How Big Is Africa in Comparison to the Rest of the World?

Massive African plains
Source: Pixabay

When looking at a map of the world, a quick glance will establish what you think you already know about the planet. You have an idea of how the geography of everything fits together, where the United States is, where Europe is, and how everything sits on the globe. The only problem is this; the map you are used to seeing is an enormously inaccurate representation of how big things really are. The world map, most commonly seen, has been designed in order to create something that visually makes sense. The truth is, however, that Africa is depicted at just a fraction of its real size.

Recently, Michael Jordaan, former CEO of First National Bank, published a Tweet in which it was visually demonstrated what the real size of the African continent was, and it caused a massive stir across the Twitter-verse. Many are perhaps aware of the fact that Africa is much bigger than is assumed, but when given a visual representation of this, the effect can be nothing short of jarring.

Africa Is Massive

Being told that the United States barely covers even a fraction of Africa, were it to be placed over it, is one thing, but seeing this is another thing entirely. A world map suggests that the United States is virtually the same size as Africa. This truth is, however, that the United States fits into the African Continent without touching sides.

The effect is even more striking when doing the same exercise with Europe. Europe is positively miniscule when placed inside Africa, to such an extent that it defies belief. China likewise slips into the borders without a problem, with Asian countries like Japan appearing as no more than tiny specks on the enormous face of the continent.

Or to put it another way; the United States, China, India and all of Europe could fit into Africa combined, and would just barely be protruding at the borders. This eye opener was recently visually created by Kai Krause just a few years ago, who intended on demonstrating to the world just how inaccurate the average global map really is.

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But Just How Big Is It?

But, how about a bit of a clearer indication of the situation just to put it all into perspective? South Africa, for example, is only the ninth biggest country in Africa. Algeria is twice the size of South Africa. However, if we’re taking South Africa as a benchmark, the sizes of things begin to make more sense mentally.

Southern Africa is five times the size of the United Kingdom. That’s 1,221,037 km² versus 242,900 km². A size difference that is positively gob smacking, especially when you go back and take another look at the traditional map of the world. It really does seem like whoever was creating this map had a serious issue with size. Though, it should be kept in mind, that this traditional map is referred to as a ‘political map,’ which is used to excuse the massive size discrepancies that are present. If the sizes were accurate, the map would more or less be one giant continent, and a few smaller ones scattered around it.

Once again, comparing the size of Germany to South Africa further makes clear just how big the differences are. Germany will fit three times into the borders, and furthermore, the Netherlands will fit thirty three times into the borders.

On the Other Hand

But let’s not get too carried away. Australia is another part of the world that is grossly misrepresented on the traditional world map. Southern Africa fits into Australia around six times, and into Brazil almost seven times.

Which is to say that the only real conclusion that can be drawn is that the traditional, or political map of the world really is a gigantic confusing mess. If anything, the best approach to understanding the geography of the world is to probably just forget everything you think you know. Which is certainly confusing, but also happens to be the way every school has teaching for a very long time.