Nov 22, 2013
    at 6:14 pm

    Ha, Katy, I’ve been to Africa twice (Kenya and Rwanda) and I froze both times! :) I enjoy learning about the differences in cultures from country to country and people group to people group. So often people talk of Africa as if it were one homogeneous entity.

  5. Hannah H.
    Nov 22, 2013
    at 6:15 pm

    Thanks for this post! I enjoyed learning more about Africa!

  6. Martin Malekia
    Nov 23, 2013
    at 8:18 am

    I am proud to be an African; here in Tanzania people are really polite. We love kids even if the kids may not be our kids. Mama Kikwete (the president’s wife) has a saying that says, “love a child of your neighbor as your own child”

  7. Paula Engle
    Nov 24, 2013
    at 5:55 am

    My sponsored little girl lives in Rwanda who I have only sponsored since Dec. 2012. She is a joy! I pray someday I will be able to meet her but until and if that happens I will pray for her and love her with all my might.

  8. Nov 24, 2013
    at 3:34 pm

    I’ve been to Africa 24 times…to 12 countries! I’m hooked. Our charity is working towards trying to reduce maternal mortality by supplying new medications to treat or prevent death from eclampsia and post partum haemorrhage. We also facilitate visits by UK midwives to deliver skills sharing workshops for local midwives.

    • Paula Engle
      Nov 25, 2013
      at 10:19 am

      How do you manage to travel to Africa and so many of the other countries? Are you financially supported? I would love to visit my little girl.

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