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(Equatorial Africa), a natural region encompassing western Africa in the equatorial and subequatorial latitudes. It is circumscribed by the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the Congo-Chad watershed to the north, the East African Plateau to the east, and the Congo-Zambezi watershed to the south. The following countries lie fully or partially within Central Africa: Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, the Congo, the Central African Republic, Zambia, Zaire, and Angola. The bulk of the population is composed of Bantu-speaking peoples.
Much of Central Africa is occupied by the vast Congo Basin, rimmed by terraced plateaus and dome-block uplands lying at elevations of 1,000–1,500 m or more. The region’s hot equatorial and subequatorial climate, either continually humid or having a prolonged wet season, is formed under the year-round influence of oceanic air masses from the Atlantic. Hydrographically, most of Central Africa belongs to the Congo (Zaire) basin; only a few relatively minor rivers flow independently into the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean, among them the Sanaga, Ogooue, Kouilou, and Cuanza. The region’s river network is the densest in Africa and the one with the greatest runoff. Broken by numerous rapids, the rivers have a hydroelectric potential of 500 million kilowatts.
Most of Central Africa is covered by evergreen and deciduous-evergreen rain forests, which in the extreme north and south give way to secondary high-grass savanna. The fauna species belong to the Ethiopian Zoogeographic Region.
I. N. OLEINIKOV