IntroductionWest Africa (also known as Western Africa or West of Africa) consist of 18 countries covering a total area of approximately 1,974,103 square miles (5,112,903 km2) with a population of about 340,000,000 (2013 estimate). Numerous cultures inhabit this vast region with many differences but also with some general similarities in regards to such things as food, clothing, and music. On this page we list facts about this region including information about similarities and differences among its people and what countries are found in West Africa. This information is written for both kids and adults.
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List of West African Countries
- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde
- Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast)
- Saint Helena
- Sierra Leone
- Sao Tome and Principe
Interesting West Africa Facts
- The Atlantic Ocean forms both the western and southern borders of West Africa. The Sahara Desert is the regions northern border. The eastern border is not defined by any geographical feature and is not as precise as the other borders.
- The largest cities in West Africa include:
- Lagos, Nigeria
- Abidjan (Ivory Coast)
- Accra (Ghana)
- Abuja (Nigeria)
- Kumasi (Ghana)
- Islam is the predominant West African religion. Over half of the population of West Africa is Muslim.
- The languages spoken in West Africa are mostly part of the Niger-Congo languages; which is one of the world's major language families.
- West Africa, unlike most of Southern, Southeast, and Central Africa, does not have a large population of Bantu-speaking peoples.
- The various cultures of West Africa have very similar cuisines that include foods such as fish, vegetables, fruit, and meat.
- The most common crops grown in West Africa are peanuts, coffee, rice, cotton, and cassava. Cacao, which is used in making cocoa and chocolate, is another common West African crop especially in Ghana which is the second largest producer of this crop in the world.
- West Africa is a huge region and as expected the people there wear a wide variety of clothing; however there are some basic similarities. The wrapper or lappa a popular woman's garment is worn throughout West Africa. A popular garment worn by men throughout West Africa is a wide sleeved robe called the grand boubou.
- The board game "Oware" is very popular in West Africa and is played throughout the region. The game is believed to have been invented hundreds of years ago by the Akan people that inhabited modern-day Ghana and the Ivory Coast.
- Nigeria, with a population of approximately 182,202,000 (2015 United Nations estimate), is the country with the largest population in West Africa. In fact it has the largest population in all of Africa.
- Lake Volta, located in Ghana, is one of the largest artificially created lakes on earth. This West African lake was formed by the damming of the Volta River.
West African History
- Archaeological records show that human settlers began populating West Africa around 12,000 BC.
- Around 1,500 B.C. the West African people began using iron to create tools which improved their ability to farm and laid the foundation for the first civilizations in that region.
- The oldest West African civilization was the Nok culture. This civilization first appeared around 1000 BC in modern day Nigeria and lasted up until around 300 BC.
- After the Nok civilization was formed several other civilizations appeared in West Africa over the following centuries. These civilizations include the Ghana Empire, the Mali Empire, the Kingdom of Nri, the Ashanti Empire, and the Songhai Empire.
- Europeans started establishing settlements along the coast of West Africa starting in the mid-1400s; the African slave trade started soon after. Europeans would establish colonies in this region and control the region for centuries.
- More than half of the estimated ten million slaves captured in Africa and sent to America and Europe between the mid-1600s and the mid-1800s were from West Africa.
- After World War II West Africa experienced nationalist movements where the people fought for independence from the European countries that controlled them. In 1957 Ghana became the first sub-Saharan colony to gain independence; and by 1974 all of West Africa consisted of independent countries.
- The borders of the newly independent African countries were often established by using the colonial boundaries that had been established by Europeans. These boundaries often separated single ethnic groups into two or more states; and would lead to political instability and war.
- After gaining independence many West African countries have experienced political instability and brutal conflicts including numerous civil wars. These conflicts include the Nigerian Civil War, First Liberian Civil War, Second Liberian Civil War, and the Ivorian Civil War.