The True Size of Africa: A Small Contribution in the Fight Against Rampant Immappancy

In addition to the well known social issues of illiteracy and innumeracy, there also should be such a concept as “immappancy“, meaning insufficient geographical knowledge.

A survey with random American schoolkids let them guess the population and land area of their country. Not entirely unexpected, but still rather unsettling, the majority chose “1-2 billion” and “largest in the world“, respectively. Even with Asian and European college students, geographical estimates were often off by factors of 2-3. This is partly due to the highly distorted nature of the predominantly used mapping projections (such as Mercator).

A particularly extreme example is the worldwide misjudgment of the true size of Africa. This single image tries to embody the massive scale, which is larger than the USA, China, India, Japan and all of Europe – combined!

(click to enlarge)

Image credit: Kai Krause

3 Responses to “The True Size of Africa: A Small Contribution in the Fight Against Rampant Immappancy”

  1. Africa is a continent, not a country. You seem to be comparing Africa to other countries rather than other continents. Its land area of 30,000 sq km is less impressive when you consider that North America is 24,000 sq km and Asia is much larger than Africa, at 44,000 sq.km. There are 54 countries in Africa, none of which are particularly large. What’s more impressive is the size of Russia and Canada. Put together, their area would nearly fill that whole map of the African continent.

  2. This map is very old … and very wrong

    Just look the size of Spain and the size of India and their respective areas. Same with Spain and USA. i guess the mistake is because mixing square miles and kilometers

  3. If “a picture is worth a thousand words”… I cannot find Kai Krause original post, and it may help answer this: I just wish it was stated what projections these were in. To be correct, each country should be posted in its closest projection to give its most accurate areal extent, and I wonder if that was done? S’pose I should ask KK himself BRB

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