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.
|Country||Land Area (sq. km)||Land Area (sq. mi)||% of Africa|
|🇺🇸 United States||9.83 million||3.80 million||32.4%|
|🇨🇳 China||9.60 million||3.71 million||31.6%|
|🇮🇳 India||3.29 million||1.27 million||10.8%|
|🇲🇽 Mexico||1.96 million||0.76 million||6.5%|
|🇵🇪 Peru||1.29 million||0.50 million||4.2%|
|🇫🇷 France||0.64 million||0.25 million||2.1%|
|🇪🇸 Spain||0.51 million||0.20 million||1.7%|
|🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea||0.46 million||0.18 million||1.5%|
|🇸🇪 Sweden||0.45 million||0.17 million||1.5%|
|🇯🇵 Japan||0.38 million||0.15 million||1.3%|
|🇩🇪 Germany||0.36 million||0.14 million||1.2%|
|🇳🇴 Norway||0.32 million||0.13 million||1.1%|
|🇮🇹 Italy||0.30 million||0.12 million||1.0%|
|🇳🇿 New Zealand||0.27 million||0.10 million||0.9%|
|🇬🇧 United Kingdom||0.24 million||0.09 million||0.8%|
|🇳🇵 Nepal||0.15 million||0.06 million||0.5%|
|🇧🇩 Bangladesh||0.15 million||0.06 million||0.5%|
|🇬🇷 Greece||0.13 million||0.05 million||0.4%|
|Total||30.33 million sq. km||11.71 million sq. mi||99.9%|
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:
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.
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.
Ranked: The World’s Top 10 Automotive Exporters (2000-2022)
Data from the World Trade Organization highlights the world’s 10 largest automotive exporters in 2022.
Ranked: The World’s Top 10 Automotive Exporters
According to the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association, over 85 million motor vehicles were built around the world in 2022.
In this graphic, we add context to this massive figure by ranking the world’s 10 largest automotive exporters. The list is based on data from the World Trade Organization (WTO) and includes countries from nearly every corner of the world, highlighting the global nature of the industry.
Top 10 Exporting Countries
The data we used to create this graphic is included in the table below. It represents each country’s share of the total export value of global automotive products in both 2000 and 2022.
“Automotive products” are defined by the WTO as motor vehicles, parts and accessories for motor vehicles, and internal combustion engines for propelling said vehicles. This grouping excludes motorcycles and trailers.
(% of world exports)
(% of world exports)
|🇰🇷 South Korea||2.6%||5.1%||+2.5|
From this list we can identify which countries have experienced the most growth or decline over the past 22 years.
Countries With the Most Growth Since 2000
The automotive exporters that grew their share of global value the most since 2000 are China (+7.7 pp), Mexico (+3.2 pp), and South Korea (+2.5 pp).
There are clear drivers behind each of these growth stories.
For example, China became the world’s largest car market back in 2009, which accelerated the growth of its domestic automakers. China is also home to some of the world’s biggest automotive suppliers, including Weichai (diesel engines), Hasco Automotive (drivetrain and air conditioning systems), and CATL (EV batteries).
Mexico, on the other hand, has grown its auto industry by enticing global brands to construct their factories there. The country’s competitive edge includes cheaper labor and a land border to the United States.
Finally there’s South Korea, whose growth is largely attributed to Hyundai Motor Company. The Seoul-based automaker recently became the third largest on a global basis, trailing only Toyota and Volkswagen.
Countries With the Biggest Decline Since 2000
The automotive exporters that declined the most since 2000 are Canada (-7.2 pp), Japan (-6.4 pp), and the U.S. (-2.6 pp).
Canada’s auto industry has experienced a steady decline in recent years, though new EV-related investments could turn things around. In March 2022, Stellantis and LG Energy Solutions announced the construction of a $3.5 billion EV battery plant in Windsor, Ontario.
Canada’s automotive industry is largely concentrated in the province of Ontario, which neighbors Michigan, the top state for U.S. car production.
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