Some thoughts on the size of Africa (and how this info-graphic somehow confuses the matter)

If you go here, you will see a really good infographic on the size of Africa. In many ways it gives you a good sense of just how big Africa is. It is big, of course. This is not surprising to me, since it is a major continent, but it may be for alot of people.

What I do find odd is the comparisons. Most of them compare Africa (a continent) to other countries. Africa is a big continent, especially when compared to Europe. However, it would make more sense to compare it to North America (rather than just the United States) or Asia (and not just Japan, China or India). I think North America is comparable in size to Africa and Asia. (If anything, I believe Asia would be bigger). I suspect the author wanted to emphasize how big Africa is. Fair enough. But if they want to tackle the so-called problem of immappancy, they should try a different approach.

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4 responses to “Some thoughts on the size of Africa (and how this info-graphic somehow confuses the matter)

  1. Amazing map ! I think you are right, comparing Africa to other continents would have been more realistic. Although the way the map is presented really shows you the immensity of this continent.

  2. Hi Bernie,

    I actually like the chart a lot. I agree that, if you are trying to say how big of a continent Africa is, the chart may sound mis-leading (note that Asia is almost twice as big than North America, even when including Central America and the Caribbean). But if the point one is trying to make is that Africa is much bigger than what most of the maps depict — because it’s the only continent with most of its mass very close to the Equator — then it’s a great chart. Every infographic reveal only a few aspects of a data set so I can definitely live with the fact this one is not an all-purpose one.

    Being from Brazil, I’m annoyed by the fact that the the Anglo-America and Europe look much bigger than they really are in most maps, not to mention that North is always on top, when there is nothing wrong with South being on top. If you take Alaska out, Brazil is bigger than the US, but in many maps that looks the other way around.

    Some concepts we often discuss in the context of diversity (for example, fair representation of minorities in communications vehicles and corporate workforce and management) could be transposed to how we represent maps.

    Bringing awareness to that issue can be a good thing.

    • smartpeopleiknow

      I agree, Aaron. I think that the map does the main thing well: make the reader appreciate the size of Africa. I think that is a good thing.

      I have to say I have no idea of how big Brazil is compared to a country like Canada or the U.S. My view is that is is smaller, but it may not be.

      Also, you are right about position: the Earth is a sphere and there is really no “up”, other than someone has designated the poles as up. There could just as easily be left to right. I think such changes are good to get people thinking about what they take for granted.

      P.S. I am from Cape Breton, and it always bugged me when lazy map makers don’t bother to draw the island on the map! :)

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