As the knockout stage of the Africa Cup of Nations comes to a close, the lineup for the semi-finals has been officially confirmed. Nigeria and Angola successfully advanced in the first two rounds of matches, while in a clash of underdogs, Guinea faced Equatorial Guinea in a fierce contest. In the end, Guinea defeated their opponents 1-0 in extra time. In another match, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Egypt engaged in a heated battle. The Democratic Republic of the Congo scored a goal in the 37th minute, but Egypt equalized with a penalty in the first-half stoppage time. The regular time ended in a 1-1 draw, and neither team could break the deadlock in extra time. Eventually, the Democratic Republic of the Congo won 8-7 on penalties, securing a spot in the semi-finals. The final four teams are Nigeria, Angola, Guinea, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Now, let me introduce these four countries to you, combining the Africa Cup of Nations with geographical knowledge.
Nigeria is located in West Africa and is the most populous country in Africa, with a total population of over 200 million people, accounting for about 16% of Africa’s total population. Nigeria is also Africa’s largest economy. Yes, you heard it right, it’s not Egypt, one of the four ancient civilizations, nor is it South Africa, a strong power in Africa, but Nigeria. Moreover, the gap between Nigeria and Brazil, the sixth most populous country in the world, is only a few million people, and it is likely to become one of the top five countries in the world in terms of population in the near future.
Both Nigeria and its northern neighbor Niger derive their names from the Niger River. The Niger Republic, as a former French colony, directly used the name of the river as the name of the country, while the Federal Republic of Nigeria added the suffix “-ia” after “Niger.” “-ia” is a common suffix in English, often used to form words referring to countries, diseases, and flowers. In addition to Nigeria, for example, Namibia is formed by the Namib Desert and “-ia”. You can think of other country names in English that use this construction.
Nigeria is the only federal system country in West Africa, currently composed of 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, similar to India, the most populous federal system country in the world. The British colonial rule in India was long executed by the East India Company, while the Royal Niger Company played an important role in the establishment of Nigeria’s colony, controlling the lower reaches of the Niger River and resisting the penetration of the German Empire in the region.
Nigeria and neighboring French Cameroon both gained independence in 1960. Between them is a narrow strip of land – British Cameroon. This region held a vote in 1961, with the southern region choosing to join Cameroon, while the northern region joined Nigeria.
Nigeria’s current territory is about 924,000 square kilometers, similar in size to Northeast China, but the geographical environment here is quite diverse, spanning five climatic zones, from the tropical desert climate in the north to the tropical rainforest climate in the coastal areas, covering almost all types of tropical climates.
This is because Nigeria’s natural resources are very rich. First, let’s talk about its oil resources. It is Africa’s largest oil-producing country and the sixth-largest oil-exporting country in the world, as well as a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Nigeria has the second-largest proven oil reserves in Africa and the tenth-largest in the world. In addition to oil, it has the largest natural gas reserves in Africa and the eighth-largest in the world. Other resources such as gold, iron ore, asphalt, limestone, and marble are also abundant, with 34 of the 76 identified minerals having commercial value.
Nigeria’s economy relies mainly on oil exports, but its industrial technology level is low, and most industrial products still rely on imports. Although 70% of the labor force is engaged in agriculture, the country still needs to import a large amount of food every year because it is not self-sufficient. With a total population of over 200 million people, the per capita income is very low. In 1992, it was classified as a low-income country by the International Monetary Fund. This is quite embarrassing. It can be seen that our great China can feed 1.4 billion people and its economy is doing well, which is quite proud.
Angola, officially known as the Republic of Angola (Portuguese: República de Angola), abbreviated as Angola, is located in southwest Africa. Its official language is Portuguese, and the capital is Luanda. It borders the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north and northeast, Namibia to the south, Zambia to the southeast, and shares a border with the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the enclave province of Cabinda. Luanda, the capital city, is located in the northwest of Angola, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean’s Mussulo Bay and near the mouth of the Kwanza River, where oil reserves are abundant.
There are not many attractions in the capital city of Luanda. The most famous ones include Mussulo Island and the Military Museum, as well as a monument that can be seen from afar.
Mussulo Island is situated south of Luanda, the capital of Angola, and can be reached by motorboat in about 15 minutes. It is a well-known tourist destination in Angola and a weekend leisure resort for domestic and international tourists. The island is formed by the confluence of the Kwanza River and seawater, deposited over the years to form a sandbar surrounded by water on all sides. It boasts the best beaches in the country, with some sections of the beach appearing silvery-white and glittering in the sunlight. The island is lush with vegetation, abundant with coconut trees, papayas, mango trees, and offers a tropical landscape. Various buildings dot the island, ranging from modern vacation villas to diverse African thatched huts. Nearby the island are famous tourist attractions such as Moon Valley and the Slave Museum.
The Military Museum of Angola is one of the most famous buildings in Angola. It was built in 1575 as a fortress by Portuguese colonizers at the confluence of Luanda Bay and the small island, serving as a symbol of the founding of Luanda city. After Angola gained independence, it was converted into a military museum. Inside the museum, there is a display room exhibiting some firearms, clothing, models, and photo exhibitions used during Angola’s anti-colonial armed struggle and the civil war. The museum courtyard also houses bronze statues of Portuguese kings, governors, and the famous poet Camões cast during the Portuguese colonial period.
Because Angola is close to the sea, seafood in Luanda is relatively cheap, especially lobsters. Due to the abundance of sharks, shark meat is also inexpensive and has become a common dish. However, eating it too often may diminish its appeal, and even shark fins are not considered special.
Luanda is one of the most expensive cities in the world in terms of the cost of living. A dish of water-cooked meat costs around $60, and fresh tomatoes cost $30 per kilogram. Chicken is relatively cheaper, but vegetables are expensive. With high diamond production, ivory from the ivory market and blackwood are local specialties.
Guinea mentioned here refers to Guinea in West Africa, generally distinguished from Guinea-Bissau and Equatorial Guinea in Central Africa. These three countries are remnants of the Guinea region that was divided by colonial powers during the colonial era. Guinea was formerly French Guinea, Guinea-Bissau was Portuguese Guinea and British Guinea, while Equatorial Guinea was Spanish Guinea.
The term “Guinea” in Western discourse comes from Portuguese. In the 15th century, Portuguese explorers used “Azenegues” to refer to the Sanhaja Berbers north of the Senegal River, with tawny skin, and transformed the Berber word “Ghinawe” into “Guineus,” referring to the black-skinned people south of the Senegal River. This gradually evolved into “Guiné,” meaning “land of the black people,” and expanded to refer to the entire coastal area of southern West Africa.
Looking at several West African maps from the 18th century, present-day Guinea and Guinea-Bissau were not necessarily within the boundaries of Guinea but rather in the Mali Empire (Melle in Latin) in northwestern Guinea, as this area had relatively mature national governments before colonization, unlike the looser communities, tribes, and small kingdoms of the Grain Coast, Gold Coast, and Slave Coast.
However, after the fall of the Mali Empire and the Songhai Empire, the small states that emerged in Guinea and Guinea-Bissau were unable to resist Western colonizers. Among them, the Wassoulou Empire, located in the eastern part of present-day Guinea Republic, northern Sierra Leone, and northern Ivory Coast, was relatively brave. They fought the final battle against the French army in 1898 (the year of the Wuchu Reform), and their leader Samori Touré was defeated and captured, then exiled to Gabon.
But his story has long inspired the national liberation movement of Guinea. Ahmed Touré, the founding president of the Republic of Guinea after independence, was the great-grandson of Samori Touré. Samori Touré had a famous saying: “We prefer freedom in poverty rather than slavery in wealth.” Although his son, Mahamoud Touré, and daughter-in-law were accused of enslaving an African girl in the United States from 2000 to 2016.
Guinea has large bauxite reserves, a tropical monsoon climate in the coastal areas, and tropical grassland climate elsewhere. Conakry is both the capital and the largest city, hence to distinguish it from Equatorial Guinea and Guinea-Bissau, the Republic of Guinea is sometimes called Guinea-Conakry. Naby Keïta, the captain of the Guinea team in this edition of the Africa Cup of Nations and who plays for Liverpool, was born in Conakry, the capital.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as DR Congo, is the largest country in Central and Southern Africa and the second-largest country in Africa.
With a land area of 2.345 million square kilometers, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is endowed with the mighty Congo River, whose basin and flow are second only to the Amazon River, nourishing dense forests. In addition, the country is rich in mineral resources, earning it the title of “the warehouse of raw materials.”
The Congo River stretches for 4,700 kilometers, making it the second-longest river in Africa (after the Nile) and the second-largest river in terms of flow worldwide (after the Amazon). Covering 13% of Africa’s landmass, the Congo River is of significant importance. Its name comes from the tribes along its banks. Initially, there were many tribes engaged in agriculture and harvesting in the Congo River basin. Many of these tribes used a form of Bantu language, hence they were called Bantu people. Among these Bantu people, there was a group living near the lower reaches of the Congo River on the hillsides, and in the local Bantu languages like Lingala and Kikongo, the hillsides were called “Kongo,” hence this group became known as the Kongo people, or the Congolese. The English and French term “Congo” is derived from “Kongo.”
The Congo River holds immense cultural, economic, and ecological significance for the region and the continent as a whole. Its basin sustains diverse ecosystems and communities, playing a vital role in the lives and livelihoods of millions of people across Central Africa.