Geographical Regions in Africa

Africa is the second largest continent and has enough land area to have a huge variety of geographical, environmental, and climatic regions. It is not just a desert. It is not just savannah. It is not just tropical rain forest. It is all of these and much more.

Africa stretches from above the Tropic of Cancer to below the Tropic of Capricorn. Much of Africa is inside of the tropical zone, but Northern Africa and Southern Africa fall outside of that zone. Northern Africa on the Mediterranean and Southern Africa where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet have very different climates from the rest of Africa based greatly on their distance from the equator.

The three largest and most well known geographical regions in Africa are desert, savannah, and tropical rain forest. But there are also areas of mountains, lakes, river valleys and coastal environments.


Deserts are unforgiving open spaces without many tools for survival. Many deserts are uninhabitable. One of the most famous deserts in the world is the Sahara, which is found in northern Africa. The Sahara is the world’s largest desert, but is still a very young desert and is still expanding. This process of desert expansion is called desertification. Another desert that some readers might recognize is the Kalahari Desert found in the south west of Africa. An area right near the Kalahari is the Namib which is considered a desert by most, but some would argue that it is a steppe. Another place where desert is found in Africa is in the Horn of Africa on the east.


After coming into Africa from the coast in many places the terrain quickly elevates into plateaus and this is where we find the Savannahs or Big Sky Country. This is where seasonal rains, when they come, help the farmers to grow their much needed crops. When you hear of people going to Africa to experience a Safari, this is the kind of geographical environment they experience.

Tropical Rain Forest

Only about 10% of Africa is what is considered Tropical Rain Forest. This suprizes many people who have grown up with the idea of “Jungle Book” and “Tarzan” stories. The tropical rain forests are dense, layered, and thick. Due to deforestation even what little tropical rain forest there is in Africa is shrinking.


Elevation plays a key role in determining climate and geography so even though some mountains in Africa fall very near the equator, such as Mt. Kenya and Mt. Kilimanjaro, their height alone causes them to have year round snow. Some mountains in Africa, such as the two just mentioned are free standing mountains and some are in the midst of ranges. Some of the more popular mountain ranges are the Drakensburg Mountains in South Africa, Rwnezori Range in Uganda, the Ethiopian Highlands, the Fouta Djallon Highlands in western Africa, the Atlas Mountains in Northern Africa, and the Ahaggar Mountains also found in Northern Africa.

Lake Side

African geography is spotted with lakes where the vegetation grows abundantly more than in the more arid regions. One region with many large lakes is the great lakes region in eastern Africa which includes these four large lakes; Lake Tanganyika, Lake Malawi, Lake Victoria, and Lake Turkana.

River Valleys

The four main river valleys in Africa are the Nile, the Congo, the Niger, and the Zambezi. Because of the water, the environments along the river valleys are different than the surrounding regions as you move farther away. Vegetation can grow near the rivers that can not grow where there is no moisture.


Africa has an immense coastline and the geographical regions along that coastline vary based on the latitude, elevation, and vegetation.

Because there are so many different geographical regions in Africa it is impossible to generalize anything about the continent. African geographic regions are almost as varied as the wonderful people groups all over the continent. Africa is just too magnificent to simplify.