Geologists have confirmed that Africa is slowly splitting in two, a process that will eventually tear entire countries off the continent and lead to the formation of a new ocean.

According to a peer-reviewed study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, the gradual rifting of the continent is linked to a 35-mile-long fissure that opened in the Ethiopian desert after the 2005 earthquake and will eventually become an entirely new sea.

What did the new study show?

Seismic data presented in the study show that the creation of the fault was triggered by similar tectonic processes that occur on the ocean floor.

The emergence of the East African rift in the southern part of the Great Rift Valley, which stretches from Lebanon in the north to Mozambique in the south, occurred at the border of three tectonic plates – the African Nubian, African Somali and Arabian. They “very slowly peel away from each other,” they explained NBC.

“Over the past 30 million years, the Arabian plate has drifted away from Africa, creating the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden between the two connected land masses,” the news site said. The Somali tectonic plate in east Africa “also extends from the Nubian plate, delaminating along the East African Rift Valley that runs through Ethiopia and Kenya.”

The process will eventually “split Africa in two and create a new ocean basin,” according to NBC, but for now “the clearest evidence is a 35-mile-long fissure in the Ethiopian desert.”

How long will it take for Africa to split?

It is estimated that it will take “at least 5 to 10 million years” before a new ocean forms and splits the continent in two. The Arabian Plate is moving away from Africa “at a rate of about 1 inch per year,” while the African Plate is moving “between half an inch and 0.2 inches per year.”

Although the process is very slow, researchers say they see clear signs that it is happening.

“We’re seeing oceanic crust start to form because it’s distinctly different from continental crust in terms of composition and density,” Christopher Moore, a PhD student at the University of Leeds, told NBC.

What does this mean for Africa?

Millions of years from now, landlocked African countries will find themselves with a coastline that could open up new opportunities and connections with the rest of the world.

Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi and Zambia “will inadvertently end up with a coastline,” he said Quartz. This will allow them to “build harbors that connect them to the rest of the world directly,” according to the news site.

The split could see Somalia, Eritrea, Djibouti, eastern parts of Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique cut off from the rest of the continent, while other countries such as Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia would have “two territories each” .

While the new coastline would cost those countries “millions of dollars in evacuation costs”, it could also bring “enormous benefits”, such as “reducing international logistical costs and creating shipping and fishing industries that did not exist”.

It also means that these countries may “eventually be directly connected to undersea internet cables”, provided, of course, that the technology is not out of date and that nation-states “will continue to exist as they are now”. .

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