Kalahari Desert

The Kalahari Desert is a large semi-arid sandy savanna in Southern Africa extending for 900,000 square kilometres (350,000 sq mi), covering much of Botswana, parts of Namibia and regions of South Africa.

It is not to be confused with the Angolan, Namibian and S. African Namib coastal desert, whose name is of Khoekhoegowab origin and means "vast place".

Kalahari Desert
A satellite image of the Kalahari by NASA World Wind
Kalahari Desert and Kalahari Basin map
The Kalahari Desert (shown in maroon) & Kalahari Basin (orange)
Length4,000 km (2,500 mi)
Area930,000 km2 (360,000 sq mi)
CountriesBotswana, Namibia and South Africa
Coordinates23°S 22°E / 23°S 22°E
RiverOrange River
Kalahari E02 00
Kalahari in Namibia
Bird's eye view of the Kalahari in Namibia : the darker dots are camel thorns
Kalahari Lehmpfanne
Kalahari Clay Pan near Onderombapa


Kalahari is derived from the Tswana word Kgala, meaning "the great thirst", or Kgalagadi, meaning "a waterless place";[1] the Kalahari has vast areas covered by red sand without any permanent surface water.


Drainage of the desert is by dry valleys, seasonally inundated pans and the large salt pans of the Makgadikgadi Pan in Botswana and Etosha Pan in Namibia. The only permanent river, the Okavango, flows into a delta in the northwest, forming marshes that are rich in wildlife. Ancient dry riverbeds—called omuramba—traverse the central northern reaches of the Kalahari and provide standing pools of water during the rainy season.

A semi-desert, with huge tracts of excellent grazing after good rains, the Kalahari supports more animals and plants than a true desert, such as the Namib Desert to the west. There are small amounts of rainfall and the summer temperature is very high. The driest areas usually receive 110–200 millimetres (4.3–7.9 in) of rain per year,[1] and the wettest just a little over 500 millimetres (20 in). The surrounding Kalahari Basin covers over 2,500,000 square kilometres (970,000 sq mi) extending further into Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, and encroaching into parts of Angola, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Numerous pans exist within the Kalahari, including the Groot-vloer Pan and Verneukpan where evidence of a wetter climate exists in the form of former contouring for capturing of water. This and other pans, as well as river bottoms, were written about extensively at Sciforums by an article by Walter Wagner regarding the extensive formerly wet areas of the Kalahari. The Kalahari is extensive and extends further north where abandoned extensive roadways also exist.[2]


North and east, approximately where the dry forests, savannahs and salt lakes prevail, the climate is sub-humid rather than semi-arid. South and west, where the vegetation is predominantly xeric savanna or even a semi-desert, the climate is "Kalaharian" semi-arid. The Kalaharian climate is subtropical (average annual temperature greater than or equal to 18 °C, at peaks reaching 40 °C and above, with mean monthly temperature of the coldest month strictly below 18 °C), and is semi-arid with the dry season during the "cold" season, the coldest six months of the year. It is the southern tropical equivalent of the Sahelian climate with the wet season during summer. The altitude has been adduced as the explanation why the Kalaharian climate is not tropical; its altitude ranges from 600 to 1600 meters (and generally from 800 to 1200 meters), resulting in a cooler climate than that of the Sahel or Sahara. For example, winter frost is common from June to August, something rarely seen in the warmer Sahelian regions.[3] For the same reason, summer temperatures certainly can be very hot, but not in comparison to regions of low altitude in the Sahel or Sahara, where some stations record average temperatures of the warmest month around 38 °C, whereas the average temperature of the warmest month in any region in the Kalahari never exceeds 29 °C, though daily temperatures occasionally reach up to close to 45 °C (113 °F) (44.8 °C at Twee Rivieren Rest Camp in 2012).[4]

The dry season lasts eight months or more, and the wet season typically from less than one month to four months, depending on location. The southwestern Kalahari is the driest area, in particular a small region located towards the west-southwest of Tsaraxaibis (Southeast of Namibia). The average annual rainfall ranging from around 110 mm (close to aridity) to more than 500 mm in some areas of the north and east. During summer time in all regions rainfall may go with heavy thunderstorms. In the driest and sunniest parts of the Kalahari, over 4,000 hours of sunshine are recorded annually on average.

In the Kalahari, there are two main mechanisms of atmospheric circulation, dominated by the Kalahari High anticyclone:[5]

  • The North and North-west of the Kalahari is subject to the alternation "Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ)/"Continental Trade winds". The ITCZ is the meeting area of the boreal trade winds with their austral counterparts what meteorologists call "Meteorological equator" and the sailors "Doldrum" or "Pot-au-noir" : the ITCZ generates rains in the wet season, whereas the continental trade winds cause the dry season;
  • The rest of the Kalahari is subject to the maritime trade winds, that largely shed their moisture as they cross up and over the Southern African Great Escarpment before arriving over the Kalahari.

There are huge subterranean water reserves beneath parts of the Kalahari; the Dragon's Breath Cave, for example, is the largest documented non-subglacial underground lake on the planet. Such reserves may be in part the residues of ancient lakes; the Kalahari Desert was once a much wetter place. The ancient Lake Makgadikgadi dominated the area, covering the Makgadikgadi Pan and surrounding areas, but it drained or dried out some 10,000 years ago. It may have once covered as much as 120,000 square kilometres (46,000 sq mi).[6]

The Kalahari has had a complex climatic history over the past million or so years, in line with major global changes. Changes in the last 250,000 years have been reconstructed from various data sources, and provide evidence of both former extensive lakes and periods drier than now. During the latter the area of the Kalahari has expanded to include parts of western Zimbabwe, Zambia and Angola.[7]

Vegetation and flora

Devil's thorn flower (Tribulus zeyheri), Kalahari
Devil's thorn flower (Tribulus zeyheri) growing in the Kalahari Desert
Sand dune in the Kalahari Desert (Namibia)
Camel thorn scattered on dunes in the Kalahari Desert

Due to its low aridity, the Kalahari supports a variety of flora. The native flora includes acacia trees and many other herbs and grasses.[8] The kiwano fruit, also known as the horned melon, melano, African horned cucumber, jelly melon, or hedged gourd, is endemic to a region in the Kalahari Desert (specific region unknown).[9]

Even where the Kalahari "desert" is dry enough to qualify as a desert in the sense of having low precipitation, it is not strictly speaking a desert because it has too dense a ground cover. The main region that lacks ground cover is in the southwest Kalahari (southeast of Namibia, northwest of South Africa and southwest of Botswana) in the south of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. For instance in the ZF Mgcawu District Municipality of South Africa, total vegetation cover may be as low as 30.72% on non-protected (from cattle grazing) farmlands south of Twee Rivieren Rest Camp and 37.74% in the protected (from cattle grazing) South African side of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park[10]: these southernmost Kalahari xeric savanna areas are truly semi-deserts. However, in all the remaining Kalahari, except on salt pans during the dry season, the vegetation cover can be clearly denser, up to almost 100% in some limited areas.

In an area of about 600,000 km2 in the south and west of the Kalahari, the vegetation is mainly xeric savanna. This area is the ecoregion identified by World Wide Fund for Nature as Kalahari xeric savanna AT1309. Typical savanna grasses include (Schmidtia, Stipagrostis, Aristida, and Eragrostis) interspersed with trees such as camelthorn (Acacia erioloba), grey camelthorn (Acacia haematoxylon), shepherd’s tree (Boscia albitrunca), blackthorn (Acacia mellifera), and silver cluster-leaf (Terminalia sericea).

In certain areas where the climate is drier, it becomes a true semi-desert with ground not entirely covered by vegetation: "open" as opposed to "closed" vegetation. Examples include the north of the ZF Mgcawu District Municipality, itself in the north of South Africa, and the Keetmanshoop Rural in the southeast of Namibia. In the north and east, there are dry forests covering an area of over 300,000 km2 in which Rhodesian teak and several species of acacia are prominent. These regions are termed Kalahari Acacia-Baikiaea woodlands AT0709.[11]

Outside the Kalahari "desert", but in the Kalahari basin, a halophytic vegetation to the north is adapted to pans, lakes that are completely dry during the dry season, and maybe for years during droughts, such as in Etosha (Etosha Pan halophytics AT0902) and Makgadikgadi (Zambezian halophytics AT0908).[11]

