How many countries are there in Africa?

The UN membership roster contains 54 African states, and that of the African Union contains 53. While the AU list includes suspended members, it does not include a count for Morocco, who has decided to stay out of the AU. Thus AU’s implied total can also be said to be 54. Of these, 48 states are found on the actual continent, while 6 are island nations.

However, Africa is about to get a brand new country. Within less than two weeks, South Sudan will hold a referendum on whether or not to secede from the rest of Sudan. If it does secede, which currently seems likely, it would mean that the new total will soon be 55, right? Well, no, because the current total of 54 is true only to some degree.

Before I go on: what’s a country, anyway? I’m going to be somewhat untechnical here and use ‘country’, ‘nation’ and ‘state’ pretty much interchangeably. More precisely, I’ll count as a country any defined territory with a sovereign and accepted (or at least obeyed) government/leadership, a seemingly stable and functioning governing infrastructure, plus a set of recognised and enforced laws by which the territory is governed.

So how many are there, then?

53 or 54 = official totals

For a long time, the standard answer has been either 53 or 54, depending on whether one counts the Sahrawi Republic or West Sahara as a country or not. The Sahrawi Republic was briefly independent in the 1970s, but has since then been controlled by Morocco, who currently occupies roughly three quarters of the entire Sahrawian territory. There have been negotiations and plans for either full independence (demanded by the Sahrawi leadership) or merely some degree of autonomy (the Moroccan standpoint). But nothing seems to be happening. Nonetheless, the Sahrawi Republic is recognised as a country by many other countries, as well as the UN and the AU, both of whom have accepted the Sahrawi Republic as a member state (which, incidentally, is also the reason why Morocco refuses to be a member of the AU).

Either way, the current official total of 54 (or 53 if you’re Morocco) is not the full story, irrespective of how one counts Sahrawi. Both numbers have in fact been obsolete for many years due to the break-up of Somalia in the 1990s.

56 (or 57) = another total

As has been widely reported in news bulletins for several years now, Somalia broke up during the 1990s. Yet most international bodies, such as the UN and the AU, still regard and count Somalia as a single country, with its recognised successor being the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia seated at Mogadishu.

However, the Transitional Federal Government governs only small parts of what used to be Somalia. Other parts of the territory are controlled by others, such as Somaliland and Puntland, two unrecognised countries with fully functioning governments and administrations. In most respects, they look very much like regular countries, except they lack international recognition. Nonetheless, there is no reason not to count Somaliland and Puntland as de facto countries, since they act as sovereign polities independently of the Transitional Federal Government. Other putative states have either dissolved (as did the Northland State), been overtaken by others (e.g. Maakhir overtaken by Puntland and Jubaland overtaken by al-Shabaab; see below), or have recognised the authority of the Transitional Federal Government (as has Galmudug).

As the fight for some areas is still ongoing, it is difficult to make a reasoned assessment about the entire territory of former Somalia, let alone its future. This concerns in particular the southern parts, an area that is currently controlled by al-Shabaab, an organisation or movement labelled “terrorists” by some Western analysts. While Somaliland and Puntland can be counted as de facto sovereign countries, the al-Shabaab-controlled territory appears less like a functioning country. Be that as it may, the area is at least independently ruled, even though the political infrastructure seems less clear and formalised than we’d normally expect of a country. Still, I suppose it could potentially be counted as a “country” (of some sort) bringing the total to a possible 57.

57 (or 58) = current de facto total

As mentioned above, the current total, whatever one considers it to be, will soon be added with a new member, namely, South Sudan. At the moment, South Sudan has the same status as Somaliland and Puntland. That is, it is a sovereign territory with its own government and administration, albeit lacking proper international recognition. So even if it were not to achieve independence, we could still count it as a de facto African country.

Hence with South Sudan, be it recognised or not, we reach a total of 57 de facto African countries (or 58 if al-Shabaab were to be included).

