Back to Africa Check

Search Google no more: 5 popular questions about Africa answered

What do people ask Google about Africa? Judging by the search engine’s autocomplete function, many people want to know whether it is a country. (No, it’s not.)

People who think Africa is a country want to know who its president is. And people who know it’s not a country want to know how many countries there are. (The African Union currently has 55 members.)

Since Africa straddles the equator, some countries fall into the southern hemisphere and others in the northern hemisphere. And nope, it does not have an Amazon river, whoever wondered about that.

No need to ask Google the following 5 questions - we’ve got them covered.


    Does Africa have active volcanoes?


Yes, in fact, the continent hosts about 130 active volcanoes - depending on your definition of “active”. (Note: Volcanologists generally consider volcanoes as active “if they have shown activity in the last 10,000 years”, Dr Sarah Brown, a senior research associate in volcanology at the University of Bristol told Africa Check.)

A tourist takes a picture of the eruption of the Nyamulagira volcano in Virunga National Park near Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo on November 24, 2011.Photo: AFP / Steve Terill
A tourist takes a picture of the eruption of the Nyamulagira volcano in Virunga National Park near Goma, on November 24, 2011. Photo: AFP / Steve Terill

The number of 130 was provided to Africa Check by Dr Benjamin Andrews, a geologist and director of the Global Volcanism Program at the Smithsonian Institution.

Of the 130 volcanoes “44 have dated eruptions; 28 volcanoes have erupted since 1800, and 13 of those have erupted since 2000,” Andrews said.

These include Manda Hararo in Ethiopia, which last erupted in 2009, Nabro in Eritrea which last erupted in 2012 and Ol Doinyo Lengai in Tanzania, which erupted in 2013. Most recently, Nyamuragira and Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of Congo recorded eruptions in 2017. - Gopolang Makou

Explosive fact

The presently-active Piton de la Fournaise volcano, located on Réunion Island, helped form a string of volcanic islands when it erupted 65 million years ago.

“Mauritius is the second-youngest volcanic island in this chain, formed between 9 million and 30,000 years ago,” Lewis Ashwal, a professor at the Wits University School of Geoscience told Africa Check.

The volcanic island, a popular holiday destination, is the site of a recent scientific discovery, termed the “lost continent”. Ashwal, together with European colleagues, discovered a piece of old continental crust from the supercontinent Gondwana which had been covered by young lava from volcanic eruptions on the island.


    How many African countries speak French?


Nearly half of Africa’s countries have French-speaking citizens, Matthias Brenzinger, director of the Centre for African Language Diversity at the University of Cape Town told Africa Check.

However, not all of these countries recognise French as an official language.

The 25 countries are: Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritius, Morocco, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Togo and Tunisia.

Being an overseas department of France, the island of Réunion is French-speaking too. - Ina Skosana

Bonus fact

Equatorial Guinea is the only African country with Spanish as an official language, along with French and Portuguese. Six countries have a Portuguese-speaking population: Angola, Cape Verde, Equatorial Guinea, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau and São Tomé and Principe.


    How many African countries have female presidents?

Mauritian President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim opens the African Media Leaders Forum in Johannesburg on November 12, 2015. Photo: AFP /Karel Prinsloo
Mauritian President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim in a November 12, 2015 photo. Photo: AFP /Karel Prinsloo

Only two African countries – Mauritius and Liberia – are currently led by female presidents.

Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, a biodiversity scientist, became president of Mauritius in June 2015.

The other woman is Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who was elected as Liberia’s president in 2006 but will step down in October. - Assane Diagne


    Is the African cherry good for pregnancy?


The African cherry, also known as the African star apple, is the fruit of a tree with the scientific name Chrysophyllum albidum. It was first described botanically by the Scottish botanist George Don and is found in many countries in tropical Africa.

In Nigeria, the popular yellowish-brown fruit is known as agbalumo (Yoruba), ciwoh (Hausa) or udara in Igbo. Its name in other parts of Africa includes mululu and nkalate.

Several studies suggest the fruit has health benefits but we found no definitive research on its benefits during pregnancy.

Dr Babasola Okusanya, who teaches obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Lagos, told Africa Check the nutritional benefits associated with the African cherry extend to other fruits.

“Fruits are good in pregnancy. It has vitamins, it has micronutrients. Beyond that, I don't think there's anything specific to the African cherry,” he said.

What advice would Okusanya give a pregnant woman asking him about the health benefits of the African cherry?

"What I would tell you is that agbalumo is a fruit, you are encouraged to eat fruits in pregnancy but just like any other thing, take it in moderation,” he said. - David Ajikobi.

5. Why is Africa called "Africa"?

We expected this would be the simplest question to answer. But it turned out to be much more complicated.

After talking to history scholars, we discovered there was consensus on only two facts: that the name “Africa” is a foreign construct and that there is no agreement on its origins.

Everything after that was a stimulating academic - and geographic- adventure. Read our full findings here, and why some scholars think perhaps Africa should change its name. - Lee Mwiti


Additional reading

Republish our content for free

We believe that everyone needs the facts.

You can republish the text of this article free of charge, both online and in print. However, we ask that you pay attention to these simple guidelines. In a nutshell:

1. Do not include images, as in most cases we do not own the copyright.

2. Please do not edit the article.

3. Make sure you credit "Africa Check" in the byline and don't forget to mention that the article was originally published on

Add new comment

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
limit: 600 characters

Want to keep reading our fact-checks?

We will never charge you for verified, reliable information. Help us keep it that way by supporting our work.

Become a newsletter subscriber

Support independent fact-checking in Africa.