What lakes make up the Great Lakes region?
The African Great Lakes are a series of lakes constituting the part of the Rift Valley lakes in and around the East African Rift. They include Lake Victoria, the second largest fresh water lake in the world in terms of surface area; and Lake Tanganyika, the world’s second largest in volume as well as the second deepest. The following, in order of size from largest to smallest, are included on most lists of the African Great Lakes: Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika, Lake Malawi, Lake Turkana, Lake Albert, Lake Kivu, and Lake Edward.
Some call only Lake Victoria, Lake Albert, and Lake Edward the Great Lakes, as they are the only three that empty into the White Nile. Lake Kyoga is part of Great Lakes system, but is not itself considered a Great Lake, based on size alone. Lake Tanganyika and Lake Kivu both empty into the Congo River system, while Lake Malawi is drained by the Shire River into the Zambezi. Lake Turkana has no outlet.
Two other lakes close to Lake Tanganyika do not appear on the lists despite being larger than Edward and Kivu: Lake Rukwa and Lake Mweru.
Countries of the Great Lakes Region
The five countries that make up the Great Lakes region are: the Democratic Republic of the Congo (D.R.C.), Burundi, Rwanda, Republic of the Congo, and Uganda.
The African 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 Burundi, Rwanda, northeastern D.R. Congo, Uganda and northwestern Kenya and Tanzania. It is used in a wider sense to extend to all of Kenya and Tanzania, but not usually as far south as Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique nor as far north as Ethiopia, 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 Rwanda, Burundi, Buganda, and Bunyoro.
Learn more about U.S. relations with each of these countries: