West Africa

West Africa is the westernmost region of Africa. The United Nations defines Western Africa as the 16 countries of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, the Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo, as well as the United Kingdom Overseas Territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.[7] The population of West Africa is estimated at about 362 million[1] people as of 2016, and at 381,981,000 as of 2017, to which 189,672,000 are female, and 192,309,000 male.[2]

West Africa
Area5,112,903 km2 (1,974,103 sq mi) (7th)
Population362,201,579 (2016 est.) (3rd)[1]
381,981,000 (female: 189,672,000; male: 192,309,000 (2017 est.[2])
Density49.2/km2 (127.5/sq mi)
DemonymWest African
Countries
Time zonesUTC+0 to UTC+1
Major Regional OrganizationsEconomic Community of West African States (ECOWAS; established 1975)
Total GDP (PPP)US$752.983 billion (2013) (23rd)[3]
GDP (PPP) per capitaUS$2,500 (2013)[4]
Total GDP (nominal)US$655.93485 billion (2013)[5][6]
Total GDP (nominal) per capitaUS$1,929.22 (2013)[5]
Currency
Largest cities
Lagos, Nigeria
Abidjan, Ivory Coast
Accra, Ghana
Abuja, Nigeria
Ibadan, Nigeria
Kumasi, Ghana
Port Harcourt, Nigeria
UN M.49 code011 – West Africa
202Sub-Saharan Africa
002Africa
001World
LocationWesternAfrica
  West Africa (UN subregion)
  The northwest African region of Maghreb is counted as part of North Africa.

List of countries

Region Country
Western Africa
Benin
Burkina Faso
Cabo Verde (Cape Verde)
Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast)
The Gambia
Ghana
Guinea
Guinea-Bissau
Liberia
Mali
Mauritania
Niger
Nigeria
Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha (United Kingdom Overseas Territory)
Senegal
Sierra Leone
Togo

Genetic background

African Mitochondrial descent
Map of early diversification of modern humans, with haplogroup L2 entering West Africa.

Studies of human mitochondrial DNA suggest that all humans share common ancestors from Africa, originated in the southwestern regions near the coastal border of Namibia and Angola at the approximate coordinates 12.5° E, 17.5°S with a divergence in the migration path around 37.5°E, 22.5°N near the Red Sea.[8]

A particular haplogroup of DNA, haplogroup L2, evolved between 87,000 and 107,000 years ago[9] or approx. 90,000 YBP.[10] Its age and widespread distribution and diversity across the continent makes its exact origin point within Africa difficult to trace with any confidence,[11] however an origin for several L2 groups in West or Central Africa seems likely,[11] with the highest diversity in West Africa. Most of its subclades are largely confined to West and western-Central Africa.[12]

Because of the large numbers of West Africans enslaved in the Atlantic slave trade, most African Americans, Afro Latin Americans and Black Caribbeans are likely to have mixed ancestry from different regions of western Africa.[13]

History

The history of West Africa can be divided into five major periods: first, its prehistory, in which the first human settlers arrived, developed agriculture, and made contact with peoples to the north; the second, the Iron Age empires that consolidated both intra-Africa, and extra-Africa trade, and developed centralized states; third, major polities flourished, which would undergo an extensive history of contact with non-Africans; fourth, the colonial period, in which Great Britain and France controlled nearly the entire region; and fifth, the post-independence era, in which the current nations were formed.

Prehistory

Early human settlers from northern Holocene societies arrived in West Africa around 12,000 B.C. At Gobero, the Kiffian, who were hunters of tall stature, lived during the green Sahara between 10,000 and 8,000 years ago. The Tenerian, who were a more lightly built people that hunted, fished and herded cattle, lived during the latter part of the green Sahara approximately 7,000 to 4,500 years ago.[14]

Sedentary farming began in, or around the fifth millennium B.C, as well as the domestication of cattle. By 1500 B.C, ironworking technology allowed an expansion of agricultural productivity, and the first city-states later formed. Northern tribes developed walled settlements and non-walled settlements that numbered at 400. In the forest region, Iron Age cultures began to flourish, and an inter-region trade began to appear. The desertification of the Sahara and the climatic change of the coast cause trade with upper Mediterranean peoples to be seen.

