I would plan my animation in Illustrator by cleaning up and organizing the file. You'll find it a lot easier to work with that way. AE can import that many layers as a comp, but pre-planning the animation before hand will save you a bunch of time.
Pre-composing is one way AE groups layers. You can also do it with expression controls for all attributes or parenting for position, scale and rotation. Lots of folks complain about pre-composing but it's a valuable useful tool and if you open up additional viewers and organize your timeline views properly, working with pre-comps is easy and intuitive. It's nothing to be avoided.
You are way overdoing it. How do you even want to work with such a complex file with layers and layers and no doubt another gigazillion keyframes for your reveals? Why not simply import smaller sections covering a handful of geopolitical changes and then later merge the projects? AE will import hundreds of layers, but as I said, it's simply impractical to work this way.
Rick and Mylenium,
Thank you both for your feedback. Much appreciated. Mylenium, I'm sure you're right. I probably was trying to do too much in one map. I'll follow your suggestion and use the minimum number of layers for each scenario. I'm spending too much time as it is looking for particular layers among the 80.
I do wish it were possible in AE to simply group layers without pre-comping them though. Or that Illustrator sub-layers could be visible. It would really help to streamline the workflow. I suppose I could precomp all layers and then simply add a camera to the pre-comp.
Rick I'll try the expression controls and parenting, but can you elaborate a little further regarding your suggestion of pre-planning in Illustrator?
Thank you both again for your helpful suggestions.
Regarding planning in Illustrator I would first decide exactly what elements you want to animate then create an appropriately named layer for each. Now drag all your elements into the appropriate layers by using the little indicators, the little colored squares from the layer where the element lives to the appropriate layer. If these sections have elements inside them that you want to animate individually then create separate layers for each of them . For example you may have a Middle East layer and if you want the individual countries in the middle east to animate on then you need a separate layer for each layer.
The other thing to take note of is that all of your artwork must be on a single artboard. AE will crop any element that extends past the art board boundaries. I haven't got the time tonight to go through the entire workflow but that should get you started. As with any production the key word, the most important skill you can develop and master is "Simplify."