Africa is the world's second-largest continent by area and the world's second-most populated continent by population, both behind Asia. It encompasses about 30.3 million km2 (11.7 million square miles) of land area and accounts for 6 percent of the Earth's total surface area and 20 percent of its land area, including nearby islands. As of 2018, it has a population of 1.3 billion people, accounting for around 16 percent of the world's total human population. Africa has the youngest population of any of the continents, with a median age of 19.7 in 2012, compared to a global median age of 30.4 at the time of writing. Although Africa has an abundance of natural resources, it is the world's poorest continent in terms of per capita income. This is due in part to geographic constraints, the legacy of European colonisation in Africa and the Cold War, predatory/neocolonialistic activities by Western countries and China, as well as undemocratic rule and detrimental policies. Due to recent economic progress and the huge and growing population of Africa, it is considered a significant economic market in the larger global framework, despite its low level of wealth concentration.
The Mediterranean Sea borders the continent to the north, the Isthmus of Suez and the Red Sea border the continent to the northeast, the Indian Ocean borders the continent to the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean borders the continent to the west. Madagascar and a number of archipelagos are included in the continent. It consists of 54 sovereign nations (countries) with full international recognition, eight territories, and two de facto independent entities with minimal or no international recognition. Algeria is the continent's biggest nation in terms of land area, while Nigeria is the continent's most populous. Several African countries came together to form the African Union, which has its headquarters in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Abeba.
Africa's history is lengthy and complicated, and it has been underappreciated by the world historical community on a number of occasions. Africa, especially Eastern Africa, is largely acknowledged as the location of human origins and the genesis of the Hominidae group of animals (great apes). Sahelanthropus tchadensis, Australopithecus africanus, A. afarensis, Homo erectus, H. habilis, and Homo ergaster are among the earliest hominids and their ancestors that have been discovered dating back approximately 7 million years. The earliest Homo sapiens (modern human) remains have been discovered in Ethiopia, South Africa, and Morocco, and they date back approximately 200,000, Africa is regarded by anthropologists to be the most genetically varied continent on the earth, owing to the fact that it has been inhabited for the longest period of time.
North Africa was the site of the emergence of early human civilizations such as Ancient Egypt and Carthage. Following a long and complicated history of civilizations, migration, and commerce, Africa is home to a vast variety of races, cultures, and languages as a result of the continent's past. European influence on the continent has grown steadily over the course of the previous four centuries. This was fueled by commerce, particularly the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, which resulted in the establishment of substantial African diaspora communities in the Americas beginning in the 16th century. In the late nineteenth century, European countries colonised almost all of Africa, extracting resources from the continent and exploiting local communities. The majority of current African states emerged from a process of decolonization that began in the twentieth century and has continued to this day.