The domestication of the camel allowed the development of a trans-Saharan trade with cultures across the Sahara, including Carthage and the Berbers; major exports included gold, cotton cloth, metal ornaments, iron, and leather goods, which were then exchanged for salt, horses, textiles, and other such materials. Local leather, cloth, and gold also contributed to the abundance of prosperity for many of the following empires.

Empires

Mansa Musa
Mansa Musa depicted holding a gold nugget from a 1395 map of Africa and Europe

The development of the region's economy allowed more centralized states and civilizations to form, beginning with Dhar Tichitt that began in 1600 B.C. followed by Djenné-Djenno beginning in 300 B.C. This was then succeeded by the Ghana Empire that first flourished between the 9th and 12th centuries, which later gave way to the Mali Empire. In current-day Mauritania, there exist archaeological sites in the towns of Tichit and Oualata that were initially constructed around 2000 B.C., and were found to have originated from the Soninke branch of the Mandé peoples, who, according to their tradition, originate from Aswan, Egypt.[15] Also, based on the archaeology of city of Kumbi Saleh in modern-day Mauritania, the Mali empire came to dominate much of the region until its defeat by Almoravid invaders in 1052.

Three great kingdoms were identified in Bilad al-Sudan by the ninth century. They included Ghana, Gao and Kanem.[16]

The Sosso Empire sought to fill the void, but was defeated (c. 1240) by the Mandinka forces of Sundiata Keita, founder of the new Mali Empire. The Mali Empire continued to flourish for several centuries, most particularly under Sundiata's grandnephew Musa I, before a succession of weak rulers led to its collapse under Mossi, Tuareg and Songhai invaders. In the 15th century, the Songhai would form a new dominant state based on Gao, in the Songhai Empire, under the leadership of Sonni Ali and Askia Mohammed.

Meanwhile, south of the Sudan, strong city states arose in Igboland, such as the 10th-century Kingdom of Nri, which helped birth the arts and customs of the Igbo people, Bono in the 12th century, which eventually culminated in the formation the all-powerful Akan Empire of Ashanti, while Ife rose to prominence around the 14th century. Further east, Oyo arose as the dominant Yoruba state and the Aro Confederacy as a dominant Igbo state in modern-day Nigeria.

The Kingdom of Nri was a West African medieval state in the present-day southeastern Nigeria and a subgroup of the Igbo people. The Kingdom of Nri was unusual in the history of world government in that its leader exercised no military power over his subjects. The kingdom existed as a sphere of religious and political influence over a third of Igboland and was administered by a priest-king called as an Eze Nri. The Eze Nri managed trade and diplomacy on behalf of the Nri people and possessed divine authority in religious matters.

The Oyo Empire was a Yoruba empire of what is today Western and North central Nigeria. Established in the 15th century, the Oyo Empire grew to become one of the largest West African states. It rose through the outstanding organizational skills of the Yoruba, wealth gained from trade and its powerful cavalry. The Oyo Empire was the most politically important state in the region from the mid-17th to the late 18th century, holding sway not only over most of the other kingdoms in Yorubaland, but also over nearby African states, notably the Fon Kingdom of Dahomey in the modern Republic of Benin to the west.

The Benin Empire was a pre-colonial empire located in what is now southern Nigeria. Its capital was Edo, now known as Benin City, Edo. It should not be confused with the modern-day country called Benin, formerly called Dahomey. The Benin Empire was "one of the oldest and most highly developed states in the coastal hinterland of West Africa, dating perhaps to the eleventh century CE",. The Benin Empire was governed by a sovereign Emperor with hundreds of thousands of soldiers and a powerful council rich in resources, wealth, ancient science and technology with cities described as beautiful and large as Haarlem. "Olfert Dapper, a Dutch writer, describing Benin in his book Description of Africa (1668) ". Its craft was the most adored and treasured bronze casting in the history of Africa. It was annexed by the British Empire in 1897 during the invasion and scramble of Africa.

European contact and slavery

West Africa 1839 Mitchell map - Kong
West Africa circa 1839

Portuguese traders began establishing settlements along the coast in 1445, followed by the French, British, Spanish, Danish and Dutch; the African slave trade began not long after, which over the following centuries would debilitate the region's economy and population. The slave trade also encouraged the formation of states such as the Asante Empire, Bambara Empire and Dahomey, whose economic activities include but not limited to exchanging slaves for European firearms.

Colonialism

French West Africa 1913 map
French in West Africa circa 1913

In the early 19th century, a series of Fulani reformist jihads swept across Western Africa. The most notable include Usman dan Fodio's Fulani Empire, which replaced the Hausa city-states, Seku Amadu's Massina Empire, which defeated the Bambara, and El Hadj Umar Tall's Toucouleur Empire, which briefly conquered much of modern-day Mali.

However, the French and British continued to advance in the Scramble for Africa, subjugating kingdom after kingdom. With the fall of Samory Ture's new-founded Wassoulou Empire in 1898 and the Ashanti queen Yaa Asantewaa in 1902, most West African military resistance to colonial rule resulted in failure. Leaving, however, an effect on the development of the states.

Part of the West-African regions underwent an increase in the numeracy level throughout the 19th century. The reason for such a growth was predetermined by a number of factors. Namely, the peanut production and trade, which was boosted by the demand of the colonial states. Importantly, the rise of the numeracy was higher in the regions which were less hierarchical and had less dependent from the slavery trade (e.g. Sine and Salum). Whereas areas with the opposite trends illustrated opposite tendencies (e.g. central and northern Senegal). Those patterns were further even more stimulated with the French colonial campaign[17].

Britain controlled the Gambia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, and Nigeria throughout the colonial era, while France unified Senegal, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, Ivory Coast and Niger into French West Africa. Portugal founded the colony of Guinea-Bissau, while Germany claimed Togoland, but was forced to divide it between France and Britain following First World War due to the Treaty of Versailles. Only Liberia retained its independence, at the price of major territorial concessions.

Postcolonial eras

Following World War II, nationalist movements arose across West Africa. In 1957, Ghana, under Kwame Nkrumah, became the first sub-Saharan colony to achieve its independence, followed the next year by France's colonies (Guinea in 1958 under the leadership of President Ahmed Sekou Touré); by 1974, West Africa's nations were entirely autonomous.

Since independence, many West African nations have been submerged under political instability, with notable civil wars in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Ivory Coast, and a succession of military coups in Ghana and Burkina Faso.

Since the end of colonialism, the region has been the stage for some brutal conflicts, including:

States

The Economic Community of West African States, established in May 1975, has defined the region of West Africa since 1999 as including the following 15 states:[7]

Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Western Africa includes the preceding states with the addition of Mauritania (which withdrew from ECOWAS in 1999), comprising an area of approximately 6.1 million square km.[18] The UN region also includes the United Kingdom Overseas Territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha in the south Atlantic Ocean.

Area

In the United Nations scheme of African regions, the region of Western Africa includes 16 states and the United Kingdom Overseas Territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha:[19] Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal and the Niger are mostly in the Sahel, a transition zone between the Sahara desert and the Sudanian Savanna; Benin, Ivory Coast, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Togo and Nigeria compose most of Guinea, the traditional name for the area near the Gulf of Guinea; Mauritania lies in the Maghreb, the northwestern region of Africa that has historically been inhabited by West African groups such as the Fulani, Soninke, Wolof, Serer and Toucouleur people,[20] along with Arab-Berber Maghrebi people; Cape Verde is an island country in the Atlantic Ocean; and Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha consists of eight main islands located in four different parts of the Atlantic. Due to Mauritania's increasingly close ties to the Arab World and its 1999 withdrawal from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in modern times it is often considered, especially in Africa, as now part of western North Africa.[21][22][23][24][25][26]

Cities

Major cities in West Africa include:

Environment

Nature

Rhinoceros blanc- réserve de Bandia - panoramio
A rhinoceros in Bandia Nature Reserve, Senegal.
Credit: Corine REZEL.

