Africa Trivia: How well do you really know your continent?
Q1: How many distinct languages are spoken in Africa?
Q2: Where was the world’s oldest human fossil found? What was her name?
Q3: What is the longest River in the world? Where can it be found?
Q4: Where did the banjo originate from? What is its distant ancestor?
Q5: Where is the only street in the world to house two Nobel prize winners located?
Q6: Through which tiny strip of land is Africa connected to the rest of the world?
Q7: How many countries are there in Africa?
Q8: How big is Africa?
Q9: What is the most populated city in Africa?
Q10: What country has the most pyramids in Africa?
Q11: Where can the world’s largest desert be found? What is it?
A1: An estimated 2,000 languages are spoken in Africa. While Africa makes up about 16% of the world’s population, fully one quarter of the world’s languages are spoken only in Africa. This makes the continent one of the greatest concentrations of linguistic diversity in the world! (Nigeria alone has 250 languages!)
Some of the more common languages spoken in Africa include Hausa, Swahili, and Yoruba. Others, including Dahalo, Laal, and Shabo, are less common and only spoken by a few hundred people. While many of the African languages are quite unrelated to one another, the majority of the languages spoken in Africa fall into one of four language families: Afro-Asiatic, Khoisan, Niger-Congo, and Nilo-Saharan.
The Afro-Asiatic language family generally covers the languages spoken in North Africa, East Africa, and Southwest Africa. Nearly 400 languages spoken by over 250 million people are represented by this language family which is largely comprised of Semetic languages. Some Afro-Asiatic languages are Aramaic, Amharic, Arabic, Hausa, Hebrew, and Tigrinya. Also included in the Afro-Asiatic family are the now extinct lanuages of Akkadian and Ancient Egyptian — two languages considered to be the oldest in the world.
The Khoisan (or Khoesaan) languages are generally spoken in the southwestern part of Africa, namely Angola, Botswana, and Namibia. What is probably most unique about the 50 or so Khoisan languages is that they are tonal and use clicking sounds. The largest Khoisan language is Nama which is spoken in Namibia. Other Khoisan languages include Haillom (Namibia) and Sandawe (Tanzania). The Khoisan languages as a whole are generally thought to be dying out.
The Niger-Congo language family is comprised of the greatest number of languages spoken in Africa. This family has over 1500 languages and is spoken by more than 500 million people. Some of the most common languages spoken in Africa that fall within this family include Igbo (Nigeria), Swahili (Tanzania), Yoruba (Nigeria), and Zulu (South Africa).
Approximately 200 languages fall into the Nilo-Saharan language family, and well over 10 million Africans speak a language within this family. Nilo-Saharan languages are mainly confined to the center of Africa and is represented by over 15 nations including Burkina Faso, Egypt, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. Some of the major Nilo-Saharan languages include Dinka (Sudan), Kanuri (Nigeria), and Luo or Dholuo (Kenya).
A2: No it is not Lucy! In 2009 a team of american archeologists unearthed a more ancient cousin of Lucy’s: ARDI, 4.4 million years old! (Ardipithecus ramidus by her full name).
The Ardipithecus ramidus fossils were discovered in Ethiopia’s Afar desert at a site called Aramis in the Middle Awash region, just 46 miles (74 kilometers) from where Lucy’s species, Australopithecus afarensis, was found in 1974. Radiometric dating of two layers of volcanic ash that tightly sandwiched the fossil deposits revealed that Ardi lived 4.4 million years ago.
Older hominid fossils have been uncovered, including a skull from Chad at least six million years old and some more fragmentary, slightly younger remains from Kenya and nearby in the Middle Awash.
While important, however, none of those earlier fossils are nearly as revealing as the newly announced remains, which in addition to Ardi’s partial skeleton include bones representing at least 36 other individuals.
Whether Lucy or Ardi, science remains uncontested on the fact that Africa is the birthplace of Human species, which developed there about 5 million years ago.
A3: The Nile is the longest river in the world, flowing through Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt – if all the bends in the river were straightened out, it would flow from the Equator right up to the Scottish Highlands!
A4: The banjo as we know it originated from a single-string, gourd-bodied African lute (sometimes called the “hodu”) which the Griots of West Africa played to accompany storytelling. Now, bet you feel better for knowing that!
A5: The only street in the world to house two Nobel Peace prize winners is in Soweto, South Africa. Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu both have houses in Vilakazi Street.
A6: Africa is almost an island. Its only connection to other land is the tiny Sinai Peninsula in Egypt.
A7: With the inclusion of the disputed Western Sahara territory and the island nations off the continental coast, there are a total of 54 independent nations in Africa.
A8: Africa is the second largest of the earth’s seven continents and makes up approximately 22% of the earth’s total land area
A9: The most populated city in Africa is the Egyptian capital of Cairo with an estimated 17 million residents in the metropolitan area
A10: Not Egypt, gees! While Egypt is most well known for its pyramids, the Republic of Sudan actually has 223 of its own pyramids, double the number of pyramids in Egypt. Smaller and steeper than their Egyptian counterparts, the pyramids of Sudan are not nearly as famous
A11: Africa contains the world’s largest desert, the Sahara, which makes up an area greater in size than the entire continental U.S!