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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 [3]

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 [4]. 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