Before European colonisation, West African countries such as those from the Senegambia region (Senegal and the Gambia) used to have a diverse wildlife including lions, hippopotamus, elephants, antelopes, leopards etc.[27] However, during colonisation, the European colonisers such as the French and British killed most of the wildlife particularly the lions–using their body parts as trophies. By the turn of the 20th-century, the Senegambia region lost most of its lion population and other exotic animals due to poaching. By the 1930s, the Gambian elephant population became extinct. That phenomenon was not only limited to the Senegambia region but affected much of West African as the region lost much of its "natural resources once tied so closely to its cultural identity. Poaching has stolen most of its wildlife." The British issued poaching licences, and although they would later try to reverse the damage that had been done by attempting to preserve what was left of the local wildlife, but by that time, it was too late.[28][29] During the 1930s, the elephant population in the Gold Coast was about 300, and Sierra Leona between 500—600. Although a small number of elephants survived in Nigeria, hunting, agricultural expansion and clearing of forest in that country drastically affected its wildlife population, particularly elephants.[29]

Despite the historical damage that has been done to the region's wildlife populations, there are still some protected nature reserves within the region. Some of these include:

  1. The Bandia Nature Reserve in Senegal (French: Réserve de Bandia), animal life includes: giraffes, zebras, rhinos, a variety of antelopes, buffaloes, monkeys, crocodiles, tortoises. apes and a variety of exotic birds.[30]
  2. The Yankari National Park in Nigeria, animal life includes: the African bush elephant, olive baboon, patas monkey, Tantalus monkey, roan antelope, western hartebeest, West African lion, African buffalo, waterbuck, bushbuck and hippopotamus.[31]
  3. The Ankasa Conservation Area in Ghana, animal life includes: the elephant, bongo, leopard, chimpanzee, Diana monkey, and other primates.[32]

West Africa is also home to several baobab trees and other plant life. Some baobab trees are several centuries old and form part of the local folklore for example a mythical baobab tree named Ngoye njuli in Senegal which is regarded as a sacred site by the Serer. The tree itself is rather majestic and looks like a huge phallus and a deformed animal or thing is protruding from it. It is said to be the dwelling place of a pangool. Ngoye njuli is protected by the Senegalese authorities and attracts visitors. In West Africa, as in other parts of Africa where the baobab tree is found, the leaves are mixed with couscous and eaten, the bark of the tree is used to make ropes, and the fruit and seeds used for drinks and oils.[33][28][34][33]

Deforestation

West Africa is greatly affected by deforestation, and has one of worst deforestation rate.[35] Even "the beloved baobab tree" which is viewed as sacred by some West African cultures are under threat due to climate change, urbanization and population growth. "Huge swaths of forest are being razed to clear space for palm oil and cocoa plantations. Mangroves are being killed off by pollution. Even wispy acacias are hacked away for use in cooking fires to feed growing families."[28] Nigeria, Liberia, Guinea, Ghana and the Ivory Coast, have lost large areas of their rainforest.[36][37] In 2005, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations ranked Nigeria as the state with the worst deforestation rate in the entire world. Causes include logging, subsistence agriculture, and the collection of fuel wood.[38]

According to a ThoughtCo publication authored Steve Nix (2018), almost 90 percent of West Africa's original rainforest has been destroyed, and the rest "heavily fragmented and in a degraded state, being poorly used."[35]

Geography and climate

West Africa, broadly defined to include the western portion of the Maghreb (Western Sahara, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia), occupies an area in excess of 6,140,000 km2, or approximately one-fifth of Africa. The vast majority of this land is plains lying less than 300 meters above sea level, though isolated high points exist in numerous states along the southern shore of West Africa.[39]

West Africa Tropical Ecozone
Benin
Burkina Faso
The Gambia
Ghana
Guinea-Bissau
Guinea
Ivory Coast
Liberia
Mali
Mauritania
Nigeria
Niger
Senegal
Sierra Leone
Togo
Afrotropic-Ecozone-West Tropical Africa
Afrotropic-West Tropical Africa
State The biostate Location in Afrotropic
West Africa may 8 2001 1200Z
Satellite imagery from outer space of West Africa

The northern section of West Africa (narrowly defined to exclude the western Maghreb) is composed of semi-arid terrain known as Sahel, a transitional zone between the Sahara and the savannahs of the western Sudan. Forests form a belt between the savannas and the southern coast, ranging from 160 km to 240 km in width.[40]

The northwest African region of Mauritania periodically suffers country-wide plagues of locusts which consume water, salt and crops on which the human population relies.[41]

Background

West Africa is west of an imagined north–south axis lying close to 10° east longitude.[39] The Atlantic Ocean forms the western as well as the southern borders of the West African region.[39] The northern border is the Sahara Desert, with the Ranishanu Bend generally considered the northernmost part of the region.[42] The eastern border is less precise, with some placing it at the Benue Trough, and others on a line running from Mount Cameroon to Lake Chad.

Colonial boundaries are reflected in the modern boundaries between contemporary West African states, cutting across ethnic and cultural lines, often dividing single ethnic groups between two or more states.[43]

In contrast to most of Central, Southern and Southeast Africa, West Africa is not populated by Bantu-speaking peoples.[44]

Transport

Rail transport

A Trans-ECOWAS project, established in 2007, plans to upgrade railways in this zone. One of the goals of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is the development of an integrated railroad network.[45] Aims include the extension of railways in member countries, the interconnection of previously isolated railways and the standardisation of gauge, brakes, couplings, and other parameters. The first line would connect the cities and ports of Lagos, Cotonou, Lomé and Accra and would allow the largest container ships to focus on a smaller number of large ports, while efficiently serving a larger hinterland. This line connects 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) gauge and 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) metre gauge systems, which would require four rail dual gauge, which can also provide standard gauge.[45]

Road transport

Dakar-Lagos Highway Map

The Trans–West African Coastal Highway is a transnational highway project to link 12 West African coastal states, from Mauritania in the north-west of the region to Nigeria in the east, with feeder roads already existing to two landlocked countries, Mali and Burkina Faso.[46]

The eastern end of the highway terminates at Lagos, Nigeria. Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) consider its western end to be Nouakchott, Mauritania, or to be Dakar, Senegal, giving rise to these alternative names for the road:

  • Nouakchott–Lagos Highway
  • Lagos–Nouakchott Highway
  • Dakar–Lagos Highway
  • Lagos–Dakar Highway
  • Trans-African Highway 7 in the Trans-African Highway network

Air transport

The capital's airports include:

Of the sixteen, the most important hub and entry point to West Africa is Kotoka International Airport, and Murtala Muhammed International Airport, offering many international connections.

Culture

Despite the wide variety of cultures in West Africa, from Nigeria through to Senegal, there are general similarities in dress, cuisine, music and culture that are not shared extensively with groups outside the geographic region. This long history of cultural exchange predates the colonization era of the region and can be approximately placed at the time of the Ghana Empire (proper: Wagadou Empire), Mali Empire or perhaps before these empires.

Traditional architecture

Airport in Timbuktu
A street and airport in the famous town of Timbuktu, Mali, showing the Sudano-Sahelian architectural style of the West African interior

The main traditional styles of building (in conjunction with modern styles) are the distinct Sudano-Sahelian style in inland areas, and the coastal forest styles more reminiscent of other sub-Saharan areas. They differ greatly in construction due to the demands made by the variety of climates in the area, from tropical humid forests to arid grasslands and desert. Despite the architectural differences, buildings perform similar functions, including the compound structure central to West African family life or strict distinction between the private and public worlds needed to maintain taboos or social etiquette.

