Africa’s Real Size

The size of Africa

Think about the world map that may be up in your classroom or in a book at home. You may also find it useful to find a picture of one. It’s quite easy to try and figure out which country or continent is the biggest from that, isn’t it? The truth is, a lot of countries and some continents on a lot of the world maps we see aren’t really that size!

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Maps don’t show the true size of countries and continents

Think again of the world map that you may have seen in your classroom. The size of some countries and continents may not be represented correctly. This is because maps are not to scale. When something is not to scale, it means that the size of it could be bigger or smaller than what’s being shown. On maps, countries and continents may look smaller or bigger than they actually are.


Maps don’t show the true size of countries and continents

The Mercator Projection is the most popular world map. It was first made in 1569 by Gerardus Mercator for sea captains to help them explore the oceans safely. It also shows countries near the North and South Pole are bigger than they truly are, which is why Greenland is sometimes shown to nearly be Africa’s size!

Did you know that Africa is the second largest continent in the world? Yet, on this type of map, it’s always shown as much smaller than other continents and even some countries, such as Russia! Russia is shown to be bigger than Africa, but Africa is nearly twice Russia’s size!

Why is Africa shown as a small continent?

Some experts believe that because some maps make countries appear bigger than they are, they could be seen as stronger or more important than others. This isn’t very fair, so some people believe that a new map which shows the true sizes of countries should be made and used, instead of the Mercator Projection that’s widely used. 

Have a look at a world map online and also try researching the true size of countries. Compare how the true size of a country is different to what is shown on a map.