How many countries in Africa? How hard can the question be?
Africa is one continent but how many countries? we were asked last week. The answer is more complicated than you might think but, simply put, there are 55 states that are recognised by either the AU or the UN or both.
Researched by Ruth Becker
“How many countries does the continent have in its entirety?” asked a message sent to us last week by a group of information security advocates.
The sender, @Infosecafrica, noted that Africa’s regional political organisation the African Union has 54 members but had seen a report claiming the continent is home to 57 countries.
So how many countries does Africa have? The AU claims to represent all African countries. So are there 54 or 57? How hard – we thought – can the question be?
The AU does have 54 members
Working out how many members there are of the African Union is indeed quite easy.
As set out on this list, it has 54 members. Fifty-two are active. Two of them – Guinea-Bissau and Madagascar – though still members are suspended, or “under political sanction” following coups.
So is that the answer?Africa comprises 54 countries, all members of the AU.
Well no, because not all Africa’s countries are in fact AU members.
Norocco is not a member
Morocco, to start with is clearly a country, clearly part of Africa, and is a member of the United Nations’ Africa group. But it is not a member of the AU.
Morocco withdrew from the AU’s predecessor, the Organisation of African Union, in 1984 after the OAU approved the membership of the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic – aka the Western Sahara – a country (or Morocco would say a territory) that Morocco refuses to recognise.
So is the answer to the question – Moroccan objections aside – fifty-five? This would comprise all the AU members, including the Saharan Republic, plus Morocco.