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UPSC Past papers


Africa is the world’s second-largest and second-most-populous continent. At about 30.3 million km² (11.7 million square miles) including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of Earth’s total surface area and 20.4 % of its total land area.


Area: about 30 244 000 km2 (11 700 000 mi2) including its adjacent islands it covers about 20 percent of Earth’s total land area.
Population: 1.2 billion (2016).
Highest Point: Mount Kilimanjaro – 5895 m (19340 ft) in Tanzania.
Largest Lake: Lake Victoria or Victoria Nyanza; (68 870 sq. km.)
Longest river: Nile (6695 km.).
Largest Urban Area: Cairo, Egypt (15.6 million people)
Largest Watershed: Congo River (4 million square kilometers/1.55 million square miles)
Most Renewable Electricity Produced: Lesotho (100%, hydropower)
Population Density: 87 people per square kilometer
Africa is located in all four hemispheres: Eastern, Northern, Western, and Southern.

Africa’s absolute location affects its climate. The continent is in the tropical and sub-tropical zones.

East Africa is located at the boundary between tectonic plates. This affects the development of the East African topography


1. The Sahara Desert is the massive but largely empty region in North Africa that contains the world’s second largest desert (after Antarctica).
2. The Maghreb is a region of northwest Africa encompassing the coastlands and Atlas Mountains of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia.
3. The Sahel region covers a belt of grasslands south of the Sahara stretching from Senegal to Sudan.
4. The Sudan region lies just below the Sahel but is slightly more humid and arable.
5. The Horn of Africa is a peninsula in East Africa lies along the southern side of the Gulf of Aden. It encompasses Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Djibouti.
6. Sub-Saharan Africa is the area of the African continent which lies south of the Sahara.
7. The Guinea region is distinguished from the neighboring Sudan region by its rainforests and runs along the Atlantic coast from Guinea to Nigeria.
8. The Congo is the rainforest region
9. Great Rift Valley.


Great Rift Valley
• Great Rift Valley a geological fault system stretching about 6,400 km from the valley of the Jordan River in south western Asia to the Zambezi River in Mozambique. It is the longest fault system in the world.
• Elevations range from about 400 m below sea level in the Dead Sea to more than 1,800 m above sea level in southern Kenya.
• South of Ethiopia the Great Rift Valley divides into an eastern and a western branch. The eastern branch, which runs through Kenya and Tanzania, has many volcanoes and several shallow lakes.
• The western branch, which runs along the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s eastern frontier, is marked by a chain of large, deep lakes and has few volcanoes. The branches converge at Lake Nyasa, in southeastern Africa, and continue south as one system to central Mozambique.
• The deep rift valleys of the Eastern Highlands hold a great series of lakes. This equatorial lake system includes Lakes Turkana, Albert, Tanganyika, and Nyasa (Malawi).
• Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Africa and the third largest in the world, is, however, not part of this system.

Victoria Falls

The waterfall is in southern Africa on the Zambezi River, on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The fall is higher and wider than Niagara Falls measuring 1,600 m across and drop about 107 m in some parts.

Cape of Good Hope

• It is southern end of Cape Peninsula in southwestern Africa.
• It is 48 km south of Cape Town (South Africa) and 160 km northwest of Cape Agulhas.
• The Cape of Good Hope for centuries was a landmark indicating to navigators that they were at the meeting of the Atlantic and Indian oceans.

Cape Agulhas

• It is in South Africa and is southernmost point of Africa. 
• It lies where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet and is 160 km southeast of the Cape of Good Hope.
• The name Agulhas (Portuguese for “needles”) refers to the jagged reefs and sunken rocks around the cape, on which many ships have been lost.

Sinai Peninsula

• An area of Asia that forms a land bridge to Africa.
• It is part of Egypt.