Clothing

Philip Emeagwali in white "agbada."
A man in the Boubou (or Agbada), a traditional robe symbolic of West Africa

In contrast to other parts of the continent south of the Sahara Desert, the concepts of hemming and embroidering clothing have been traditionally common to West Africa for centuries, demonstrated by the production of various breeches, shirts, tunics and jackets. As a result, the peoples of the region's diverse nations wear a wide variety of clothing with underlying similarities. Typical pieces of west African formal attire include the knee-to-ankle-length, flowing Boubou robe, Dashiki, and Senegalese Kaftan (also known as Agbada and Babariga), which has its origins in the clothing of nobility of various West African empires in the 12th century. Traditional half-sleeved, hip-long, woven smocks or tunics (known as fugu in Gurunsi, riga in Hausa) – worn over a pair of baggy trousers—is another popular garment.[47] In the coastal regions stretching from southern Ivory Coast to Benin, a huge rectangular cloth is wrapped under one arm, draped over a shoulder, and held in one of the wearer's hands—coincidentally, reminiscent of Romans' togas. The best-known of these toga-like garments is the Kente (made by the Akan people of Ghana and Ivory Coast), who wear them as a gesture of national pride.

Cuisine

Jollof rice
Jollof rice or Benachin, one of many Pan–West African dishes found only in West Africa

Scores of foreign visitors to West African nations (e.g., traders, historians, emigrants, colonists, missionaries) have benefited from its citizens' generosity, and even left with a piece of its cultural heritage, via its foods. West African cuisines have had a significant influence on those of Western civilization for centuries; several dishes of West African origin are currently enjoyed in the Caribbean (e.g., the West Indies and Haiti); Australia; the USA (particularly Louisiana, Virginia, North and South Carolina); Italy; and other countries. Although some of these recipes have been altered to suit the sensibilities of their adopters, they retain a distinct West African essence.[48]

West Africans cuisines include fish (especially among the coastal areas), meat, vegetables, and fruits—most of which are grown by the nations' local farmers. In spite of the obvious differences among the various local cuisines in this multinational region, the foods display more similarities than differences. The small difference may be in the ingredients used. Most foods are cooked via boiling or frying. Commonly featured, starchy vegetables include yams, plantains, cassava, and sweet potatoes.[49] Rice is also a staple food, as is the Serer people's sorghum couscous (called "Chereh" in Serer) particularly in Senegal and the Gambia.[50] Jollof rice—originally from the Kingdom of Jolof (now part of modern-day Senegal) but having spread to the Wolofs of Gambia—is also enjoyed in many Western nations, as well;[51] Mafé (proper: "Tigh-dege-na" or Domodah) from Mali (via the Bambara and Mandinka)[52]—a peanut-butter stew served with rice;[53][54] Akara (fried bean balls seasoned with spices served with sauce and bread) from Nigeria is a favourite breakfast for Gambians and Senegalese, as well as a favourite side snack or side dish in Brazil and the Caribbean just as it is in West Africa. It is said that its exact origin may be from Yorubaland in Nigeria.[55][56] Fufu (from the Twi language, a dough served with a spicy stew or sauce for example okra stew etc.) from Ghana is enjoyed throughout the region and beyond even in Central Africa with their own versions of it.[57] Dishes such as taguella, eghajira, etc. are popular among the Tuareg people.

Recreation and sports

Supportairemimos
Supporters of ASEC Mimosas

The board game oware is quite popular in many parts of Southern

Africa. The word "Oware" originates from the Akan people of Ghana. However, virtually all African peoples have a version of this board game.[58] The major multi-sport event of West Africa is the ECOWAS Games which commenced at the 2012 ECOWAS Games. Football is also a pastime enjoyed by many, either spectating or playing. The major national teams of West Africa, the Ghana national football team, the Ivory Coast national football team, and the Nigeria national football team regularly win the Africa Cup of Nations.[59] Major football teams of West Africa are Asante Kotoko SC and Accra Hearts of Oak SC of the Ghana Premier League, Enyimba International of the Nigerian Premier League and ASEC Mimosas of the Ligue 1 (Ivory Coast). The football governing body of West Africa is the West African Football Union (WAFU) and the major tournament is the West African Club Championship and WAFU Nations Cup, along with the annual individual award of West African Footballer of the Year.[60][61]

Music

TalkingDrum
The talking drum is an instrument unique to West Africa.

Mbalax, Highlife, Fuji and Afrobeat are all modern musical genres which listeners enjoy in this region. Old traditional folk music is also well preserved in this region. Some of these are religious in nature such as the "Tassou" tradition used in Serer religion.[62]

Griot and Praise-singing

Bijoutier et joueurs de kora
Kora-playing Griots in Senegal, 1900. Both the Kora, a 21-stringed harp-lute, and the griot musical-caste are unique to West Africa.