A totally different vegetation is adapted to the perennial fresh water of the Okavango Delta, an ecoregion termed Zambezian flooded grasslands AT0907.[11]


A meerkat in the Kalahari
Wd4 ian 710 01
The endangered African wild dog in Central Kalahari Game Reserve

The Kalahari is home to many migratory birds and animals. Previously havens for wild animals from elephants to giraffes, and for predators such as lions and cheetahs, the riverbeds are now mostly grazing spots, though leopards and cheetahs can still be found. The area is now heavily grazed and cattle fences restrict the movement of wildlife. Among deserts of the Southern Hemisphere, the Kalahari most closely resembles some Australian deserts in its latitude and its mode of formation. The Kalahari Desert came into existence approximately sixty million years ago along with the formation of the African continent.

Although there are few endemic species, a wide variety of species are found in the region, including large predators such as the lion (Panthera leo), cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), leopard (Panthera pardus), spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta), brown hyena (Hyaena brunnea), and Cape wild dog (Lycaon pictus pictus). Birds of prey include the secretary bird (Sagittarius serpentarius), martial eagle (Polemaetus bellicosus) and other eagles, the giant eagle owl (Bubo lacteus) and other owls, falcons, goshawks, kestrels, and kites. Other animals include wildebeest, springbok and other antelopes, porcupines (Hystrix africaeaustralis) and ostriches (Struthio camelus).[12]

Some of the areas within the Kalahari are seasonal wetlands, such as the Makgadikgadi Pans of Botswana. This area, for example, supports numerous halophilic species, and in the rainy season, tens of thousands of flamingos visit these pans.[13]

The biggest threat to wildlife are the fences erected to manage herds of grazing cattle, a practice which also removes the plant cover of the savanna itself. Cattle ranchers will also poison or hunt down predators from the rangeland, particularly targeting jackals and wild dogs.

Protected areas

The following protected areas were established in the Kalahari:


San-Mann beim Sammeln der Teufelskralle (Namibia)
San man collecting devil's claw (2017)

The San people have lived in the Kalahari for 20,000 years as hunter-gatherers.[14] They hunt wild game with bows and poison arrows and gather edible plants, such as berries, melons and nuts, as well as insects. The San get most of their water requirements from plant roots and desert melons found on or under the desert floor. They often store water in the blown-out shells of ostrich eggs. The San live in huts built from local materials—the frame is made of branches, and the roof is thatched with long grass. Most of their hunting and gathering techniques replicate our pre-historic tribes. Their mythology includes legends of a god Chikara, protecting them from starvation and death by sacrificing his own life by being hunted in the form of a deer and other wild game they hunt for food. Bux is the enemy of Chikara and is in the form of snakes which are found in considerable numbers in the Kalaharian desert region. Bantu-speaking Tswana, Kgalagadi, and Herero and a small number of European settlers also live in the Kalahari desert. The city of Windhoek is situated in the Kalahari Basin.

Kalahari, San and diamonds

In 1996, De Beers evaluated the potential of diamond mining at Gope. In 1997, the eviction of the San and Bakgalagadi tribes in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve from their land began.[15] In 2006, a Botswana High Court ruled in favor of the San and Bakgalagadi tribes in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, claiming their eviction from the reserve was unlawful. The Government of Botswana granted a permit to De Beers' Gem Diamonds/Gope Exploration Company (Pty) Ltd. to conduct mining activities within the reserve.[16]

Settlements within the Kalahari



South Africa

See also

  • Kgalagadi (disambiguation)