63 (or even 64) = other potential totals

To most of the totals above, we could potentially add another six, namely, Spain, France, the UK, Portugal, Malta, and Yemen. Each of these countries rule over territories that lie on the African Tectonic Plate.

Spain controls Spanish North Africa and the Canary Islands. Spanish North Africa is the only European-controlled area on the mainland of Africa and consists of the cities Ceuta and Melilla, plus a scattering of tiny islands just outside the Moroccan coast. The areas have been claimed by Morocco, but Spain has persistently refused. France controls Réunion, Mayotte and a small number of uninhabited islands around Madagascar. The UK controls the island territories of St Helena, Ascension & Tristan da Cunha. Portugal controls Madeira, with surrounding small(er) islands. Yemen controls Soqotra, an island just outside the Horn of Africa. And finally, the entire country of Malta lies on the African Plate, even though by tradition it is and has been counted as European.

The territories in question are all governed independently of (other) African countries. They are demarkated on maps by (inter)national borders. However, the governments that rule them are seated outside Africa, either Europe (Spain, France, UK, Portugal, Malta) or Asia (Yemen). Still, the respective territories are geographically African, and therefore the countries that rule them could be counted as African. Were we to do so, the total would run up to 63 (or 64 with al-Shabaab).

Summary

In sum, then, the current total of de facto African countries is at least 57, which includes the unproblematic 53 plus Sahrawi, Somaliland, Puntland, and South Sudan. Of these, Sahrawi enjoyes international recognition and South Sudan is likely to do so soon. The total of 57 could potentially be boosted to 58 if we were to regard the al-Shabaab-controlled areas as constituting a country.

To either of these two totals, we can then make six further additions consisting of areas controlled by non-African governments, giving us a potential grand total of either 63 or 64.

  recognised: 54 = The Official 54, incl. 48 mainland and 6 island nations
  de facto: 57 = The Official 54 plus South Sudan, Somaliland, Puntland
      ( 58 if al-Shabaab is included )
  potential: 63 = The above 57 plus Spain, France, the UK, Portugal, Malta, Yemen
      ( 64 if al-Shabaab is included )

Personally, I’m going with 57.

 

About these ads

74 Comments

  1. jfmaho said,

    Thursday, February 3, 2011 at 18:48

    And here is a list of all the countries in Africa (not counting al-Shabaab-controlled areas):

    The Official 54
     
    48 continental nations
     1. Algeria 17. Ethiopia 33. Niger
     2. Angola 18. Gabon 34. Nigeria
     3. Benin 19. Gambia 35. Rwanda
     4. Botswana 20. Ghana 36. Senegal
     5. Burkina Faso 21. Guinea-Bissau 37. Sierra Leone
     6. Burundi 22. Guinea-Conakry 38. Somalia (Trans. Fed. Gov.)
     7. Cameroon 23. Kenya 39. South Africa
     8. Central African Rep. 24. Lesotho 40. Sudan
     9. Chad 25. Liberia 41. Swaziland
    10. Congo-Brazzaville 26. Libya 42. Tanzania
    11. Congo-Kinshasa 27. Malawi 43. Togo
    12. Côte d’Ivoire 28. Mali 44. Tunisia
    13. Djibouti 29. Mauritania 45. Uganda
    14. Egypt 30. Morocco 46. West Sahara/Sahrawi Rep.
    15. Equatorial Guinea 31. Mozambique 47. Zambia
    16. Eritrea 32. Namibia 48. Zimbabwe
     
    Six island nations
    49. Comoro Isl. 51. Madagascar 53. Seychelles
    50. Cape Verde Isl. 52. Mauritius 54. São Tomé e Príncipe
     
    Three as-of-yet unrecognised countries
     
    55. Puntland 56. Somaliland 57. South Sudan
     
    Six additional "non-African" countries
     
    58. Spain 60. Malta 62. The UK
    59. France 61. Portugal 63. Yemen

     

  2. mark said,

    Friday, February 25, 2011 at 16:48

    nigeria get ready for division

  3. Godson GEORGE said,

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011 at 10:58

    I suggest the non African countries such as Spain, France Portugal to be added to Africa, irrespective of they been govern by the Europeans,

    Geographically the belong to Africa not even an Island but a Mainland in Africa so why the DIVISION. If not done, it will affect the future as any country in Africa reaching a fully developed state will likely to part themselves also.