Two important related traditions that musically make West African musical attitudes unique are the Griot tradition, and the Praise-singing tradition. In many cases, these two genres are highly similar, the difference being whether the traditions are considered the property of hereditary castes (Griot) or to talented individuals among a ruler's subjects (Praise-singing). In both cases the minstrel tradition and specialization in certain string and percussion instruments is observed.

Traditionally, musical and oral history as conveyed over generations by Griots are typical of West African culture in Mande, Wolof, Songhay, Serer and (to some extent, though not universal) Fula areas in the far west. A hereditary caste occupying the fringes of society, the Griots were charged with memorizing the histories of local rulers and personages and the caste was further broken down into music-playing Griots (similar to bards) and non-music playing Griots. Like Praise-singers, the Griot's main profession was musical acquisition and prowess, and patrons were the sole means of financial support. Modern Griots enjoy higher status in the patronage of rich individuals in places such as Mali, Senegal, Mauritania and Guinea, and to some extent make up the vast majority of musicians in these countries. Examples of modern popular Griot artists include Salif Keita, Youssou N'Dour, Mamadou Diabate, Rokia Traore and Toumani Diabate.

In other areas of West Africa, primarily among the Hausa, Mossi, Dagomba and Yoruba in the area encompassing Burkina Faso, northern Ghana, Nigeria and Niger, the traditional profession of non-hereditary praise-singers, minstrels, bards and poets play a vital role in extending the public show of power, lineage and prestige of traditional rulers through their exclusive patronage. Like the Griot tradition, praise singers are charged with knowing the details of specific historic events and royal lineages, but more importantly need to be capable of poetic improvisation and creativity, with knowledge of traditional songs directed towards showing a patron's financial and political or religious power. Competition between Praise-singing ensembles and artistes are high, and artists responsible for any extraordinarily skilled prose, musical compositions and panegyric songs are lavishly rewarded with money, clothing, provisions and other luxuries by patrons who are usually politicians, rulers, Islamic clerics and merchants; these successful praise-singers rise to national stardom. Examples include Mamman Shata, Souley Konko, Fati Niger, Saadou Bori and Dan Maraya. In the case of Niger, numerous praise songs are composed and shown on television in praise of local rulers, Islamic clerics and politicians.

Film industry

Nollywood of Nigeria, is the main film industry of West Africa. The Nigerian cinema industry is the second largest film industry in terms of number of annual film productions, ahead of the American film industry in Hollywood.[63] Senegal and Ghana also have long traditions of producing films. The late Ousmane Sembène, the Senegalese film director, producer and writer is from the region, as is the Ghanaian Shirley Frimpong-Manso.

Religion

Islam

Djenné Moschee
The 13th-century Great Mosque of Djenné is a superb example of the indigenous Sahelian architectural style prevalent in the Savannah and Sahelian interior of West Africa. It is listed an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Islam is the predominant religion of the West African interior and the far west coast of the continent (70% of West Africans); and was introduced to the region by traders in the 9th century. Islam is the religion of the region's biggest ethnic groups by population. Islamic rules on livelihood, values, dress and practices had a profound effect on the populations and cultures in their predominant areas, so much so that the concept of tribalism is less observed by Islamized groups like the Mande, Wolof, Hausa, Fula and Songhai, than they are by non-Islamized groups.[64] Ethnic intermarriage and shared cultural icons are established through a superseded commonality of belief or community, known as ummah.[65] Traditional Muslim areas include Senegal, Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Guinea, Niger; the upper coast and inland two-thirds of Sierra Leone and inland Liberia; the western, northern and far-eastern regions of Burkina Faso; and the northern halves of the coastal nations of Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana and Ivory Coast.[66]

African traditional

Voodo-altar
Voodoo altar with several fetishes in Abomey, Benin

Traditional African religions (noting the many different belief systems) are the oldest belief systems among the populations of this region, and include Akan religion, Yoruba religion, Odinani, and Serer religion. They are spiritual but also linked to the historical and cultural heritage of the people.[67] Although traditional beliefs vary from one place to the next, there are more similarities than differences.[68]

