Africa has the largest amount of countries when you look at the world’s 7 continents. How many countries in Africa do you ask? The correct answer is: there are 54 countries in Africa.
But you might come across a different number taking in some disputed territories in Africa, most notably Western Sahara. Also a few years ago the number was different as South Sudan was born and this could change in the future. Let’s look at some facts first.
How many African countries are part of the African Union?
If you check out the website of the African Union (AU) you will come across this: “The African Union or AU is made up of 55 Member States which represent all the countries on the African continent.”
Confused? Don’t be. According to African Union, there are 55 member states. The one country, Western Sahara (Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic) is not recognised by the United Nations.
This brings us to the next point, how many countries in Africa are disputed territories?
Which countries in Africa are not recognised by other countries?
Defining a country can be difficult. While the UN recognises 54 countries in Africa, there are a few disputed territories as well as overseas territories that certainly feel well like another country.
Let’s talk about the disputed territories.
Is Western Sahara a country?
Western Sahara or Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) is a disputed territory that has been claimed by both the Kingdom of Morocco and the Popular Front for the Liberation known as the Polisario Front which is an independent group based in neighbouring Algeria.
It is considered an independent state by some (African Union) but not by others (United Nations).
The reason why the UN considers it a disputed territory is because only 39 of the UN countries recognise Western Sahara as an independent country.
By the way, this is the issue with UN recognised countries. If only a few countries choose not to recognise a country, the country will never really be a country according to the UN.
Perfect examples would be Taiwan and Kosovo – but recognised by the majority of the world, but not all, they are still on the list of disputed territories according to the UN.
But back to Western Sahara. Once upon a time, this was a Spanish colony while neighbouring Morocco was claimed by France. It is believed that Western Sahara has as yet untapped offshore oil deposits and phosphate reserves. Maybe this is the reason why this largely desert land is disputed?
It depends who you ask how many countries in Africa are there, as the answer might be 55.
Is Somaliland a country?
Ever heard of Somaliland? No? Well, it is a self-declared state and an autonomous region of Somalia which declared independence in 1991.
It has its own passports, money, and flag so you would think this is a country right? Well if asked someone in Somaliland how many countries in Africa are there, the number might just be 56.
However, Somaliland is not recognised by any country or international organisation as an independent country of Africa. We visited Somaliland and it was a really unique experience.
There are 5 small countries in Africa and they are all island nations:
The smallest country in Africa is Seychelles. The other small island nations are São Tomé and Príncipe, Mauritius, Comoros and Cape Verde. The largest island in Africa is Madagascar.
But there are also islands and overseas territories that belong to other countries in Europe. Territories of France (Reunion and Mayotte), Spain (Canary Islands, Ceuta, Melilla) Portugal (Azores, Madeira) and Itlay (Pelagie Islands).
And UK dependant territory Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.
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A coffee lover, history junkie, former tour guide, and endless optimist. The mastermind of logistics and chief navigator for Very Hungry Nomads, two women on an adventure to visit EVERY country in the world. Marty is a social butterfly who describes her life as “just livin’ the dream".