  4. jfmaho said,

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011 at 15:35

    Do you mean they should be made independent of their European governments? If so, that might prove difficult.

    There was a referendum in the 1970s in Mayotte, for instance, in which the population clearly decided that they wish to remain under French control. The alternative was to be made part of the Comoros.

    The Spanish North African territories have been under Spanish control since the 16th century, so the population there considers themselves genuinely Spanish, not Moroccan. In fact, the areas in question have never been part of Morocco, not even the Moroccan Empire.

    So if they they were made either independent or part of existing African countries, it would be against the wishes of the people.

  5. Elev said,

    Thursday, July 7, 2011 at 0:03

    google.se annars

  6. Afisility said,

    Friday, October 7, 2011 at 17:47

    Google neva sure of the total number of africa country.

  7. desmond J said,

    Monday, October 17, 2011 at 8:13

    Division of Nigerians will leads to shedding of blood and this isn’t the solution but leadership problems. Nigeria is one till HE comes

  8. Ahmed noor said,

    Sunday, November 6, 2011 at 20:34

    There is same country u missing whate about ogadenia? Is a country in africa beetwen somalia and eithopia try to knw that country a.u and african union must remember that cntry

  9. Monday, December 12, 2011 at 3:55

    [...] love good African food, but the continent is home to a crapload of individual countries—54 or so, depending on whose list you’re looking at—and there’s a relative shortage of African restaurants in NYC. Until now, I’ve only been able [...]

  10. Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 4:09

    [...] that note, I decided to google “How Many Countries are in Africa?” and found the total depends on several factors. There are segments of Africa that consider [...]

  11. Ememerurai Jeho Uzezi said,

    Saturday, February 4, 2012 at 8:16

    Thanks for the information I had from this write up for answering my questions.

  12. Bobby said,

    Thursday, February 16, 2012 at 8:26

    What about Biafra

  13. jfmaho said,

    Sunday, February 19, 2012 at 12:59

    I can’t see Biafra qualifying as a country. It briefly claimed independence in the late 1960s, but has since been a functioning part of Nigeria.

  14. GORSI LEKIA FRANCE said,

    Friday, March 9, 2012 at 22:25

    For a territory to be called a country, it most be :Independent,sovereign,government. And these are bases of gaining international recognition.So my opinion is that the assesment of UN should be regarded.which is 54 plus south sudan 55. In summary, from now onward I shall profess the number of African countries as 55 till any other independent is officially pronounced. Thanks!

  15. jfmaho said,

    Saturday, March 10, 2012 at 0:16

    It’s perfectly reasonable to follow the UN count.

    However, both Somaliland and Puntland are independent and sovereign, even though they’re not recognised. The UN expects Somalia to reform as it once was. Hence they are reluctant to recognise any “break-away” territories. Personally, I don’t think it’s likely, at least not as far as Somaliland is concerned. Puntland may join Somalia in the future, if past pronouncements are still valid whenever Somalia becomes a functioning country again. Somaliland have said they intend to stay independent.

    But then again, the future of Somalia seems pretty unpredictable, so who knows what’ll happen.

  16. Amnesty world said,

    Friday, March 16, 2012 at 20:28

    Biafra will make it 55

  17. ally k ally said,

    Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at 14:47

    thanks for your ideas am also going with 57!

  18. Victor U. Harry Edoho-Ukwa said,

    Friday, May 25, 2012 at 8:04

    It feel sad to be cheated, some feel guilty when they cheat while some don’t, but it is pathetic when your trying to cheat nature and feel everything is okay.
    Spain, Malta, United Kingdom, France, Portugal, and Yemen. naturally is in African mainland, why cut them out of African? very soon Ghana, South Africa etc will claim another continent irrespective of their location on the map.

