National borders have been designed to simplify things. And if you look at the map that’s what they do most of the time. However, Africa is a continent where borders can get pretty complicated. The main reason for this is the colonial era. An era in which the European nations divided Africa into spheres of influence by literally drawing the national borders according to their interests. And they did so without really caring about the people living inside those borders. That’s why today in Africa you will find a lot of peculiar national borders. And that’s the topic of this list: the most unusual borders in the world: Africa Edition.
4. DR Congo and Zambia
Known as the Congo tentacle, this stretch of land cuts over 200 kilometers into Zambia. The weirdest thing about this border is the way it was created. The Congo was colonized by Belgium and Zambia was a British Colony and the two sides couldn’t agree on the colonial border. The Belgians wanted access to the rich swamp area that had a lot of wildlife which they could hunt for their trophies. So they decided to ask for help from the Italians. Knowing practically nothing about these two countries, the Italian king basically drew a line on the map and all parties agreed it looks good. That’s the ridiculous reason why this border has this strange look today.
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3. The Caprivi Strip in Namibia
Colonization brought another weird border in Africa in the Caprivi Strip that stretches 450 kilometers in Botswana. The Caprivi Strip has been named after the German Chancellor Leo Fon Caprivi. He wanted the border of the then German Colony to cross the Zambezi River so Germans could use it to navigate to the Eastern coast of Africa.
In a treaty with Great Britain, the Germans gave up on any rights to claim Zanzibar in exchange for this tiny stretch of land today known as the Caprivi Strip. Even more, if you look at Africa’s ethnic map you will see that this strip covers numerous different ethnic groups that speak different languages. Of course, they weren’t taken into any consideration when this border was created. Just one thing. Did I mention that the Zambezi River has some of the largest waterfalls and is practically not navigable? Hence, this whole move was practically useless.
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2. Sudan and South Sudan
Back in the days when Sudan was a condominium between the British Empire and Egypt, it was administered as two parts: the South and the North. The North had most of the administrative control with the South having almost no representation. This same situation continued even after Sudan gained its independence. This led to the Civil War which ended in 2005.
With the treaty, South Sudan was given a referendum in 2011, after which they gained its independence with an almost unanimous decision. Except for the region of Abyei. Abeyi was also supposed to have a referendum in 2011 but because of several disputes that never happened. Hence, today, Abyei is still in a state of limbo and the special administrative status that was given as a temporary solution.
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1. Egypt and Sudan: the only unclaimed piece of land in the world
Egypt and Sudan clearly share a border. It’s just no one really knows where is it. Both countries have different claims on the map and they both claim rights to the sovereignty of the Hala’ib triangle. However, there’s also Bir Tawil, which is a piece of land unclaimed by both countries. The catch is none of them want to claim Bir Tawil because if they do, they would have to give up on the much more desired Hala’ib triangle.
The dispute goes back to 1899 before Sudan was even a country. It was actually a dispute between Egypt and the British Empire. The border first created in 1899 is the border that Egyptians claim today. However, just like they did with a lot of other countries, the British drew a new line on the map. They called it the administrative boundary which is the border that Sudan claims today.
There were a few other borders in Africa that could easily make this list, like Gambia and Senegal or Cameroon and Chad. However, I decided not to include them in this list to avoid making this article too long. Stay tuned, the final part of the segment ‘The most unusual borders in the world” (Asia) is coming next.