The 10 Longest Rivers In Africa and The Countries They Pass Through

Africa is blessed with a lot of things from waters that run thousand of kilometres to mountains that are hundreds of feet up above and plain lands, valleys, and plateaus like none other anywhere else in the world. It also boasts of some waters that run across countries, covering impressive miles. Interestingly, the longest river in Africa which happens to be the Nile River is also the longest in the world. It is also among the oldest rivers in the world.

The water bodies have interesting histories behind them but more than that, they also have many economic benefits directly and indirectly to communities around their banks and beyond as they are important in things like agriculture, fishing, and even mining. Many of such rivers also provide hydroelectrical power for different countries. Although there are so many features one can look out for in a river, the length is also important.

A Look At The Longest Rivers In Africa

1. Nile River is the Longest River In Africa

Longest river in Africa
Image Source

  • Country of Source: Ethiopia (Blue Nile)
  • Length: 6,650 km (4,132mi)
  • Width: 2.8 km (1.7 mi)
  • Depth: 8–11 m (26–36 ft)
  • Discharge or End Point: Mediterranean Sea

This river doubles as the longest river in Africa and also in the world boasting of a length of  6,650 km (4,132mi). Formed by three major tributaries (the White Nile, the Blue Nile and the Atbara), it is home to the Nile valley which is where a better part of the country’s population lives.

It is of great economic benefit to countries it runs through in many ways; it offers agricultural benefits through improving wildlife, supplying water for farming and cultivation, and also fishing. Some of the popular vegetation found here are papyrus, water hyacinth, plume thistle, and chamomile among many others. Nile crocodile, monitor lizard, hippopotamus, Softshell turtle are some animals that make up its wildlife.

It is also a major source of hydropower to countries around it as it supplies Ethiopia- 13,947 megawatts (MW) of electricity to Ethiopia, 2,570 MW to South Sudan, and 4,343 MW to Uganda. Others are Sudan – 3,280 MW, Egypt – 40 MW, Rwanda – 20 MW, and Burundi – 20mw.

Some tourist attractions linked to the river include the Elephantine Island, Luxor, Karnak And Luxor Temples, and the Valley of Kings all in Egypt.

The Nile River runs through the 11 African countries of Ethiopia (where it forms the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam), Eritrea, Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Egypt, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan where it formed the Aswan Dam.

Fun Fact: In the ancient times, the Egyptians named the river Ar or Aur (black) as a result of the colour of the sediment left after the river’s annual flood. However, the name Nile is culled from the Greek word Neilos, believed to mean valley or river valley.

2. Congo River

Longest rivers in africa
Image Source

  • Country of Source: Zambia
  • Length: 4,370 km (2,720 mi)
  • Width: Ranges from 3.5 mi (about 5.75 km) to 7 mi (about 11.3 km)
  • Depth: 720 feet (220 meters)
  • Discharge or End Point: Atlantic Ocean

This may be the second-longest river in Africa, but it is the 9th longest in the world. It is also the deepest recorded river in the world, measuring 720 feet (220 meters) deep; it is too deep for light to penetrate. More so, by volume of water, it is the second-largest river in the world.

Kinshasa and Brazzaville are separated by this river which is also regarded for its great hydropower potentials to the various countries it passes through. It has the potential of generating 40,000 MW of electric power for Congo. More than that, the river also contributes in terms of agriculture for the country. The vegetation found around the river includes Caesalpiniacea, papyrus, and Okoumé trees while the wildlife includes almost 400 mammal species, 216 species of amphibians, and more than a thousand species of birds among other things.

Salonga National Park is one of the most popular tourist attraction around the river. Others are the Kintélé Bay and Ile Saiglont. The Inga Dam is connected to this river.

The river runs through 9 African countries; The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Angola, Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Cameroon, Zambia, Burundi, and Rwanda.

Fun Fact: This river is formerly known as Zaire River.

3. Niger River

Longest river in africa
Image Source

  • Country of Source: Guinea
  • Length: 4,180 km (2,600 mi)
  • Width: 800 feet (240 metres)
  • Depth: 100 feet (30 metres)
  • Discharge or End Point: Atlantic Ocean

This is the largest river in West Africa, the third longest river in Africa, and the 11th longest in the world. 4,200 km (2,611 mi) in length, the river makes its way through Nigeria, Mali, Niger, Algeria, Guinea, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Benin, and Chad.

