What is the Longest River in Africa?

June 1, 2023

With an impressive expanse, the mighty rivers of Africa are more than just vital lifelines for their basin communities. These massive waterways draw geographical and political borders, fuel economic development and nurture vast swaths of flora and fauna. The Nile and Congo Rivers alone drain more than 10% of Africa's landmass, while the Zambezi is one of the world's most powerful rivers, with its Kariba Dam providing power to Zambia and Zimbabwe and its Cahora Bassa Dam fueling Mozambique and South Africa.

The Nile is by far the longest river in Africa (as well as the second-longest in the world). With a total length of 6,670 km excluding tributaries, the Nile traverses through 11 African countries including Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt, Kenya, Eritrea, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Every July and December the Nile floods, generating tremendous amounts of fertile alluvium in its path.

The Niger is the third largest river in Africa and the fourteenth-longest river in the world. This mighty river draws a sweeping arc across Western Africa, flowing through Mali, Niger and Nigeria before reaching the Gulf of Guinea. Its curious shape and direction of flow baffled early explorers, but it now is understood to be the result of two ancient rivers merging together.

The twelfth largest river in Africa is the Okavango River, which runs in Southwest Africa. It begins in the highlands of Angola as the Rio Cubango and flows into Namibia and Botswana. The Okavango Delta swells to three times its normal size when rain falls in summer and forms one of the world's most remarkable wetlands, attracting wildlife from all over the continent.


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