  19. jfmaho said,

    Monday, May 28, 2012 at 15:29

    I understand South Africa, but not the bit about Ghana. Could you expand?

  20. Abdulkarim usman adole said,

    Wednesday, June 6, 2012 at 18:25

    With all the analysis given i share with you.57!and more also i want to appriciate with the compiler,for a wonderful job.

  21. Charles said,

    Saturday, June 9, 2012 at 9:09

    Good job! I have been battling with this for some time now. Thanks for the explanation

  22. Hero said,

    Saturday, June 16, 2012 at 4:33

    Africa, you shall someday rule the world. SURE! If not today, then definitely sometime in the not-too-distanat future.

  23. jacky mulenga said,

    Thursday, July 12, 2012 at 13:55

    I wish if Africa can become a Country by it’s self, not a content! & have one president.

  24. Friday, July 20, 2012 at 11:58

    ‘AFRICA shall rule the World’,the problem is wars end poverty but EDUCATION can deafet the status of wars end poverty in Africa.Together as one nation Africa can be ‘bright’.there is a lights after tunnel=just take dark-tunnel as poverty end wars then take lights as the new Africa with improvement on Education

  25. Monday, July 23, 2012 at 16:58

    Nigeria can’t b divide no more Biafra b’cox problems/corroption dey enough in Nigeria hw it would be divide in dis kind of stuation. Plx lets gather head and pray 4 Nigeria in order 2 get less corroption/problems.

  26. jonathan said,

    Tuesday, July 24, 2012 at 21:42

    which do i go with so confused.

  27. jonathan said,

    Tuesday, July 24, 2012 at 21:45

    i suggest either non-africa or africa countries shud all b included making 63 countries

  28. Sunday, August 5, 2012 at 21:21

    Reblogged this on eboquagraine.

  29. emerson ejom said,

    Friday, August 10, 2012 at 16:10

    that was concise and educative.

  30. Phyladelam said,

    Saturday, August 11, 2012 at 10:28

    I thnk european countries like spain,portugal&france must not included among african countries.areas thy control mst b given 2 local pple

  31. prashant said,

    Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 15:11

    france , spain , portugal …. these are totally eurpean countries., so why sayng non african ????

  32. Sunday, September 2, 2012 at 22:25

    I wl agreed wt u guyz.

  33. Damien said,

    Wednesday, September 12, 2012 at 6:31

    Should Cabinda be another?

  34. Thomas JM said,

    Saturday, September 15, 2012 at 20:03

    Whether Large geographical nations are divided into small units of independent nations as so the move is, UN is still challenged to strengthen their political approaches. I trust UN is a body established to embrace the social, political, and economic status of the world states. I am the UN is a world body God has known for every purpose of uniting humanity in all aspects for godly Glory.

  35. hammed said,

    Monday, October 1, 2012 at 4:58

    I don’t undertand are there country in african

  36. jfmaho said,

    Wednesday, October 3, 2012 at 18:17

    @Damien

    Sorry for the delay.

    Cabinda could well turn out to be another country, eventually. However at present (as far as I can see), it doesn’t quite qualify. Exile groups claim the territory, but Angola seems to have a firm grip of the territory.

    There are in fact several similar situations across africa, in Mali, Sudan, Ethiopia, Congo-Kinshasa, Algeria, Zambia, and elsewhere, where various (rebell) groups claim or demand independence from central governments, but do not in fact control any territory as such.

    It’s difficult to interpret what those situations might lead to in the future. On the other hand, we have such situations in Europe, too, like the independence claims for the Basque by ETA in Spain.

  37. Racheal said,

    Sunday, October 7, 2012 at 11:46

    They ask me this question in shool abt How many countries are there in african and west african but checking 4 african, i found no gud answer

  38. jfmaho said,

    Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 14:20

    @Racheal

    The simplest answer for “How many coutries are there in Africa?” would be 55, which is the now-current official number and includes the latest addition South Sudan.

    When it comes to West Africa, it depends on how you define “West Africa”. The easiest way is to use Wikipedia, where it is claimed that there are 16 countries in West Africa, namely:

    * Benin
    * Burkina Faso
    * Cape Verde Islands
    * Cote d’Ivoire
    * Gambia
    * Ghana
    * Guinea-Bissau
    * Guinea-Conakry
    * Liberia
    * Mali
    * Mauritania
    * Niger
    * Nigeria
    * Senegal
    * Sierra Leone
    * Togo

    You could possibly add Spain and Portugal to that list, since they control the Canary Islands and Madeira, which are also in West Africa. So if you want to impress your teacher, you could say there are 18 West African countries, i.e. 16 African countries plus 2 Europeann ones.

  39. chinyx desmond said,

    Friday, October 19, 2012 at 10:12

    Adding to the number of countries will not bring any good,we should improve the ones we have before adding so to be able to eradicate this poverty and poor educational standards in africa. Africa need to improve first this moment,I think to do this we improve the educational standard first because education is the key to success.

  40. Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 6:11

    [...] são as implicações africanas enquanto etnia, e não enquanto raça. Com 54 países (e muito debate sobre este número), Africa é considerada pela maioria dos antropologistas e paleontologistas, o [...]

  41. Marvel said,

    Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 16:41

    The countries we have in Africa are enough. Improve on what you have first before trying to add. Let’s not talk about those European countries you call non-African countries in respect of their geographical location, they have been in the European Union for decade. Why talk about them now? If they had been poor country would have talk about them?

  42. jfmaho said,

    Friday, November 9, 2012 at 5:46

    It’s not a question of adding any countries. The 57 figure is a de facto total.

    As for the non-African countries mentioned above, they have territorial possessions & interests on the African continent. Whether or not to regard that as sufficient to label them “African” is a matter of opinion.

  43. debby said,

    Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 20:36

    why is d total not stable

  44. Araka T. Clement said,

    Saturday, December 8, 2012 at 13:00

    Let Nigeria be divided, we have too much population in the country

  45. sada shehu said,

    Monday, December 24, 2012 at 12:29

    How many continent are there in africa?

  46. zir said,

    Wednesday, January 2, 2013 at 23:39

    can you give the exact date when wester sahara was an independant sate???

  47. Saturday, January 5, 2013 at 21:25

    I love africa

  48. jfmaho said,

    Sunday, January 6, 2013 at 18:13

    @zir

    I believe Western Sahara was briefly independent from late 1975 to early 1976, possibly a little longer. Morocco didn’t assume control of the entire territory until 1979.

  49. deltalaine said,

    Saturday, January 26, 2013 at 22:42

    Reblogged this on Niger Delta Politics and commented:
    I came across this blog about the number of countries in Africa (54) after reading about world birth rates on the CIA World Factbook site. In looking at a list of the countries in the world with the highest birth rates, I saw that with the exception of Afghanistan and East Timor, all top thirty were African countries. Niger has the highest birthrate in the world (and is considered the poorest by most measurements) and Nigeria is ranked #13. Seeing those 28 slots taken by African countries made me think that that must be over half of Africa, and it is.

  50. Gabriel Karumia said,

    Sunday, February 3, 2013 at 21:14

    It is very interesting to read the above written notes. Very educative, not only to us adults, but also to our children who have many questions than us parents can answer. I therefore want to propose that Zanzibar (i.e Pemba & Unguja, comprising of the so called Zanzibar island located on the Tanzanian coast of the Indian ocean) be included on the list of African Nations. This is so because, as much as the Tanzanian Government can claim control of Zanzibar island, it is otherwise governed by its own leaders with their own election that are however said to be controlled by the main land Tanzania when in fact there is great of sovereignty in Zanzibarians.

