South African President: Africa Is the World’s Biggest Continent and All Other Continents Could Fit Inside
South Africa's president seems geographically confused about which continent is the world's largest, and how it relates in scale to everywhere else.
There’s no question that Africa as a continent is a pretty big place. The land mass fits 54 countries and more than a billion people, and it covers roughly six percent of the world’s surface area and 20 percent of its land area.
But is it possible that Africa is bigger than we all thought? Big enough, even, to fit every other one of the world’s continents inside?
Ask South African President Jacob Zuma, and he’ll tell you yes.
Speaking to a group of business leaders Wednesday evening, the 73-year-old father of 20 made that claim after saying that Africa is the world’s largest continent.
“This continent is the biggest continent in the world, not separated even by a river,” he said. “Rivers that are there flow with the continent; they do not cut it into half or quarter. All continents put together will fit in, into Africa.”
What he meant about the rivers isn’t exactly clear: Africa’s Nile River, for example, is the longest in the entire world, running more than 4,200 miles through a number of countries.
And he seems to have missed the memo that Africa is roughly 11.6 million square miles — making its surface area about five-and-a-half million square miles smaller than Asia, which takes up more than 17 million.
Altogether, the world’s seven continents make up roughly 57.5 million square miles of land. That means that for Africa to house the other continents (a concept that in and of itself doesn’t make any logistical sense at all), it would need to be roughly four times bigger than it is right now.
Amazingly, Zuma’s continent comment isn’t remotely near the top of the list of bizarre remarks by South African leaders. One of his predecessors, Thabo Mbeki, made waves by ignoring the scientific consensus that AIDS was caused by HIV, leading him to reject foreign offers to give his country free or massively discounted drugs designed to fight the virus. In 2008, researchers at Harvard estimated his policies helped contribute to the deaths of more than 330,000 of his own people.
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