The longest rivers in Africa: the big five

Three-quarters of Africa’s water resources are concentrated in just 8 major river basins. Of these, the five longest rivers are the Nile, the Congo, the Niger, the Zambezi, and the Orange. The pure nature of Africa means that many parts of these rivers remain untamed and wild. Among them, they boast many world records, as you will discover as you read on.

1. The Nile, at 6,600 km, is not only the longest river in Africa, it is also the longest river in the world and is possibly the best-known waterway in Africa. It drains about 10 percent of all of Africa, about 3 million square kilometers and has two main tributaries: the White Nile, which originates in the Great Lakes region and has its most distant source in Rwanda, the other tributary is the Blue Nile, its source is in Ethiopia.

They are located near Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. From there, the river flows north through the Sahara desert and eventually empties into the Mediterranean Sea through a large delta. The Nile is the lifeblood of most Egyptians and most of them live in or near the river. The main settlements on the river include Khartoum, Aswan, Luxor, and Cairo.

2. Africa’s second longest river, the Congo, flows west through central Africa for 4,700 km, almost 2,000 km shorter than the Nile, but what it lacks in length it makes up for in volume. Being located in the largest precipitation belt in Africa, it discharges 34,000 cubic meters of water per second into the Atlantic Ocean, the second in terms of flow of water to the Amazon.

It has the largest catchment in Africa with an area of ​​4.1 million square kilometers and, thanks to some of its canyons, it is the deepest river in the world. The source is considered to be the Chembeshi River in northern Zambia, not far from the source of the Zambezi River flowing east.

The rest of the river is within the Democratic Republic of the Congo or is part of its border. The main settlements along the way include Kisangani, Mbandaka, Kinshasa, and the capital Brazzaville.

3. The Niger River is the third longest river in Africa at 4,180 km and is the main river in West Africa. Its boomerang shape confused Europeans for 2000 years, as its source is only 240 km from the Atlantic Ocean, in the highlands of Guinea, but the river flows from the sea into the Sahara desert of Mali, then turns nearby. from the ancient city of Timbuktu. (Timbuktu). From here, it heads southeast through Niger along the border with Benin and finally to Nigeria.

Its main tributary is the Benue River, which is 1400 km long. The Niger discharges into the Atlantic Ocean in an area known as the Gulf of Guinea through the densely populated Niger Delta in an area of ​​approximately 70,000 square km.

An unusual feature of the river is the inland delta of the Niger. This forms where the river suddenly becomes less steep. This creates a region of connected streams, swamps, and lakes on an amount of land the same size as Belgium. Annual floods make the delta very good for fishing and agriculture. It is also an important stopover for migratory birds. The Niger drains an area of ​​approximately 2.1 million square kilometers.

4. No less impressive but 640 km shorter is the Zambezi River. At 3540 km, it is the fourth largest river in Africa, but it is the largest river that flows east to the Indian Ocean. Its catchment is 1.4 million square kilometers, about half the size of the Nile. The source of the Zambezi River is about 1,500 m above sea level, very close to the border where Zambia meets, Angola and the Congo. From there it flows through Zambia, Angola, Namibia and Botswana, back to Zambia and Zimbabwe and then discharges into its delta in Mozambique.

Its best-known feature is the Victoria Falls, the largest curtain of water in the world and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. It has one of the largest conservation areas in the world, the Zambezi Transfontier Conservation Area. Covering 280,000 square kilometers.

There are two large hydroelectric dams in the Zambezi that supply energy to several African countries.

5. A pair of tributaries of the Congo, along the Orange River, is the fifth longest river in Africa. Ascending in Lesotho, it flows 2,200 km west through South Africa, forming the border between that country and Namibia before exiting at Alexandra Bay into the Atlantic Ocean.

Its catchment is approximately 973,000 square km and its main tributary is the Vaal River. The Orange River is an important source of hydroelectric power and irrigation water. At least 29 dams have been built in its basin, the largest of which is Gariep.

It also supplies water to the Eastern Cape through the 83 km long Orange Fish Tunnel, the second longest supply tunnel in the world. As it moves west, it flows through the semi-arid regions of the Kalahari and Namib deserts, which receive less than 50mm of rain per year. annum, therefore, contributes little water to its volume.

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