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Anouk Zijlma

Fun With African Geography...

By June 5, 2008

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where is this niamey niger capital fun africa geography I'm still trying to figure out why Guinea is such a popular name for a country. In West Africa there are no less than 3 countries called Guinea. There's the Republic of Guinea (sometimes also known as Guinea-Conakry); there's Guinea-Bissau (they are neighbors); and there's Equatorial Guinea, which has a lot of oil and does not lie on the equator. People from Guinea-Bissau mostly speak Creole Portuguese whereas people from the Republic of Guinea generally converse in French as their lingua franca. Guinea-Bissau has a major drug trafficking problem (thanks to the Columbians using it as a port to get cocaine into Europe); Guinea is busy trying to explore new oil fields, and Equatorial Guinea is constantly threatened by coups because it is already oil-rich.

Since I'm amusing myself with African geography, does everyone know the difference between Mali and Malawi? Malawi happens to be the country where I spent my childhood. It's a beautiful landlocked country with a vast lake, nestled between Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique. It's now more commonly known as the country Madonna adopted her son from a few years ago. Mali is a huge desert country with a rich cultural heritage in West Africa. Mali produces some of the finest music on the planet, is home to the fascinating Dogon region as well as the fabled town of Timbuktu.

Spot the difference between the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The DRC (formerly known as Congo Free State, Belgian Congo, Congo-Léopoldville, Congo-Kinshasa, and Zaire) is a huge slab of a country in Central Africa known for its awful civil war, diamonds and 250 Mountain Gorillas. The Republic of Congo is much smaller than the DRC and has a lot of oil. The capitals of both countries are situated on the Congo River directly across from one another. About.com's Geography Guide Matt Rosenberg has more on this...

And then there's Zambia and the Gambia. Zambia lies in Southern Africa and is home to the most impressive natural phenomena in the world -- the great Victoria Falls. The Gambia is where French people flock to in the winter for some sunbathing and swimming.

Mauritania and Mauritius couldn't be more different from one another. Mauritania is a vast desert country in West Africa and Mauritius is a honeymooners paradise in the Indian Ocean off the coast of East Africa.

Niger and Nigeria are linked by the waters of the huge Niger River, hence the (almost) shared name. Despite this, Niger is in fact a drought prone, desert country, twice the size of Texas and predominantly Islamic. Nigeria is Africa's most populated country, the economic giant of the region, with incredible cultural diversity (over 250 ethnic groups). One of Nigeria's larger cities, Benin City (which lies in the Kingdom of Benin) is often confused with the independent country of Benin (formerly known as Dahomey).

Did you know that Manhattan and Morocco share the same 212 telephone code? I could go on like this forever...

Image of Niger's bustling capital, Niamey -- © Getty Images/Daniel Berehulak

June 8, 2008 at 7:46 pm
(1) Jamison Murphy says:

This is very interesting, but most of these names are similar because they share rivers (Nigeria, Niger) or ethnic groups.

June 9, 2008 at 9:50 am
(2) Ian Watson says:

Guinea is certainly the most popular name for a country – as well as the three in Africa, there’s also Papua New Guinea.

June 10, 2008 at 9:07 am
(3) George Gauthier says:

She overlooked the similarity between Zambia and Zimbabwe which actually have a common border, the Zambezi River.
Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, and Equatorial Guinea in colonial days were known as French Guinea, Portuguese Guinea and Spanish Guinea.
Also you have Somalia and the breakaway Somaliland which used to be British Somaliland. In colonial days you had British Somaliland, Italian Somaliland, and French Somaliland, now called Djibouti.

December 16, 2009 at 6:45 pm
(4) bob the tomato says:

you are absolutely right i am a student at frontier middle school in missouri and we are studying africa right now we have to do a a huge project for finals on africa and it has been such a learning expirience!!!

December 16, 2009 at 6:48 pm
(5) me!!! says:

yo bob me 2

November 11, 2010 at 8:15 pm
(6) Awesomeness says:

me too!!!!

March 29, 2011 at 9:23 pm
(7) ahdriana goldsworthy says:

im in student in doral middle in florida and we are learning about africa.even though social studies is my favorite subject,africa has so many countries and its hard to rmember them -.-

January 30, 2012 at 5:50 pm
(8) ex-con says:

awesome me too i just love learning about Africa because i am from there

August 12, 2012 at 7:24 pm
(9) Morris says:

You lack proper information about Nigeria. you said “One of Nigeria’s larger cities, Benin City (which lies in the Kingdom of Benin)” this city can not be consider “larger” when cities like Lagos, Kano and Aba is there. make your research!

June 4, 2013 at 7:45 pm
(10) Sue says:

I am also having fun with African names. I have some beautiful little black masked love birds. I have named the yellow and green pair Tute and Carmen, the blue pair Cleo and Patra, The violet pair Neffra and Titi. As the blue pair are nesting at the moment I would love some suggestions for other names I could give the babies as they come along. We will be visiting several countries in Southern Africa in Sept-October and I am so looking forward to our Safari Tour.

August 9, 2013 at 8:35 pm
(11) Lorri says:

Sue…if you are referring to South Africa as southern Africa, you are mistaken as they are not a part of Northern Africa no more than South America is part of the United States or Canada. You will be in for a culture shock as South Africa is So MUCH more developed than other parts of Africa, and have malls that look like the owns in the US. Streets are paved, and there are NO wild animals anywhere for hundreds of miles. They are on National Parks. I was absolutely in awe when I went there. Hope you enjoy your visit!

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