  1. ^ a b "The Kalahari-Basin". 15 July 2010. Archived from the original on 25 July 2015.
  2. ^ "Ancient Namibian Freeway overlays Ancient Agriculture System". www.sciforums.com.
  3. ^ (in French) Les milieux désertiques, Jean Demangeot, Edmond Bernus, 2001. Editor: Armand Colin. ISBN 9782200251970, page 20 in particular.
  4. ^ "World Record Temperatures -Highest Lowest Hottest Coldest temperatures-". www.mherrera.org.
  5. ^ (in French) Tropicalité Jean Demangeot Géographie physique intertropicale, pages 44–45, Figure 19, source: Leroux 1989.
  6. ^ Goudie, Andrew (2002). Great Warm Deserts of the World: Landscapes and Evolution. Oxford University Press. p. 204.
  7. ^ Thomas, D.S.G. and Shaw, P.A. 1991 'The Kalahari Environment'. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
  8. ^ Martin Leipold, Plants of the Kalahari
  9. ^ WikiHow, ' Kiwano Fruit
  10. ^ Wasiolka, Bernd; Blaum, Niels (2011). "Comparing biodiversity between protected savanna and adjacent non-protected farmland in the southern Kalahari". Journal of Arid Environments. 75 (9): 836–841 [Table 2 on p. 838]. doi:10.1016/j.jaridenv.2011.04.011.
  11. ^ a b c "Deserts and xeric shrublands - Biomes - WWF". World Wildlife Fund.
  12. ^ "Kalahari xeric savanna - Ecoregions - WWF". World Wildlife Fund.
  13. ^ Hogan, C. Michael (2008). Makgadikgadi, Megalithic Portal, ed. A. Burnham.
  14. ^ Marshall, Leon (16 April 2003), "Bushmen Driven From Ancestral Lands in Botswana", National Geographic News, Johannesburg, retrieved 22 April 2009
  15. ^ Workman, James (2009). Heart of Dryness. Walker Publishing. p. 323.
  16. ^ "UN report condemns Botswana's treatment of Bushmen". Survival for Tribal Peoples. 3 March 2010. Retrieved 31 March 2013.

Further reading

  • Main, Michael (1987). Kalahari : life's variety in dune and delta. ISBN 1868120015.

External links

Coordinates: 23°S 22°E / 23°S 22°E

Askham, Northern Cape

Askham is a village in the Dawid Kruiper Local Municipality in the ZF Mgcawu District Municipality in the Northern Cape province of South Africa. Askham lies not far from the confluence of the mostly dry Molopo and Kuruman Rivers in the Red Kalahari Desert, about 200 km north of Upington at the junction of the R31 and the R360 roads.

The village is located in the belt of the irrigated green land that surrounds the Orange river, as it flows North-West through the Kalahari toward the Namibian border and the Richtersveld area of Namaqualand. Askham is located in the southern Kalahari wilderness area on the Red Dune Route, where the dunes grow approximately 35m in height. The area was once home to the San Bushmen, Koranna and Nama people.

Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Central Kalahari Game Reserve is an extensive national park in the Kalahari desert of Botswana. Established in 1961 it covers an area of 52,800 square kilometres (20,400 sq mi) (larger than the Netherlands, and almost 10% of Botswana's total land area), making it the second largest game reserve in the world.The park contains wildlife such as South African giraffe, bush elephant, white rhino, cape buffalo, spotted hyena, brown hyena, honey badger, meerkat, yellow mongoose, warthog, South African cheetah, caracal, Cape wild dog, black-backed jackal, bat-eared fox, cape fox, African leopard, lion, blue wildebeest, plains zebra, common eland, sable antelope, gemsbok, springbok, steenbok, impala, greater kudu, aardvark, cape ground squirrel, cape hare, cape porcupine, chacma baboon, red hartebeest and ostrich.

The land is mostly flat, and gently undulating covered with bush and grasses covering the sand dunes, and areas of larger trees. Many of the river valleys are fossilized with salt pans. Four fossilized rivers meander through the reserve including Deception Valley which began to form around 16,000 years ago.The Bushmen, or San, have inhabited the lands for thousands of years since they roamed the area as nomadic hunters. However, since the mid-1990s the Botswana government has tried to relocate the Bushmen from the reserve, claiming they were a drain on financial resources despite revenues from tourism. In 1997, three quarters of the entire San population were relocated from the reserve, and in October 2005 the government had resumed the forced relocation into resettlement camps outside of the park leaving only about 250 permanent occupiers. In 2006 a Botswana court proclaimed the eviction illegal and affirmed the Bushmen's right to return to living in the reserve. However, as of 2015 most Bushmen are blocked from access to their traditional lands in the reserve. A nationwide ban on hunting made it illegal for the Bushmen to practice their traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyle, despite allowing private game ranches to provide hunting opportunities for tourists.In 2014 a diamond mine operated by Gem Diamonds opened in the southeast portion of the reserve. The company estimated that the mine could yield $4.9 billion worth of diamonds. The Rapaport Diamond Report, a diamond-industry pricing guide, stated, "Ghaghoo's launch was not without controversy [...] given its location on the ancestral land of the Bushmen".A huge bush fire in and around the park in the middle of September 2008 burnt around 80 percent of the reserve. The origin of the fire remains unknown.

