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The Great Lakes of Africa include some of the largest and most ecologically diverse freshwater systems on the planet. Twisting down the two arms of the Great Rift Valley like a chain of sapphires, the lakes are located in nine countries in East and Central Africa.

Eight of the 15 lakes in this region are considered to rank as "great lakes," a testimony to their size and depth. Lake Victoria, located between Uganda to the west and Tanzania and Kenya to the east, ranks as the second-largest freshwater lake in the world after the U.S.' Lake Superior. Lake Taganayika, located on the border between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania, ranks as one of the deepest. Each lake has its own eco-system, dependent on rainfall, proximity to the equator and land elevation.

The region's rich soils provide a powerful lure for humans. Several million Bantu-speaking people live within 50 miles of Lake Victoria, making it one of the most heavily populated areas in Africa. Population densities are similarly high along the shores of Lake Tanganyika. Fishing -- primarily of tilapia species, but also of Nile perch -- provides the main livelihood. With four Great Lakes on its borders, Uganda ranks as one of the world's largest producers of freshwater fish.

But, pollution, introduction of non-native fish and over-fishing have all wreaked havoc. Despite their beauty, the Great Lakes also rank as one of the world's most endangered water systems.

AllAfrica.com





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