The Sahara Desert

• Sahara, the vast desert of northern Africa, and the world’s largest arid region. It occupies much of the broad northern half of Africa and covers 9,000,000 km2.
• Northern boundaries of Sahara desert are the Atlas Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea and stretches upto 17° north of the Equator for 1,900 km.
• From the Red Sea on the east to the Atlantic Ocean on the west it stretches more than 5,600 km.
• It is a low plateau with an uplifted center that has several mountainous areas. Elevations over much of the Sahara average only 300 to 450 m above sea level.
• Except for the Nile and the Niger, which flow along the desert margins, there are no permanent rivers.
• Central Sahara is dominated by mountainous like Ahaggar (in Algeria), and Tibesti (in Chad). These rugged and barren highlands of volcanic origin have been eroded by wind and water into many strangely shaped peaks.
• The extinct volcano of Emi Koussi, in the Tibesti, reaching 3,415 m, is the Sahara’s highest point.

Kalahari Desert

• It is an arid region in southern Africa comprising parts of Botswana, South Africa, and Namibia covering an area of 310,000 km2.
• The northeastern part of the Kalahari receives the most rain up to 500 mm annually. Rainfall declines toward the southeast, where some areas receive virtually no rain. Summer daytime temperatures often reach more than 100° F (38° C.).

Libyan Desert

• It is a part of the Sahara covering 1,300,000 km2 in Libya, Egypt, and Sudan.
• Elevations generally vary from 150- 900 m. In the northeast, in Egypt, the Qattara Depression drops to 133 m below sea level-one of the lowest points in Africa.
• The Libyan Desert is extremely dry; it often receives no rain for several years at a time.

Namib Desert

• An arid coastal region in Namibia extending about 1,600 km from Angola in the north to South Africa in the south.
• It is 130 km wide and lies between a high inland plateau and the Atlantic Ocean.
• The weather is generally cool because of westerly winds moving inland from cold offshore water; morning fog is common.
• Annual rainfall is less than 1 inch (25 mm).
• Two rivers, the Orange and the Kunene, cross the desert on its extreme northern and southern edges.
• Diamonds are mined in the alluvial sands along the coast. Except for a few mining towns and ports, the area is virtually uninhabited.


1. North Africa lies north of the Sahara and runs along the Eastern coast.
2. West Africa is the portion roughly west of 10° east longitude, excluding Northern Africa and the Maghreb.
3. East Africa stretches from the Red Sea and the Horn of Africa to Mozambique, including Madagascar but excluding the southern and northern edges of the continent.
4. Central Africa is the large mass at the center of Africa, which either does not fall squarely into any other region or only partially does so.
5. Southern Africa consists of the portion generally south of 10° latitude and the great rainforests of Congo.


• Comprises of Morocco, N. Algeria and Tunisia Called Barbary States.
• The relief and climate of this region make it unique.
• The chain of mountains is Atlas Mountains. 
• The Chief agriculture product is vine followed by tobacco. Pastoral activity is also important.
• The Sahel is one of the most important regions in the world for the production of Olives.



 Nile river is the most important geographical feature.
• The Western deserts, comprising ¾ of the total areas of Egypt. The eastern desert occupies the comparatively long and narrow region lying between the Nile valley and the Red sea.
• Cotton is the most important agricultural product of Egypt. Maize sugarcane, vegetables and rice are grown.
• Cairo is the chief town and capital of Egypt, Alexandria the chief harbor and leading commercial center.


• The largest country of Africa (in area)
• Over 80% inhabitants derive their income from the farming.
• Cotton is the most important agricultural product followed by peanuts, sesames seeds and gum
• Khartoum is the capital, Omdurman is another town.

The Sahara Desert

• Meaning “wilderness” extending 1600 km in north-south and 4800 east-west across the entire continent from Atlantic Ocean to Red sea.
• Djanet Oasis in Southern Algaria is considered as the most beautiful Oasis in the world.
• A1 Aziziya is the hottest place in the world lying 40 km south of Tripoli (Libya).
• Chad lake is highly functioning size varies between 1000 km2 to 25000km2.


Guinea Republic

• It is very important in bauxite production: it is viewed that half of the world’s bauxite is stored here. 60% of the country exchequer comes from the export of bauxite.

Ivory Coast

• It is one of the most prosperous countries in west Africa- Coffee, Cocoa, Banana and rubbers are main agricultural Products.