Etosha pan

The Etosha pan is a large endorheic salt pan, forming part of the Kalahari Basin in the north of Namibia. It is a hollow in the ground in which water may collect or in which a deposit of salt remains after water has evaporated. The 120-kilometre-long (75-mile-long) dry lakebed and its surroundings are protected as Etosha National Park, Namibia's second-largest wildlife park, covering 22,270 km2. The pan is mostly dry but after a heavy rain it will acquire a thin layer of water, which is heavily salted by the mineral deposits on the surface.


Ghanzi is a town in the middle of the Kalahari Desert the western part of the Republic of Botswana in southern Africa. At the time of the 2011 census, there were 12,167 people living in the town with another 861 nearby. It is the administrative center of Ghanzi District and is known as the "Capital of the Kalahari". Ghanzi District measures 117,910 square kilometres (29,140,000 acres) and is bordered by Ngamiland to the north, Central District to the east, and Kgalagadi and Kweneg Districts to the south. Its western border is shared with Namibia to 203km.

Have shopping options in Spar, Choppis and food & stay at Kalahari Arms Hotel.

Kalahari Basin

The Kalahari Basin or Kalahari Depression is a large lowland area covering over 2.5 million km2 covering most of Botswana and parts of Namibia, South Africa, Angola, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The outstanding physical feature in the basin, and occupying the centre, is the large Kalahari Desert. The city Windhoek is situated in the Kalahari Basin.

Kalahari Craton

The Kalahari Craton is a craton, an old and stable part of the continental lithosphere, that occupies large portions of South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe. It consists of two cratons separated by the Limpopo Belt: the larger Kaapvaal Craton to the south and the smaller Zimbabwe Craton to the north. The Namaqua Belt is the southern margin of the Kaapvaal Craton.Parts of the Kalahari Craton are now located in East (the Grunehogna Craton) and West Antarctica (Haag Nunataks) and the Falkland Islands.

The name was first introduced by Clifford 1970.

List of rivers of Botswana

This is a list of rivers in Botswana. This list is arranged by drainage basin, with respective tributaries indented under each larger stream's name.


Make or MAKE may refer to:

Make: (magazine), an American magazine and television program

Make (software), a computer-assisted software engineering tool

Make, Botswana, a small village in the Kalahari Desert

Make Architects, a UK architecture practice

The Make (band), an American indie pop band

Maun, Botswana

Maun is the fifth largest town in Botswana. As of 2011, it had a population of 55,784. Maun is the "tourism capital" of Botswana and the administrative centre of Ngamiland district. Francistown and Maun there are linked by the A3 highway. It is also the headquarters of numerous safari and air-charter operations who run trips into the Okavango Delta.

Although officially still a village, Maun has developed rapidly from a rural frontier town and has spread along the Thamalakane River. It now has shopping centres, hotels and lodges as well as car hire, although it retains a rural atmosphere and local tribesmen continue to bring their cattle to Maun to sell. The community is distributed along the wide banks of the Thamalakane River where red lechwe can still be seen grazing next to local donkeys, goats and cattle.

Morokweng crater

The Morokweng crater (or Morokweng impact structure) is an impact crater buried beneath the Kalahari Desert near the town of Morokweng in South Africa's North West province, close to the border with Botswana.


Ncaang is a village in Kgalagadi District of Botswana. It is located in the northern part of the district, in Kalahari Desert. The population was 228 in 2011 census.


Ngwatle is a village in Kgalagadi District of Botswana. It is located in the Kalahari Desert, in the north-west part of the district. The population was 271 in 2011 census.

Okavango River

The Okavango River (formerly spelled Okovango or Okovanggo) is a river in southwest Africa. It is the fourth-longest river system in southern Africa, running southeastward for 1,600 km (990 mi). It begins in Angola, where it is known by the Portuguese name Rio Cubango. Further south, it forms part of the border between Angola and Namibia, and then flows into Botswana, draining into the Moremi Game Reserve.

