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Mapped: Visualizing the True Size of Africa

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The True Size of Africa Map

Mapped: The True Size of Africa

Take a look at any map, and it’s clear that the African continent is a big place.

However, despite the common perception that Africa is a large landmass, it’s still one that is vastly underestimated by most casual map viewers.

The reason for this is that the familiar Mercator map projection tends to distort our geographical view of the world in a crucial way — one that often leads to misconceptions about the relative sizes of both countries and continents.

A Geographical Jigsaw

Today’s infographic comes from Kai Krause and it shows the true size of Africa, as revealed by the borders of the countries that can fit within the continent’s shape.

The African continent has a land area of 30.37 million sq km (11.7 million sq mi) — enough to fit in the U.S., China, India, Japan, Mexico, and many European nations, combined.

CountryLand Area (sq. km)Land Area (sq. mi)% of Africa
🇺🇸 United States9.83 million3.80 million32.4%
🇨🇳 China9.60 million3.71 million31.6%
🇮🇳 India3.29 million1.27 million10.8%
🇲🇽 Mexico1.96 million0.76 million6.5%
🇵🇪 Peru1.29 million0.50 million4.2%
🇫🇷 France0.64 million0.25 million2.1%
🇪🇸 Spain0.51 million0.20 million1.7%
🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea0.46 million0.18 million1.5%
🇸🇪 Sweden0.45 million0.17 million1.5%
🇯🇵 Japan0.38 million0.15 million1.3%
🇩🇪 Germany0.36 million0.14 million1.2%
🇳🇴 Norway0.32 million0.13 million1.1%
🇮🇹 Italy0.30 million0.12 million1.0%
🇳🇿 New Zealand0.27 million0.10 million0.9%
🇬🇧 United Kingdom0.24 million0.09 million0.8%
🇳🇵 Nepal0.15 million0.06 million0.5%
🇧🇩 Bangladesh0.15 million0.06 million0.5%
🇬🇷 Greece0.13 million0.05 million0.4%
Total30.33 million sq. km11.71 million sq. mi99.9%

You could add together all of the landmasses above and they would not equate to the geographical footprint of Africa, which itself is home to 54 countries and 1.2 billion people.

Editor’s note: The above table is slightly different from the countries shown in the visualization, which focuses more on fitting recognizable country shapes into the geographical shape of Africa.

Why the Misconception?

Interestingly, the problem with maps is not that Africa is sized incorrectly.

Using the animation below, you’ll see that Africa is actually the most accurately sized continent using the common Mercator map projection:

True size of countries animation Mercator

The Mercator projection attempts to place the spherical shape of the world onto a cylinder, causing areas closest to the poles to be “stretched”.

Africa, which straddles the Equator, barely changes in size — meanwhile, the countries furthest from the Equator become inflated from their true sizes on this type of map.

Mercator cylindrical projection

For those of us living in Western countries, this is an interesting dilemma to consider.

This means that the sizes of European and North American countries are distorted, giving us an inaccurate mental “measuring stick” for judging the relative sizes of other countries.

This has implications not only for Africa, but for the whole Southern Hemisphere: South America, India, the Middle East, and even Australia are “bigger” than they may initially appear on a map.

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Misc

Ranked: The Top Languages Spoken in the World

Here are the top languages spoken in the world by number of speakers in 2023.

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top languages spoken in the world

Ranked: The Top Languages Spoken in the World

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

The top languages spoken in the world reflect economic trends, populated countries, and even colonial history.

Here are the most spoken languages around the world as of 2023. These figures come from Ethnologue, which publishes a list of the largest languages every year.

The 12 Most Spoken Languages on Earth

English was born in the United Kingdom but today belongs to the modern world as the main international language of business and politics.

That’s why it’s not very surprising to find English as the world’s most spoken language, with 1.5 billion speakers as of 2023.

RankLanguage# of Speakers (2023)
1English1,500,000,000
2Mandarin1,100,000,000
3Hindi609,500,000
4Spanish559,100,000
5French309,800,000
6Standard Arabic274,000,000
7Bengali272,800,000
8Portuguese263,600,000
9Russian255,000,000
10Urdu231,700,000
11Indonesian199,100,000
12German133,200,000

In second place is Mandarin, the most spoken Chinese language dialect with 1.1 billion speakers. Originating in North China, it has become the most spoken language in China and Taiwan, as well as having millions of speakers spread across Southeast Asia and the world.

India is also represented in this ranking, but despite being the world’s most populated country, its speakers are spread out over multiple different languages. Hindi is the main language spoken in North India and an official language of the government, but other languages like Bengali are widely spoken in other regions, in this case in East India (and neighboring Bangladesh).

It’s also notable how languages from former colonial powers—like English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese—all have hundreds of millions of speakers, despite their mother countries accounting for a fraction of that total.

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