• Formerly named Gold coast one of the leading exporters of manganese in the world
• One of the leading producer of cocoa in the world.


• It is the largest country of Africa in population
• Palm oil, peanuts and Cocoa are chief products.
• Laos is the capital and chief sea port.

Sierra Leone

• Diamond is major export item.
• Freetown is the capital and most beautiful port of Africa.


Comprises the countries of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania along-with Rwanda and Burundi.


• Lake Victoria is in this country.
• Ruwenzori range which is the highest non-volcanic peak of Africa (5119m) the mountain is also called “mountain of moon”.


• Lies between 4° N and 4° S of equator.
• It has been named after famous peak Mount Kenya.
• Major export items are coffee tea, maize, wheat, sugar; sisal and cotton are chief products.


• Africa’s highest peak Mt. Kilimanjaro lies here.
• It is largest producer of sisal in the world. Cotton, Coffee, tea tobacco are also gown.
• Zanzibar and Pemba are known as islands of cloves. They are the largest producer of clove in the world.
• Zanzibar is also and important port.


• It lies in the northeast of lake Tanganyika, Batusti (Tutsi) and Batula (Tutu) are two major ethnic groups. Twa is the third major ethnic group.
• Coffee is by far the most important export item, followed by cotton and tobacco.


• It is a land locked country and is one of the largest producer of copper.
• The Zambezi and the Kafue are the chief river basins.


• Formerly known as Nyasa land,
• It is a landlocked country.


• It has a long coastline facing the Indian ocean-crossed by Zambezi and the Limpopo river.
• Limpopo river was once called “The valley that trembles” because of the herd of elephants in the region.
• Sugarcane, cotton, copra, sisal, and cashew nuts are the chief agricultural products.


• It the term denote that horn shaped part of Africa surrounded by Red Sea and Gulf of Aden in the East, Indian Ocean in South and Sudan in West
• It consists of Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea and Djibouti.
• Formed mostly of volcanic rocks and some portion are characterized by the fault scrap.
• Ethiopian economy is agrarian 90% of the total area is cultivated. Coffee is the must important commercial output


Comprises most the regions lying between latitude 17° as 35° S.
The Countries are South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland.

The Republic of South Africa

• The cape region is the Mediterranean region with mild-moist winters and hot dry summers.
 The Namib is the arid coastal strip between the plateau of South west Africa and the Atlantic. It is a true desert.
• Veldt is the tropical Savana region south of the equatorial rainforest in Africa- the region lies on the highest ground in South Africa.
• Kalahari desert lies in the western and north western part.
• Kimberley is a noted famous diamond mining center lies in the northern part
• Cope town is a port and center of country’s legislature.
 Johannesburg is famous for gold.
• Pretoria is the capital of South Africa.
• Krunger is a National Park, a large wild game preserve, is also located In the Transvaal.
• Natal is located on the eastern; lies under the highest part of the DrakensburgEscarpment. Most of the Indian population lives in this state.


• Capital city of Namibia is Windhoek.
• The country is rich in diamond mineral. Copper, lead and Zinc are also mined.


• It is a land locked country. The country has a very rough topography.
• Majority of the people work in South African mines.


• Gold, coal, asbestos and iron ore are mined.
• Sugarcane and fruits are chief farm products.


The Azores

• Forms part of Portugal.
• It lies in the Atlantic between 25º- 30º W longitude and 36º-39º N latitude
• The island is of volcanic origin.

The Modiras

• It is between 33º- 34º N latitude
• It is volcanic in origin
• It has Mediterranean type of climate.

The Canary Islands

• Forms part of Spain.
• It lies 50 miles away from the African coast, between 27º-29º N latitude
• The Islands comprise seven inhabited and six uninhabited islands

The Cape Verde Islands

Group of 10 inhabitated and 4 unihabited islands lies between 14-17º N
Harmattan is the prevailing wind.


It is the fifth longest islands of the world after green land, New Guinea, Bosnia and Baffin Islands.
It is separated from Mozambique by the Channel of the Dame.