Before it enters Botswana, the river drops 4 m in a series of rapids known as Popa Falls, visible when the river is low, as during the dry season.Discharging to an endorheic basin, the Okavango does not have an outlet to the sea. Instead, it empties into a swamp in the Kalahari Desert, known as the Okavango Delta or Okavango Alluvial Fan. In the rainy season, an outflow to the Boteti River in turn seasonally discharges to the Makgadikgadi Pans, which features an expansive area of rainy-season wetland where tens of thousands of flamingos congregate each summer. Part of the river's flow fills Lake Ngami. Noted for its wildlife, the Okavango area contains Botswana's Moremi Game Reserve.

During colder periods in Earth's history, a part of the Kalahari was a massive lake, known as Lake Makgadikgadi. In this time, the Okavango would have been one of its largest tributaries.


Omuramba (plural: Omiramba) is the term for ancient river-beds found in the Kalahari Desert of Africa, notably in the North Eastern part of Namibia and North Western part of Botswana. The word is taken from the Herero language. An omuramba provides occasional standing pools of water and more fertility than in the surrounding sand plains. Some specific omiramba are named: Eiseb, Rietfontein, Epukiro, Omatako. They mostly start in the central parts of Namibia and run into the central parts of Botswana. The depth and width of the beds varies, with some being 3 to 4 km wide. Omiramba that were perennial rivers about 16.000 years ago now flow only for short distances, and only after heavy rains. Herdsmen love to make their cattle posts in or near omiramba, so they do not need to use their pumping equipment to extract subterranean water, which may be as deep as 300 m. Historically, they are known for battles which were fought along their winding courses, notably the Herero-German war in 1904, which ended in a terrible genocide that killed nearly 70 percent of the Herero population and saw many others flee down the omiramba, which were then in the dry season and inhospitable. The omiramba were also home to Bushmen people in pre-colonial times.

Sands of the Kalahari

Sands of the Kalahari is a 1965 British adventure film starring Stuart Whitman, Stanley Baker, Susannah York, Harry Andrews and Theodore Bikel, based on the 1960 novel The Sands of Kalahari by William Mulvihill. The screenplay was written by Cy Endfield and William Mulvihill and directed by Cy Endfield. It was filmed in South-West Africa (now Namibia) and Spain and released by Paramount Pictures.

The Gods Must Be Crazy

The Gods Must Be Crazy is a 1980 South African comedy film written and directed by Jamie Uys. Financed only from local sources, it is the most commercially successful release in the history of South Africa's film industry. Originally released in 1980, the film is the first in The Gods Must Be Crazy series. It is followed by one official sequel, The Gods Must Be Crazy II, released by Columbia Pictures.

Set in Botswana, it follows the story of Xi, a San of the Kalahari Desert (played by Namibian San farmer Nǃxau ǂToma) whose tribe has no knowledge of the world beyond, Andrew Steyn (Marius Weyers), a biologist who analyzes manure samples for his PhD dissertation, and Kate Thompson (Sandra Prinsloo), a newly hired village school teacher.

The Meerkats

The Meerkats, also known as Meerkats: The Movie, is a feature-length 2008 British wildlife fiction film which anthropomorphises the daily struggles of a clan of meerkats in the Kalahari Desert. It was produced by BBC Films and The Weinstein Company, and filmed by the award-winning BBC Natural History Unit. It is the debut directorial feature of James Honeyborne, previously a producer of natural history programmes for television. The worldwide premiere was held at the Dinard Film Festival, France in October 2008, expanding to a wide release the following week. The film was released in 2009, on 7 August in the UK. A US date has not yet been announced. This was dedicated to actor Paul Newman, who died in 2008, shortly before this movie was released.


Tshane is a village in Kgalagadi District of Botswana. It is situated in Kalahari Desert, and is served by local Tshane Airport. The village has a primary school and the population was 1020 in 2011 census. It has a !Xóõ cultural centre.


Zutswa is a village in Kgalagadi District of Botswana. It is located in the Kalahari Desert and it has a primary school. The population was 469 in 2011 census.

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