Fifty-four sovereign and fully recognized countries make up the African continent (Chepkemoi 2019) – 6 of which are island nations. Africa’s newest country, South Sudan, received their independence in July 2011 (South Sudan Country Profile 2018). Somaliland and the Sahrawi Republic are two self-declared states (Felter 2018) that control some territory but have little to no recognition from the other countries. There are 10 non-sovereign territories that are islands off the continent’s coast.
International organizations organize African countries in several ways, geographically, regionally and economically. Geographically, the countries are organized into Saharan and sub-Saharan countries. Saharan or North Africa means the African countries in the northern part of the continent, most likely including parts of the Sahara Desert. These Arabic-speaking countries are part of the League of Arab States (Member States of The Arab League 2020) within the Arab world. Sub-Saharan means all the countries fully or partially located south of the Sahara Desert.
We can organize the continent in additional ways, such as North, South, East, and West. Still other organizational structures could include regional names such as the Maghreb, the Swahili Coast, or the Horn of Africa. The Maghreb includes northwest African countries around the Atlas Mountains. The Swahili Coast is the coastal southeast area of the continent inhabited by the Swahili people. And the Horn of Africa is a peninsula in northeast Africa, extending into the Arabian Sea.
Mutual economic development among most African states leads to further organization according to the African Economic Community (AEC). Established by the African Union, the AEC divides the continent into eight divisions: Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Community (EAC), Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS/CEEAC), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Southern African Development Community (SADC), and the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA) (Regional Economic Communities 2020).
J. Chepkemoi 2019, How Many Countries Are In Africa?, WorldAtlas, viewed 2 August 2020, <https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/how-many-countries-are-in-africa.html>
South Sudan Country Profile 2018, BBC News, viewed 4 August 2020, <https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-14069082>
C. Felter 2018 Somaliland: The Horn of Africa’s Breakaway State, Council on Foreign Relations, viewed 2 August 2020, <https://www..org/backgrounder/somaliland-horn-africas-breakaway-state>
Member States of The Arab League n.d., Wikipedia, viewed 4 August 2020, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Member_states_of_the_Arab_League>
Regional Economic Communities (RECs), African Union n.d., viewed 4 August 2020, <https://au.int/en/organs/recs>