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African Great Lakes: Map


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The Great Lakes of Africa are a series of lakes in and around the geographic Great Rift Valley formed by the action of the tectonic East African Rift. They include Lake Victoriamarker, the second largest fresh water lake in the world in terms of surface area, and Lake Tanganyikamarker, the world's second largest in volume as well as the second deepest. The term Greater Lakes is also used, less commonly, for some of them.

The Great Lakes are divided among three different catchment (river basins), and a number, such as Lake Turkanamarker have internal drainage systems. The following, in order of size from largest to smallest, are included on most lists of the African Great Lakes:

Some call only Lake Victoriamarker, Lake Albert, and Lake Edwardmarker the Great Lakes, as they are the only three that empty into the White Nile. Lake Kyogamarker is part of Great Lakes system, but is not itself considered a Great Lake, based on size alone. Lake Tanganyikamarker and Lake Kivumarker both empty into the Congo Rivermarker system, while Lake Malawimarker is drained by the Shire Rivermarker into the Zambezimarker. Lake Turkanamarker has no outlet.

Two other lakes close to Lake Tanganyika do not appear on the lists despite being larger than Edward and Kivu: Lake Rukwamarker and Lake Mwerumarker.

Because the term is a loose one, it is often preferable to use other categorizations such as African Rift Valley Lakes or East African Lakes.

Great Lakes region

The term Great Lake region is likewise somewhat loose. It is used in a narrow sense for the area lying between northern Lake Tanganyika, western Lake Victoria, and lakes Kivu, Edward and Albert. This comprises Burundimarker, Rwandamarker, north-eastern DR Congomarker, Uganda and north-western Kenyamarker and Tanzania. It is used in a wider sense to extend to all of Kenyamarker and Tanzania, but not usually as far south as Zambiamarker, Malawimarker and Mozambiquemarker nor as far north as Ethiopiamarker, though these four countries border one of the Great Lakes.

Because of the density of population and the agricultural surplus in the region the area became highly organized into a number of small states. The most powerful of these monarchies were Rwandamarker, Burundimarker, Buganda, and Bunyoro. Unusual for sub-Saharan Africa, the traditional borders were largely maintained by the colonial powers.

Being the long sought after source of the Nile, the region had long been of interest to Europeans. The first Europeans to arrive in the region in any numbers were missionaries who had limited success in converting the locals, but did open the region to later colonization. The increased contact with the rest of the world led to a series of devastating epidemics affecting both humans and livestock. These decreased the region's population dramatically, by up to 60% in some areas. The region did not return to its precolonial population until the 1950s. While seen as a region with great potential after independence, the region has in recent decades been marred by civil war and conflict, from which only Tanzania has largely escaped. The worst affected areas have been left in great poverty.

See also


  • Jean-Pierre Chr├ętien. The Great Lakes of Africa: Two Thousand Years of History trans Scott Straus

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