How Many African Countries Are Landlocked?

And Why Does It Matter?

Landlocked African Countries
A map of the landlocked countries in Africa.

Out of Africa’s 47 countries, 15 of them are landlocked. This means that about a third of the continent is made up of countries that have no access to the ocean or sea.

Which Countries in Africa Are Landlocked?

The landlocked countries in Africa are: Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Rwanda, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Why Does This Matter?

A country’s level of access to water can have an enormous impact on its economy. It is not a coincidence that Africa, the continent with the largest number of landlocked countries, is also the poorest continent.  Of Africa’s 15 landlocked countries, 13 of them are ranked “low” or “least developed” on the Human Development Index (HDI), a statistic  that takes into account factors such as life expectancy, education, and income per capita. The six countries ranked "least developed" on the HDI are all landlocked African countries.

So how does a country’s access to water affect its economy? Here are just a few factors: 

  • Less Access to Trade: It is much cheaper to transport products over water than over land, making it more difficult for landlocked countries to participate in the global economy.

  • High Transit Costs: Because of decreased access to trade, landlocked countries are often cut off from selling and purchasing goods, leading to higher fuel prices. It is also difficult for them to build infrastructure that would allow easy border passage. As a result, landlocked nations can’t benefit from tourism to the extent that coastal states can, which can be an increased detriment to their economies. But the lack of access to easy transit in and out of the country can have even worse effects; in times of natural disaster or violent regional conflict, it is much more difficult for residents of landlocked nations to escape.

  • Increased dependence on neighbors: In theory, international treaties should guarantee access to oceans, but it is not always this easy. “Transit states”  -- those with access to coasts -- determine how to implement these treaties. These nations can be corrupt or simply lack incentives to invest in infrastructure that would allow easier access for landlocked nations.

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    Rosenberg, Matt. "How Many African Countries Are Landlocked?" ThoughtCo, Apr. 9, 2017, thoughtco.com/african-countries-that-are-landlocked-4060437. Rosenberg, Matt. (2017, April 9). How Many African Countries Are Landlocked? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/african-countries-that-are-landlocked-4060437 Rosenberg, Matt. "How Many African Countries Are Landlocked?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/african-countries-that-are-landlocked-4060437 (accessed January 17, 2018).