The main tributary is the Benue River, this river also contributes immensely to agricultural activities including fishing (catfish, carp, and Nile perch) and farming. Wildlife around here includes crocodiles and hippopotamus among others while the vegetation includes Mangrove trees as well as Shrub and acacia wood.

A crucial river to many areas including the Sahara desert, the river is mother to dams such as the Kainji Dam, Jebba Dam and Shiroro Dam all of which are important in generating hydroelectricity with an output of over 1,900 megawatts.

Among some important tourist attractions around the river is The National Park.

Fun Fact: The real origin of the name of the river still remains unknown, but it is believed that the name is culled from Niger and Nigeria.

4. The Zambezi River

  • Country of Source: Zambia
  • Length: 2,574 km (1,599 mi)
  • Width: 400 metres (1,300 ft)
  • Depth: 380 ft. (116 m.)
  • Discharge or End Point: Indian Ocean

The Zambezi River was first discovered between 1851 and 1853 by David Livingstone and its name means Great River among Tonga people.

This river is significant in more ways than just being the fourth longest river in Africa. It is also the largest flowing into the Indian Ocean from Africa as well as the longest east-flowing river in the continent. The river has much wildlife along its banks such as the waterbuck, buffalo, zebras, elephant, hippos, crocodiles, and lions. There are also various species of birds and fishes. The vegetation here are shrubs and isolated trees, as well as Mangrove swamp and grassland.

It is behind some major tourists attractions including the Ngonye Falls, Chavuma Falls, and the Victoria Falls. The  Kariba Dam in Zimbabwe and Cahora Bassa Dam in Mozambique are two of the main dams that have come by thanks to this river and they provide hydroelectric power to the two countries and also Zambia and South Africa. Other tourist destinations include Livingstone Island and  Zambezi National Park.

The river flows through six different countries; Zambia, Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique.

Fun Fact: It is believed to be protected by Nyami Nyami, a popular deity among the Tsonga people which together with his wife are the God and Goddess of the underworld.

5. Ubangi–Uele River

Longest rivers in Africa
Image Source

  • Country of Source: the Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Length:  2,270 kilometres (1,410 mi).
  • Discharge or End Point: Bangui River

This river takes its place as the fifth longest river on the African continent. The largest tributary of the Congo River, it has a length of 1,210 km and it has fertile land around its banks to support farming among communities living around and also farming.

Among the main vegetation found here are the softwood trees, Okoumé trees and Papyrus among many others. Also, its wildlife supports animals including many species of birds, crocodiles, and lizards among others. Compared to many other Rivers, this is not a very popular one and it doesn’t boast of many tourist attraction sites.

It runs through the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, and the Republic of Congo.

Fun Fact: The river was birthed at Yakoma where the Boma and Uele rivers meet.

6. Kasai River

  • Country of Source: Angola
  • Length: 2,153 km (1,338 mi)
  • Discharge or End Point: Congo River

A tributary of the Congo River, the Kasai River has a length of 2,153 km earning it a place among Africa’s longest rivers. It is a tributary of the Congo River and starts from Angola with the Fimi, Kwango and Sankuru rivers as its tributaries.

Although like many other rivers it serves for agricultural purposes, it is also a major source of mineral resources and mining as it has a large diamond deposit. The river has equatorial rainforest areas which support vegetation such as palm trees. That said, this area is not the best when it comes to agriculture because of the sandy texture of the soil. The wildlife here is mostly amphibians. Semiaquatic tortoises, water snakes, and crocodiles are other wildlife you can find.

The river cuts through Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Fun Fact: This area became known as a major place for the slave trade on one hand, and exploitation of the Europeans because of the deposits of diamond. The first diamond was discovered around here in 1907. Since then, it has become a major source of diamond that is transported to Belgium. It was believed to be the major source of diamond in Belguim by as much as 60 percent.

7. Orange River

  • Country of Source: Lesotho
  • Length: 1,367 miles (2,200 km)
  • Discharge or End Point: Atlantic Ocean

Much earlier, this river used to be known as the Gariep River. It was later renamed Orange River to honour the Dutch royal house which as ruling at the time when it was explored by the Dutch officer Robert Jacob in 1776. Some still call it by its original name while some European settlers gave it the name, river Grootrivier meaning “great river.”

