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7 Reasons Why Africa Have the Shortest Coastline

Even though Africa is the second largest continent, it has the shortest coastline globally, with a length of 30,500 kilometers (18,950 miles).

The continent stands astride the equator with nearly equal lengths in the north and south extent.

Africa is a tropical continent with the Mediterranean, equatorial rainforest, savanna grassland, and tropical deserts vegetation and climate.

Africa measures about 7,400 kilometers (4,600 miles) from the east to west, about 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles) from the north to south, and generally occupies a total land area of 30,365,000 square kilometers (11,724,000 square miles).

Read on to discover every detail about the continent’s coastline, including why Africa has the shortest coastline.

Why does Africa have the shortest coastline?

The areas lying between the sea and land are called the coastline. As mentioned earlier, Africa is the second-largest continent globally, both in size and population, after Asia.

Nevertheless, the African coastline is the shortest in the whole world.

The reasons for the short coast include:

1. Africa has the shortest coastline because it has fewer huge gulfs and fewer inlets. 

2. The coastline of Africa is straight.

It has more artificial harbors because the straight coastline does not allow indentations for natural harbors. 

The continent generally has a thin continental shelf facing sharply into the sea, resulting in its shape.

3. Africa has a plane shape and flat outlines.

4. African rivers plunge from the plateaus into the sea in the form of waterfalls and swift (rapids).

5. The edge of the coasts in Africa comprises lagoons, coral reefs, mangrove swamps, and sand bars that obstruct the passage of water to the continent.

6. African coastline is commonly smooth.

The continent has only one central coastal island in Madagascar, the fourth largest coastline in the world.

7. The Agulhas Bank extends 200 miles or 320 kilometers offshore. It also has Agulhas Bank as the only shallow continental shelf. 

Africa has just one extended continental shelf made it difficult for investors to source petroleum on the coast, among other opportunities.

A look at the shape of Africa

There are different views as to the shape of Africa. In truth, without looking at the map of Africa, it will be difficult to explain the shape of the continent.

Some scholars insist that Africa has the shape of a stuffed sandwich geographically. The continent has thick tropical centers across the South and north temperate zones.

Other researchers say that the shape of Africa is like a pistol (handgun). They say that South Africa is at the muzzle while Nigeria lies at the trigger point and Egypt lies at the hammer.

Some others say that the shape of Africa is like an ice cream cone that is lopsided. The ice cream has several scoops inclining on the left.

A few other persons insist that the shape of Africa is like a stone-made hand tool. The belief with this idea is because the continent is home to the origin of technology of stone tools. You support the hand tool at the thumb in Somalia.

Most of these explanations seem humorous, but in reality, it won’t be easy to describe the shape of the Mother Continent if you do not compare it with an object.

African countries with the longest coastline

Even though Africa as a continent has the shortest coastline in the world, some countries in Africa have very long coastlines, as can be seen below;

1. Madagascar

Madagascar has Africa’s most extensive island coastline and the fourth-largest coastline globally, measuring 4,828 kilometers long. 

Situated in the east of Mozambique, the country covers 587,040 square kilometers.

2. Somalia

The coastline of Somalia covers 3,333 kilometers in length, enclosed with plains, highlands, and plateaus. 

Somalia is the second African country with the longest coastline, situated in the horn of Africa.

3. South Africa

South Africa absorbs semi-arid primarily areas, and it is in the southern part of the continent. 

The country occupies a coastline of 2,798 kilometers, and it is the third-longest coastline in Africa.

4. Mozambique

With 2,470 kilometers, Mozambique has the fourth-longest coastline in Africa, stretching across the Indian Ocean. 

The country has many tourism attractions with exquisite beaches and resorts.

5. Egypt

Egypt has a coastline on the River Nile, Mediterranean Sea, and the Red Sea with a length of 2,234 kilometers. 

Egypt has an area of 1,001,449 square kilometers and ranks as the fifth-longest coastline in Africa.

Other African countries with the longest coastline include; 

  • Eritrea (2,234 kilometers long)
  • Morocco (1,835 kilometers long)
  • Libya (1,770 kilometers in length)
  • Angola (1,600 kilometers in length), and
  • Namibia (1,572 kilometers long)

Why is the African coastline the shortest?

The African coastline is the shortest, with 30,500 kilometers (18,950 miles) in length, because it has few big bays and few inlets.

Does Africa have the shortest coastline?

Africa has the shortest coastline globally, even though it is the second-largest continent worldwide, after Asia.

What type of coastline does Africa have?

Prevailing features of the coastline of Africa are the long sandy beaches and lowlands. 

However, they are rare spots of rocky mountainous coasts on the continent.

Why is Africa so flat?

The continent of Africa is flat because it has faulted plateaus in some broad areas with a simple tectonic plate landmass. 

The flatness of the continent made some geographers make efforts to divide the Y-shaped rift valley system from other continents of the world.


Africa is one of the oldest continents globally and has about 70% of the coastlines in many countries not adequately exploited.

Bearing in mind that coastlines help develop a country, African coastlines should be made clean and free from overfishing.

Coastlines encourage economic and social stability while also promoting tourism which will, in turn, bring about the development of the countries and continent in general.

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