Finding Major African Cities on a Map

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Africa is home to a lot of people, and many of them live in cities. In this lesson, we'll check out six major African cities and learn how to find each on a map.

Cities of Africa

So, you want to go to Africa? Hey, who doesn't? Africa is a continent (a major landmass), and in fact, it's the second largest one in the world. With 54 independent countries, it's also home to roughly 1.2 billion people. That's a lot of people! By comparison, North America has about half that population.

This sounds like a great place for a trip, but where do we even start? A lot of Africa's population is congregated in major urban centers, or cities. And since many of the larger cities also happen to be capitals, maybe these are the best places to visit. Okay, let's pull out the map and start planning our trip.

Accra, Ghana to Abuja, Nigeria
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Accra, Ghana

With so much area to cover, we should go in some sort of order, so let's plan a tour of Africa going counter-clockwise around the entire continent. We'll start in the West African nation of Ghana. The most populous city of Ghana is its capital, Accra. That's where we'll go. So, how do we get there?

To find Accra, let's start at the top of Africa, right where Morocco nearly touches Spain. Trace your finger along the Atlantic coastline. Notice how the continent flares out and then cuts back to the east? That's where Ghana is located, just underneath that large, protruding chunk of the continent. Accra is right on Ghana's coast, near where the Volta River empties into the Gulf of Guinea.

Abuja, Nigeria to Pretoria, South Africa
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Abuja, Nigeria

Finding our next capital city won't be too hard. From Ghana, let's go east. First, we pass through the small (but important) nations of Togo and Benin, and then we arrive in Nigeria, another West African nation on the Gulf of Guinea.

The capital of Nigeria is a city called Abuja, and it is located pretty much in the exact center of Nigeria. It's not the most populous city of the nation, but this is where the government is centered, so it's pretty important. Abuja was built in the 1980s specifically to be the capital.

Pretoria, South Africa to Nairobi, Kenya
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Pretoria, South Africa

The next leg of our voyage is a bit longer. If we go a little bit east of Abuja, and then take a sharp turn south and head about 4,000 miles all the way to the bottom of the continent, we'll be in the nation of South Africa (which was named for really obvious reasons).

South Africa's government is actually divided between different cities. Cape Town is the legislative capital, and Bloemfontein is the judicial capital, but we're going to head to Pretoria, the main administrative capital where the president resides. Pretoria is located in a temperate valley in the northeastern corner of the nation. It's pretty close to another very important South African city called Johannesburg, which is just to the south.

Nairobi, Kenya to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
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Nairobi, Kenya

Now it's time to start working our way up the eastern side of Africa. From Pretoria, it's about 2,400 miles north to the nation of Kenya, located on Africa's east coast and touching the Indian Ocean. A lot of the most famous African safaris are in Kenya.

The capital of Kenya, and its largest city, is Nairobi. Don't let the fact that Kenya is on the ocean fool you, however. Nairobi is inland, in the southern half of the country, and is almost 6,000 feet above sea level.

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Cairo, Egypt
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Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Our next stop is Kenya's northern neighbor, Ethiopia. Ethiopia is a large nation surrounded by the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, and Arabian Sea. But, believe it or not, the country is completely landlocked! Other countries claimed the coastlines over the years, leaving Ethiopia really close to three major bodies of water but not touching any of them.

Ethiopia's largest city is also its capital, Addis Ababa. Addis Ababa is located right in the center of Ethiopia, so it's pretty easy to find. Its population is over 3 million, making it one of the larger cities in Africa.

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