  51. Nworie chibueze said,

    Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 22:21

    THE AFRICAN COUNTRIES INCLUDES

  52. johnbullosarodion said,

    Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 7:28

    57

  53. Friday, March 8, 2013 at 23:53

    If africa continent try to add france. spain or other 4 they are think it can cause a big war ooo

  54. bemmy said,

    Saturday, May 4, 2013 at 5:35

    why is Cameroon not included in the list of west african countries?

  55. Saturday, May 4, 2013 at 20:35

    Thanks for this education.

  56. jfmaho said,

    Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at 20:59

    @bemmy

    Cameroon should of course be added as a West African country. But not all sources do so. Defining West, Central, East, whatever, Africa is often a matter of opinion.

    Personally, I would indeed include Cameroon as a West African country.

  57. Ogunleye emmanuel o said,

    Monday, May 13, 2013 at 1:29

    I lv ur cments.

  58. Tony said,

    Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at 15:33

    You have the gall to include European countries and Malta as African? Carry on joking.

  59. Iddrisu Awal said,

    Monday, June 17, 2013 at 13:46

    How many countries do we realy have on the African continent?

  60. jfmaho said,

    Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at 16:37

    Officially 55, i.e. de jure, meaning that in international legal practice there are 55 recognized countries in Africa. But there are de facto 57 countries, i.e. there are 57 sovereign territories that in practice operate/function as independently functioning countries. (The two not internationally recognized are Somaliland and Puntland. The Sahrawi Republic, of course, is a special case.)

  61. benson said,

    Thursday, June 20, 2013 at 9:42

    please tell me what is the position of biafra country in there requast for fredom from the nigeria country

  62. jfmaho said,

    Thursday, June 20, 2013 at 13:59

    The former Biafra Republic is fully integrated into Nigeria, and has been for many years. So there are no (serious) demands of independence, as far as I know.

  63. Agbo Chinonso said,

    Monday, September 2, 2013 at 18:53

    Personally,I think there are 54 recognized countries in Africa.

  64. jfmaho said,

    Monday, September 2, 2013 at 19:16

    Surely 55 now that South Sudan has been internationally recognized.

  65. dasana sulemana fuseini said,

    Monday, December 23, 2013 at 23:21

    some of these countries cannot see development becose of the fighting. no natural resources

  66. festus said,

    Saturday, January 11, 2014 at 11:22

    The truth, will should not be looking at creating more country/state in Africa. Rather how to better the life of Africa people.
    Let forget biafra for now, but how to tackle curruption and poverty in Nigeria.

  67. mr bassey otok said,

    Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 17:19

    I wanted to know how many many west african country we have in africa as a continent

  68. mophat said,

    Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 8:24

    The problem here is history. African history is written by non-africans,the real facts of Africa is in the pockets of few. how comes the number is not clear?we lost our dignity by just foool system.

  69. rosemary said,

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 2:25

    UHUHUHUH GREAT NOT I KNO ABOUT MY HOMELAND UNION AND THERE R 54 CUNTRIES NOT STATES

  70. Sunday, March 23, 2014 at 23:11

    […] enjoyed reading this Blog that took the argument much further and suggest you head over there for an interesting take on some […]

  71. Sunday, March 23, 2014 at 23:16

    […] enjoyed reading this Blog that took the argument much further and suggest you head over there for an interesting take on […]

  72. frankpamo said,

    Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at 22:36

    What they need in Nigeria is revolution , that’s the only medicine now for the government & asap because the level of corruption in that nation is more than the whole world put together…I pray for Africa.

  73. marta said,

    Thursday, October 9, 2014 at 20:25

    what they need in nigeria is revolution, thats the only medicine now for te goverment and asap because the level of corruption in that nation is more thanthe whole world put together…i pray for africa.

  74. chimezie liberty said,

    Tuesday, November 11, 2014 at 11:14

    Nigeria must be divided because we are nt one and we can’t never be one we are d Biafra nt Nigeria


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: