Interestingly, Africa remains one of the continents globally with the most extensive and longest rivers, surrounded by other famous and notable rivers that make up the planet earth.
The river generally means a vast body of water, which flows in a channel to the sea or another river, usually unidirectional.
Although rivers surround the African continent, there is still segregation; this segmentation ranges from shorter to longer, deep to shallow ones.
Keep reading to get the full details of the twelve (12) longest rivers on the African continent, arranged in descending order.
1. Nile River
The Nile River, which makes up two Rivers, namely the White Nile and the Blue Nile, is the longest in Africa and the second-longest worldwide, flowing from Burundi Lake Victoria into the Mediterranean Sea frontier of Egypt.
Also, the White Nile, a component of the River Nile, is long too and flows in the Great Lake region.
The River Nile passes through 10 African countries such as Burundi, Uganda, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Origin of Nile River
The White Nile originates or starts from Burundi and made its way via the Kagera River in the southern part of Africa and finally empties into the Mediterranean Sea in Alexandria, Egypt.
The Nile, which got its name from the Greek word ” Neilos,” meaning valley, although named in Latin as ” Nilus,”. This great river was associated with Egypt mainly with the famous ancient Egyptian irrigation practice and Joseph’s famous biblical story.
The Blue Nile originates from Ethiopian in Lake Tara around the Abyssinia mountain. The Blue Nile from Ethiopia meets the White Nile at Khartoum, in present-day North Sudan.
In modern time history, John Hanning Speke is the one who discovered the Nile River around 1858.
- Length of the Nile River
The Nile River has a length of 6,693 km, containing about 80% of water, tributaries, and other components.
- Basin Size of Nile River
Like every other river, the Nile River has a basin size measuring 1,300,000 sq mi [3,400,000 sq km].
- Sources of the Nile River
The primary sources of the River are the White River and the Blue River.
- Discharge rate
On average, this great river discharges at about 2,830 m³/s (99,956 ft³ per second).
2. Congo River
Congo River, previously Zaire River in west-central Africa, is the 2nd largest river in Africa after the Nil river and the deepest recorded river worldwide.
Two rivers that form river Cong are Chambeshi and the Lualaba river, hence the emergence of the Congo-Lualaba-Chambeshi River system.
- Discovery Congo River
Portuguese explorer and navigator Diogo Cão, Cão otherwise, Cam, discovered the mouth of the Congo River as the first European in August 1482, where he erected a stone pillar to mark Portuguese overlordship of the place.
- Length of the Congo River and Basin size
The Congo river measures 4,700 km), equivalent to 2,900 miles in length, making it the only river in Africa that crosses the equator two times.
Again, river Congo basins spread over 3,349,000 square kilometres.
- The discharge rate
In the rainy season, especially at the peak, more than 1,800,000 cu ft (50,000 cubic meters) of water flows from this river into the Atlantic Ocean per second.
The sources of the Congo
The primary sources of this river are the mountains of the East African Rift, Lake Tanganyika, highlands, and Lake Mweru.
Hydroelectric power opportunities
The high flow of the congo river per second during the rainy season provides enormous opportunities for the river, alongside the tributaries, to generate hydropower.
3. Niger River
The River Niger is the third-longest river in Africa, known as the Principal River, which flows from western Africa.
Niger River has several names like the Joliba, Jellaba, Issa Berri, and Kwara.
- Origin of Niger River
A man by the name of Mungo Park is the one who first discovers the Niger River in the year 1795.
Niger River starts from the Guinea Highlands in southeastern Guinea, close to the Sierra Leone border.
Again the Niger River runs through the Mali, Niger, in-between the border of Benin down to Nigeria, where it discharges to the Niger delta in the Gulf of Guinea inside the Atlantic Ocean.
- Length of the Niger River
The River has an estimated length of 2,600 miles [4,180 km]
- Basin Size of the Niger River
The basin size is 827,600 sq mi [2,117, 700 sq km], classifying it as the 3rd largest river in Africa.
- Discharge rate
The average yearly discharge of the Niger River is estimated to be 197,000 cu ft/s [5,589 cu m per second].
- Sources of the Niger River
The primary sources of the Niger River are the Guinea Highlands and Guinea.
4. Zambezi River
The River is the fourth-longest river in Africa, after the Nile, Congo, and Niger rivers, located in northwest Zambia, particularly in Mwinilunga District.
It flows from the northwest of Zambia across eastern Angola through Namibia’s northeastern border and the northern border of Botswana.
Also, the River flows through the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe to the Mozambique border.
One unique thing about the Zambezi river is that it flows from six different countries.
The river’s surrounding countries include Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, Angola, and Zimbabwe.
- Discovery of the Zambezi River
In his journey, a Scottish missionary traveler, David Livingstone, discovered the river first between 1851 and 1853 from Bechuanaland. He later found the Victoria Falls while descending the mouth of Zambezi.
- Length of the Zambezi River
Zambezi River has a length of 2,574km (1,600 miles), measuring 1500m above sea level.
- Basin Size of Zambezi River
The basin area of the Zambezi River span across 1,390,000 square kilometers [540,000 sq mi]].
- Sources of the Zambezi River
Most of the Zambezi river sources are marshy black wetlands, otherwise a dambo, in the middle of the iconic Miombo Woodlands.
- Discharge Rate of the Zambezi River
The discharge rate of the Zambezi River is about 3,400 m³/s.
5. Ubangi River
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Ubangi River formed at Dungu, in the Dungu and the Kibali confluence, is the 5th longest river in Africa and the largest right-bank Congo River tributary.
It flows from Mbomou and Uele River and moves west, where it shapes a boundary along with the Central Africa Republic and DR Congo.
Ubangi River, spelled Oubangui, has several names like the Oubangui, Welle, Ouelethe, with the most significant rank as the bank tributary of the Congo River in equatorial Africa.
Countries surrounding the Ubangi-Uele river are the Central Africa Republic and DR Congo.
- Discovery of Ubangi-Uele River
In 1970, a German botanist, Georg Schweinfurth, visited the river first. However, a German explorer from Russia, Wilhelm Junker, identified it as part of the Congo River system in 1882–83.
- Length of the Ubangi-Uele River
As the fifth-longest river in Africa, the Ubangi-Uele River has a length of about 1,060 km [66mi].
- Basin Size of Ubangi-Uele River
Ubangi-Uele River has a drainage basin that is roughly 651,915 sq km [251,706 sq mi].
- Sources of the Ubangi-Uele River
The River has sources like the Dungu and the Kibali rivers.
- The discharge rate of the Ubangi-Uele River
Ubangi-Uele River discharges an estimated average of 298,400 sq mi [772,800 sq km].
6. Kasai River
The Kasai River, otherwise called Rio Cassai by the Portuguese or the Kwa (h), is the 6th longest river in Africa.
The River starts from central Angola and flows to the boundary between Angola and the Democratic of Congo, ending in the Congo river.
From the Congo region, the Kasai river forms a boundary before it gets to the DRC.
- Origin of Kasai River
The origin of the Kasai river emerged from elevations measuring 1,400 m asl in Angola, flowing across a plateau of about 1,000 m asl, into DR Congo in the northward direction.
- Length of the Kasai River
Kasai River has approximately a length of 2,153 km while it measures about 1,338 miles from its source, which flows from the eastern part of the Plateau of Angola to Kwamouth.
- Basin Size of the Kasai River
Also the River has guess basin size of 340,500 sq mi [881,890 sq km].
- Related Countries in Kasai River
Nearby countries to the Kasai River are Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
- The discharge rate of the Kasai River
On average, Kasai river discharges at 9,873 cu m/s [348, 70 cu ft pr second].
7. Orange River
Orange River is the seventh-longest river in Africa, with several surrounding countries like South Africa and Namibia.
- Origin of the Orange River
French missionaries named Thomas Arbousset and François Daumas discovered the river in 1836.
Colonel Robert Jacob Gordon, a Dutch explorer, named it Orange River in 1779.
Orange River rises from the western slopes of Drakensberg in Lesotho to the Atlantic Ocean at Oranjemund.
- Length of the Orange River
It has a calculated length of 1,400 miles; [2,200 km].
Basin size of the Orange River
The Orange River has a basin size of 973,000 km²
- Source of the Orange River
Again it sources is from the Thaba Putsoa, Maloti Mountains, Lesotho.
Orange River has an average discharge of 12,900 cu ft/s [365 cum/s.
- The discharge rate of the Orange River
Orange River has an estimated discharge rate of 365 m³/s
8. Volta River
One of the longest rivers in Africa is the Volta River; the River happens to be one of the central river systems we have in the West Africa country of Ghana.
The river flows from south to Ghana from the Bobo- Dioulasso Mountains of Burkina Faso.
- Origin of Volta River
The river got the name ‘Volta’ which implies a turn or a twist from the gold trader from Portugal.
The Portuguese trader who gave the name considered the twisty background of the River before giving it the name.
Volta River emanates from the Akosombo dam in southeastern Ghana, and it empties into the Atlantic Ocean in the Gulf of Guinea at Ada Foah.
Also, it has a connection from other countries like Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast.
- Length of the Volta River
Volta River has an estimated length of 1,000miles [1,600 km], and that is the primary attribute that makes it one of the longest rivers in Africa.
- Drainage rate of the Volta River
Volta River is the largest reservoir in the world which coordinates about 153,800 sq miles as a drainage basin size
- Sources of the Volta River
The Volta River has inflow from the confluence of White Volta and Black Volta headstreams, which rises in the plateaus of the Upper Volta Republic.
- The discharge rate of the Volta River
There is always a yearly discharge from the Volta River and around 42,700 cubic feet, and it has an estimated 1,210 cubic meters as a discharge per second.
9. Okavango River
Okavango River, otherwise Rio Cubango in Angola, is among the longest rivers in Africa in the southwestern part of the continent, flowing southeastwards.
It is the 9th longest on the continent and 4th most extended river system in Southern Africa, located in the highlands of Angola
- Discovery of Okavango River
A Scottish missionary and explorer, David Livingston, first discovered the river in 1849 and reached the delta.
It starts from the Kubango south of Vila nova, Angola, and flows south and southeastward through Angola, then runs through the ending part, the Kalahari Desert in northern Botswana.
Unlike every other river, the Okavango river doesn’t flow in the sea; instead, it empties in open land.
The river derived its name from the Nambian people, called ‘Kavango.’
- Length of the Okavango River
The length of the Okavango river ranges is roughly 1,000 miles. It has a basin size of 200,000 sq mi [530,000 sq km], making it one of the largest rivers.
- Sources of the River
The primary source of the Okavango River is the Cubango River and drains three countries such as Botswana, Namibia, and Angola.
Currently, the Okavango river is among the ‘Seven Natural Wonders of Africa’ and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
10. Limpopo River
Limpopo River, also called the Crocodile River, is one of the longest rivers in Africa, flowing 1,600km through southern Mozambique from the northern part of the South African Republic into the Indian ocean.
From research, the word ‘Limpopo’ is from a language homogenous to South African people, which may imply ‘river of the waterfall.’
- Discovery of the Limpopo River
Vasco da Gama, a European, was the first person to sight the Limpopo River in 1498 and gave it a name ‘Espirito Santo River’.
- Length of Limpopo River
Limpopo River has a total length of 1,750 km, with a basin size of 415,000 km².
- Sources of the River
The primary sources of the river are the Constantia Kloof and the Witwatersrand Mountains.
- Related Countries in Limpopo River
Limpopo River relates to other countries like Botswana, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe too.
- Discharge Rate
Limpopo River discharges about 170m with an average of 6,000 cu ft/s, in a semicircular way.
Nevertheless, the Limpopo River flows northward of the Magaliesberg mountain, across the Bushveld basin, and joins the Marico River.
- Sources of the River
The primary sources of the River are the Constantia Kloof and the Witwatersrand Mountains.
11. Kwango River
Kwango River is also one of the longest rivers in Africa, among the Congo River system.
The River moves across two boundaries between Angola and the Congo and, making it a transboundary River.
The River is the largest left bank tributary of Kasai River in Congo River; it flows through the Angola town and then ends in Bandundu, Kasai River.
- Length of the Kwango River
Kwango River has about 1,770km in length, while it has a distance rate of 1,100 kilometers long, starting from its source to its meeting point with the Congo River.
- Basin Size of Kwango River
The Kwango River has a basin size of 263,500 km2 [101,700 sq mi]
- Source of the Kwango
The primary source of the Kwango River is Alto Chicapa, Angola.
Discharge Rate of Kwango.
- Discharge rate
The average discharge rate of the Kwango river is 95,000 cu ft/s [2,700 cu m].
12. Shebelle River
Shebelle River starts from the highlands of Ethiopia then flows to the southeast down to Somalia along Mogadishu.
- Origin of the Shebelle River
The Shebelle River begins from its headquarter, the streams in the Mendebo Mountains of southern Ethiopia, flowing about some miles from the Doolow on the Ethiopia boundary down to the Indian Ocean, where it stops.
- Length of the Shebelle River
The length of the Shebelle River is 1,130 miles [1,820 km] while it discharges up to 17,657 cu ft/s [500 cu m/s].
- Basin Size of the Shebelle River
Again the River has 114,662 sq miles [296,972 sq km] as a basin size
- Sources of Shebelle River
A primary source is the Shebelle River, also called Shebeli River or Web Shabelle is Ethiopian highlands.
- Discharge Rate of the Shebelle River
Shebelle River has a discharge rate of about 17,657 cu ft/s (500 cu m/s).
The above lists of the largest rivers in Africa will guide every researcher who wants to dig deep into the details of the longest African rivers.
The post also educates and enlightens Africans and other people from different countries on the information about the African rivers.