Africa > This is the TRUE size of Africa

Africa: This is the TRUE size of Africa

2016/01/08

Our most common atlases are distorting the relative size of nations around the world, so German software and graphics designer, Kai Krause, made this map to set the record straight. (Scroll down for a additional detailed, zoomable version.)Don't believe what other maps have taught you - most of them have been distorted for centuries. Here's what it actually looks like to cram a bunch of nations into the extensive landmass that is Africa.

"Africa is so mind-numbingly immense, that it exceeds the common assumptions by just about anyone I ever met," he writes at his website. "It contains the entirety of the US, all of China, India, inclunding Japan and pretty much all of Europe as well - all combined!"

It was displayed a few years back in a London gallery as part of a Royal Geographic Society exhibition, for which the curator wanted contributions of “unusual maps”. While Krause says this is a purely symbolic image, made to illustrate just how large Africa is without the very common map distortion known as the Mercator projection.

The Mercator projection is a cylindrical map projection invented by pioneering Flemish geographer and cartographer, Gerardus Mercator, in 1569. And presently, centuries later, it's still being used as the standard map projection for nautical travellers because it can be used to determine a ' authentic' direction.

Any of the straight lines on the map are a line of constant authentic bearing, so all a navigator needs is one of these maps and a compass to plot a straight course across the ocean. The meridians are drawn as equally spaced, parallel vertical lines, as are the lines of latitude, but horizontally. The further away from the Equator they are, the further away they're spaced apart in the map. This means that landmasses that are located far away from the Equator look disproportionately huge compared to their Equator-hugging neighbours.

And, as Krause points out on his website, this type of map is ubiquitous in traditional geography education. We see the Mercator projection as the background in our daily television news, and the covers of school atlases. "But the basic fact is that a three-dimensional sphere being shown as a single two-dimensional flat image will always be subject to a conversion loss: something has to give…" he says. "That ability to use lines instead of curves came at a cost: areas near the poles would be greatly exaggerated. Greenland looks deceivingly as if it were the size of all of South America for instance…"

In fact, thanks to the Mercator projection, the size of Africa is often hugely underestimated, says Krause, off by factor of two or three.

So here is the authentic size of Africa, distortion-free. Click here for a larger, zoomable version, courtesy of The Economist.

Edit: Kai Krause has contacted us to let us know that the previous headline image we used was a variation on Krause's work by the folks at The Economist. We have updated the image to be Krause's work only.

Related Articles
  • AfDB to Participate At 5th African Union - European Union Summit

    2017/11/30 The African Development Bank (AfDB) will participate at the 5th African Union Commission (AUC) and European Union (EU) Summit taking place in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, from November 29-30, 2017. The Summit is organized by the President of the European Council, the President of the European Commission, the President of the African Union and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission. This year's theme is "Investing in youth for a sustainable next." The AU-EU Summit brings together key decision-makers to deliberate the next relations and deepen connections between the two continents. The Summit, which takes place each three years, allows the AU and the EU to manage aspects of their partnership, monitor evolution in the implementation of commitments, and provide guidance for further work. The 2017 edition includes several key events, inclunding the EU-Africa Business Forum (EABF) and a focus on the new work programme for 2018-2020.
  • Rwanda offers to take in Africans abused in Libya

    2017/11/30 Rwanda's offer follows the release of CNN footage of a live auction in Libya where black youths are presented to north African buyers. Rwanda is willing to provide refuge to as a lot of as 30,000 African migrants suffering abuse and slave-like conditions in Libya, the foreign minister told AFP Wednesday. "Rwanda is currently under discussions... to see how we can help in welcoming migrants held captive in Libya," said Louise Mushikiwabo. "It has just been decided so numbers and means are still under discussion but Rwanda estimates the number to be welcomed around 30,000," she said, adding that this figure "is not confirmed from presently on but an estimation".
  • EAC Council of Ministers meeting underway in Kampala

    2017/11/30 The 36th conference of the East African Community Council of Ministers is underway in Kampala. The conference that started yesterday will go on until December 2. It is being held under the theme: “Enhancing Socio - Economic Development for Deeper Integration of the Community”. The conference is considering several matters geared towards deepening and widening the regional integration schedule that include the statement on the implementation of previous decisions of the Council, statement of the office of the secretary general, statement on planning and infrastructure, and the statement on productive and social sectors.
  • 'Europe failed to give Africa the attention it deserves'

    2017/11/30 EU recently launched the European External Investment Plan, aimed at raising at least 44b Euros in private equity by 2020, the major ever investment scheme for Africa. The President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, has delivered a fairly devastating critique of the union’s policies towards Africa, saying Brussels had failed to give the world’s poorest continent the attention it deserved. “Often we looked the other way, heedless of the emergencies – humanitarian or linked to climate, security or stability – which Africans have to transaction with each day,” said Tajani.
  • Sudan armed groups still deploy child soldiers: UN

    2017/11/30 The United Nations said Wednesday that some armed groups fighting in Sudan still deploy child soldiers, but acknowledged Khartoum's efforts to prevent child recruitment into its forces. Olof Skoog, chairman of the UN Security Council's working group on children and armed conflict, said armed groups inclunding rebel factions were not implementing international regulations on children in conflict.