How Western Nations Downplayed Africa’s True Size

Fredrick Ngugi August 26, 2016
The African continent on the world map. What Are The 7 Continents

For centuries, the world has been conditioned to believe that the African continent is smaller than other parts of the world such as Canada, Russia, and the United States, but is this the reality?

Well, CNN has put across a few critical arguments that show how the West downplayed the real size of Africa using the current world map.

On the map, which was designed in the 16th century by a European cartographer known as Geert de Kremer aka Mercator, Canada appears to be a vast country with six time zones and extensive plains that run from ocean to ocean. In reality, however, three Canadas would securely fit inside Africa, according to CNN.

Although it is a simple representation of the world, CNN contends that Mercator’s projection is extensively deceptive as it distorts the actual size of countries. Unfortunately, the map projection continues to be used for classrooms around the world.

Misleading Projections

The current representation of the world map was created in 1569 to help sailors navigate the seas and continue with their first misleading expeditions around the world.

Because the initial projection was made on a three-dimensional curved surface, it was difficult to transfer it to a flat surface, and using the equator as the logical map center left big, confusing gaps near the poles, CNN argues.

So the cartographer had no choice but to stretch out the northern and southern ends of the globe to fill the gaps and create a “perfect” and usable map. Consequently, the projection distorted the actual size of the seven continents to the advantage of the West, and its impact is still being felt to this day.

By enlarging the northern and southern continents, the map projection created the notion that some Western countries (Canada, Russia, United States, and Europe) are larger than Africa, which sits on the equator.

Africa vs Canada

The actual size of Africa as a continent and Canada as a country. CNN

According to CNN, Greenland (Denmark) appears to be almost the same size as the entire African continent, but in reality it’s no bigger than the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In actual size, Africa is 30.2 million square kilometers, while Canada is 9.1 million square kilometers, the United States of America is also 9.1 million square kilometers, and Russia is 16.4 million square kilometers.

Imperialism and Self-Importance

CNN further argues that Mercator’s map is now used as a political tool as the enlarged states appear to be unnaturally powerful and intimidating.

“The term ‘power of representation and representation of power’ sums up quite well how maps and the rise of the Western nation-state system and with that, empire and colonialism are linked,” Marianne Franklin, professor of Global Media and Politics at Goldsmiths, University of London, told CNN.

The misleading map projection is therefore suspected to have played a major role in the reinforcement of subsequent European imperialism, which created the notion of self-importance held by the West.

Last Edited by:Deidre Gantt Updated: June 19, 2018


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