The African proverb says: water is more expensive than flour. This indicates that local people value water above wealth. On large areas of Africa, water is really scarce. Nevertheless, not everywhere on the mainland it is lacking. Here and there, even in excess water. The uneven distribution of water bodies in Africa is related to the climate.
People have long used rivers as ways of communication and sources of irrigation. If you look closely at the population density map, you can see that in the river valleys and on the shores of the lakes it is the highest.
The rivers of Africa refer to three basins: the Atlantic, Indian Oceans and the basin of internal flow. The largest area is occupied by the Atlantic Ocean basin. At the same time, 1/3 of the territory belongs to the basin of internal flow. River flows into the Indian Ocean with 1/5 of the area of Africa. The watersheds of the oceans are the highest points of the continent.
The rivers of Africa are different in nature of the current. In the upper reaches, they are predominantly mountainous, and in the middle and lower reaches they have rapids and waterfalls. Therefore, most rivers are navigable not along their entire length.
The origins of three of the four great rivers of Africa – Congo, Zambezi and Nile – are at a relatively short distance from each other – in East Africa. Each of these three rivers begins in the highlands of the rift zone. Congo flows into the Atlantic
Nutrition and the regime of rivers depend on the climatic conditions of the territories on which they flow. Therefore, the density of the river network in Africa is uneven. There are areas where there are a lot of rivers, there are also those where there are no permanent streams at all, only dried up beds, filled with water only with infrequent downpours. In North Africa, in the Sahara, they are called “wadi”. The rivers of the equatorial belt, on the other hand, are full of water throughout the year. The rivers crossing the subequatorial belt have significant fluctuations in the water level over the seasons.
The largest river in Africa is the Nile. It is formed due to the merger of its two tributaries – the White and Blue Nile near the city of Khartoum. The Nile is the longest river in the world.
White Nile originates in a zone of tropical rains, in dark and damp forests near the equator. Overcoming the expanses of the East African plateau, White Nile extensively spreads but almost flat plain and forms the famous Nile swamps 500 km long and 800 km wide. It is here the birthplace of papyrus. Papyrus grows so densely, and its intertwined trihedral stems are so hard and stiff that a man in such thickets cuts his way with an ax. In the local marshes there are a lot of hippos and crocodiles. The Blue Nile flows from Lake Tana to the Ethiopian Highlands.
After the merger of the White and Blue Nile, the river does not take a single tributary up to its mouth for almost 3000 km. In the middle reaches of the Nile, once there were rapids that prevented navigation. Now here is the Aswan Dam, thanks to which not only the navigation has improved, but the water supply to the Egyptian fields is regulated and electricity is generated.
For years, the Nile remained a mystery to the people of Egypt. It always flooded in the summer, when the country was the hottest weather. Fertile silt, brought by the floods of the Nile, allowed the Egyptians to collect high yields every year. In this Egyptians saw the intervention of supernatural forces and idolized the river. Today such natural phenomena can be explained with the help of climate maps. Although the Nile itself flows through a dry and sultry tropical belt, its sources are in the subequatorial belt. In the season of summer rains they receive a lot of water, which they carry to the Nile. In winter, during the drought season, the tributaries of the Nile are becoming shallow, and therefore Neil himself becomes shallow.
The most full-flowing river in Africa and the second longest on the mainland is the Congo. But it is second only to the Amazon, which is in South America. On average, for a year, the Congo takes out so much water into the Atlantic Ocean that it desalinates the waters of the ocean a few tens of kilometers from the coast. The stock of Congo in the Atlantic Ocean exceeds the stock of the Nile by 15 times. Congo originates in the central part of the continent called Lualaba. This is the only river in the world that crosses the equator twice. A significant part of the Congo basin is in the equatorial climatic zone, where a large amount of precipitation falls, so the river is full of water throughout the year. The river flows in the basin of the Congo, which, in fact, was created by its sediments. In the lower part it breaks through solid crystalline rocks and narrows the channel.
The third longest river in Africa is the Niger. In the upper reaches there are many rapids and waterfalls that impede navigation. Bypassing the hard rocks of the shield of the African platform, the river makes a great bend, which is called the “loop of the Niger”. Under the conditions of the subequatorial climatic zone, the river has an uneven flow. In the summer, it replenishes with water, in winter it becomes very shallow. Niger is extremely important for water supply to countries located on its shores.
On the Zambezi River in the south of the mainland, there is one of the wonders of nature, the Victoria falls 120 m high. The waterfall in 1855 was discovered by David Livingstone and named him by the name of the Queen of Britain. When the Zambezi River is full, the volume of water passing through the Victoria Falls is so large and the water falls so hard that the water dust rising high up is visible at a distance of 40 km. It is no coincidence that locals call the waterfall “thundering smoke.” In the drops of water around this majestic waterfall, a rainbow often plays, which rises to a height of 300 m.