Orange River is more popular than a number of other longer rivers on the list. With a length of 1,300 miles (2,100 kilometres), this river is the longest in South Africa, although it also runs through three other countries of Namibia, Botswana, and Lesotho. It runs west through South Africa to the Atlantic Ocean. It first rises in Lesotho before it moves to South Africa where it creates borders between  Free State and Cape Province before making it to the Kalahari and Namib deserts and then it empties itself in the Atlantic.

One of the significant things about the river is that in South Africa, it doesn’t run through any major city, and yet it is important to the economy of the country and also that of Lesotho. It provides water for irrigation, animal husbandry, and electricity generation thanks to dams such as the Gariep Dam and the Vanderkloof Dam. Armenia Dam, Egmont Dam, Newberry Dam, and Welbedacht Dam are other dams along the river. Another is the Katse Dam located in Lesotho. It is recognized as the highest dam above sea level in the Southern Hemisphere.

The major vegetation along the river is the Kokerboom (quiver tree).  Aloe dichotoma is another popular vegetation here while the wildlife is made of things like rhinos, crocodiles, birds, reptiles, and more.

Tourists will have destinations including the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park and Augrabies Falls National Park.

Fun Fact: The river is often called Oranje. Starting from Lesotho, this river marks the border between South Africa and Namibia.

8. Limpopo River

Limpopo River
Image Source

  • Country of Source: South Africa
  • Length: 1,750 km (1,090 mi)
  • Width: 20 km
  • Discharge or End Point: Indian Ocean

Next to the Zambezi, this is the second largest river in Africa that drains to the Indian Ocean while also doubling as the longest river in Africa with a length of 1,750 km. It runs from the Krokodil (Crocodile) River in South Africa through other countries in the Southern part of the continent; Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe and then it empties into the Indian Ocean.

The river has been habited by people for many years before it was sighted by  Vasco da Gama regarded as the first European to sight the river in 1748 and he decided to name it Espiritu Santo River.

Limpopo river has a lot of mining activities on its basin; thousands of mining sites have been abandoned, with thousands currently being used. The wildlife found here include crocodile and hippopotamus, mostly concentrated between the Mokolo and the Mogalakwena Rivers. There are also elephants and more than 600 bird species. As a result of the muddy nature of the place, Mangrove vegetation tends to be the dominant here.

The tourist destination around the river includes the Kruger National Park and Rhino museum and some dams around here are Loskop Dam, Mutshedzi Dam, and Rhenosterkop, Molatedi, and Hartebeespoort Dams among others. 

Fun Fact: The Limpopo River got its name from a group of Tsonga people, Rivombo (Livombo/Lebombo), who settled around the mountain areas for a long time.

9. Senegal River

Senegal River
Image Source

  • Country of Source: Mali
  • Length: 1,086 km (675 mi)
  • Width: 800 feet (240 metres)
  • Depth: 100 feet (30 metres)
  • Discharge or End Point: Atlantic Ocean

On the West African sub-continent, River Senegal is the longest river after the Niger River and it is the 9th longest river on the continent. It has a length of 1,600 km (1,020 mi). It runs through Guinea, Senegal, Mali, and Mauritania.

The Manantali Dam in Mali, as well as the Maka-Diama Dam on the Mauritania-Senegal border, are the two major dams of the river. These dams are significant in agricultural and hydropower for the different areas concerned. It is stated that in general, it has the capacity of generating more than 2000 megawatts of electricity.

With Falémé River, Karakoro River and the Gorgol River as its Tributaries, the river has some very important tourist attractions including the Niokolokoba National Park, The Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary, and Richard Toll among many others. The vegetations here includes trees like Acacia nilotica and Balanites aegyptiaca which grow on the banks while the popular grass here is the Vetiveria nigritiana. Agricultural products include millet, rice, and vegetables are also grown around the banks of the Senegal river.

There are many species of fishes, as well as birds, monitor lizards, hedgehogs, and warthogs among others on the banks to make up the wildlife one would find thanks to the river.

Fun Fact: This river initially existed as the River of Gold which attracted European navigators and right from the 16th century to the 20th, it became major navigation for French colonialists.

10. Blue Nile River

  • Country of Source: Ethiopia
  • Length: 1,450 km (900 mi)
  • Width: 2.8 km (1.7 mi)
  • Depth: 8–11 m (26–36 ft) (Average)
  • Discharge or End Point: Blue Nile Falls

Also known as the Abay River, this is another river that is almost as important as many others on the list as it supplies the majority of the water for the Nile River. With a length of about 907 miles (1,460 km), the river finds itself among the longest rivers on the African continent. Its tributaries include the Dinder and Rahad rivers.

Some of the dams that emerge thanks to this river are Sannār Dam which is a source of hydroelectric power and also the  Al-Ruṣayriṣ. Importantly, 80 percent of the electricity in Sudan is thanks to this river. It also supplies electricity to Ethiopia and Kenya. There is also the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

Looking at the economic advantage of the river, it is significant not just to Ethiopia and Sudan but also to Egypt since it contributes to the Nile river and also to Kenya which gets electricity from the river. More than that, its dams provide water for irrigation and farming. Also, the Blue Nile Falls which is also known as Tis Issat serves as one of the major tourist destinations in Ethiopia. Others are the Blue Nile Falls, Lake Tana, and Bahir Dar. The vegetation here includes the Juniperus procera trees among others and the wildlife is made of animals like crocodiles, snakes, and other reptiles. There are also monkies and colourful birds.

The river cuts through Ethiopia and Sudan.

Fun Fact: The river is the headstream of the Nile River

How The Longest River In Africa Is Measured

Measuring and getting the actual length of a river is not as easy as it may sound, most especially when one is looking at some of the longest rivers on the African continent which are also among the longest in the world. It is much more than just using a ruler and marking spots.

According to hydrologist, the best way to measure any river is to measure the longest possible along-thalweg (the line of lowest elevation within a valley) continuous distance from the headwaters of the 1st order stream (a stream without any tributaries) to the mouth of a river. The meeting point of two 1st order streams give rise to the 2nd order streams, and the next meeting point gives rise to the 3rd order streams. That is how it continues.

Hence, to get the longest river in any system, one must first have to measure the length of the longest continuous river channel. Measuring this might be quite complicated depending on the tributaries and other things. The true measurement of a river is still a subject of debate, but the ones generally accepted as the longest rivers in Africa are stated above.

Is The Longest Also The Deepest In The World?

As stated, the longest river in Africa and the world also is the Nile River. However, it is not the deepest. Rather, the Congo river which is the second-longest on the continent and the 9th in the world is recorded as the longest river in the world measuring 250 meters (820 ft). What this clearly points out is that the longest river is not the deepest river in the world.

The Yangtze River comes as the second deepest river in the world with a depth of 200 meters (656 ft). It is the third longest river in the world and the longest river in China and Asia. Europe’s second longest river only after the Volga is the next in line after the first two deepest rivers in the world. It has an impressive depth of 178 meters (584 ft).

The next river in Africa that also finds itself among the top deepest in the world is the Zambezi river which is 116 meters (381 ft). With that said, it is not the depth of all rivers that is easily measured as its depth and width.

Unlike the length of a river, the length of a river and its width is not what is often calculated. However, there are also ways to calculate it. A device known as echo sounder is what is used in measuring the depth of water.

In Recap: The Longest Rivers in Africa

  1. Nile River – Length: 6,650 km (4,132mi)
  2. Congo River – Length: 4,370 km (2,720 mi)
  3. Niger River – Length: 4,180 km (2,600 mi)
  4. The Zambezi River – Length: 2,574 km (1,599 mi)
  5. Ubangi-Uele River – Length:  2,270 kilometres (1,410 mi).
  6. Kasai River – Length: 2,153 km (1,338 mi)
  7. Orange River – Length: 1,367 miles (2,200 km)
  8. Limpopo River – Length: 1,750 km (1,090 mi)
  9. Senegal River Length: 1,086 km (675 mi)
  10. Blue Nile River – Length: 1,450 km (900 mi)
data-matched-content-rows-num="2" data-matched-content-columns-num="4" data-matched-content-ui-type="image_stacked" data-ad-format="autorelaxed">

Recommended

Featured Today

Related Stories