Christianity

Christianity was largely introduced from the late 19th century onward, when missionaries from European countries brought the religion to the region.[69] West African Christians are predominantly Roman Catholic or Anglican; some Evangelical churches have also been established. Christianity has become the predominant religion in the central and southern part of Nigeria, and the coastal regions stretching from southern Ghana to coastal parts of Sierra Leone. Like Islam, elements of traditional African religion are mixed with Christianity.[70]

Demographics and languages

West Africans primarily speak Niger–Congo languages, belonging mostly, though not exclusively, to its non-Bantu branches, though some Nilo-Saharan and Afro-Asiatic speaking groups are also found in West Africa. The Niger–Congo-speaking Yoruba, Igbo, Fulani, Akan and Wolof ethnic groups are the largest and most influential. In the central Sahara, Mandinka or Mande groups are most significant. Chadic-speaking groups, including the Hausa, are found in more northerly parts of the region nearest to the Sahara, and Nilo-Saharan communities, such as the Songhai, Kanuri and Zarma, are found in the eastern parts of West Africa bordering Central Africa. The population of West Africa is estimated at 362 million[1] people as of 2016. In Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso, the nomadic Tuareg speak the Tuareg language, a Berber language.

Colonial languages also play a pivotal cultural and political role, being adopted as the official languages of most countries in the region, as well as linguae franca in communication between the region's various ethnic groups. For historical reasons, Western European languages such as French, English and Portuguese predominate in Southern and Coastal subregions, whilst Arabic spreads inland northwards.

Economic and regional organizations

Petroleum regions - West Africa map-fr
Map of petroleum and natural gas within West Africa

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), founded by the 1975 Treaty of Lagos, is an organization of West African states which aims to promote the region's economy. The West African Monetary Union (or UEMOA from its name in French, Union économique et monétaire ouest-africaine) is limited to the eight, mostly Francophone countries that employ the CFA franc as their common currency. The Liptako-Gourma Authority of Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso seeks to jointly develop the contiguous areas of the three countries.

Women's peace movement

Since the adoption of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 in 2000, women have been engaged in rebuilding war-torn Africa. Starting with the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace and Women in Peacebuilding Network (WIPNET), the peace movement has grown to include women across West Africa.

Established on May 8, 2006, Women Peace and Security Network – Africa (WIPSEN-Africa), is a women-focused, women-led Pan-African non-governmental organization based in Ghana.[71] The organization has a presence in Ghana, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Regional leaders of nonviolent resistance include Leymah Gbowee,[72] Comfort Freeman, and Aya Virginie Toure.

Pray the Devil Back to Hell is a documentary film about the origin of this peace movement. The film has been used as an advocacy tool in post-conflict zones like Sudan and Zimbabwe, mobilizing African women to petition for peace and security.[73]

Gallery

Cityscapes of largest cities

Bird's-eye view of the West Africa City of Lagos, Lagos State, Nigeria

Lagos Island
Lagos 1 galleryfull

Bird's-eye view of the West Africa City of Abuja, Federal Capital Territory, Nigeria

Abuja, Federal Capital Territory 3
Abuja, Federal Capital Territory 2
Abuja, Federal Capital Territory

Bird's-eye view of the West Africa City of Accra, Greater Accra, Ghana

City Of Accra
City of Accra
Modern Accra Buildings

Bird's-eye view of the West Africa City of Abidjan, Lagunes, Ivory Coast

AbidjanSib
Abidjan-Plateau1
Abidjanpyramid

Bird's-eye view of the West Africa City of Kumasi, Ashanti, Ghana

Aerial View of Kumasi in 2003
Ghana Commercial Bank in Kumasi
Gravity Road, Kumasi

Bird's-eye view of the West Africa City of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria

PortHacourt1
Pitakwa

Capital cities of West Africa

Praia coast Cape Verde

Praia, Cape Verde

Dakar - Panorama urbain

Dakar, Senegal

Imagelomé20

Lomé, Togo

Grande mosquee porto-novo

Porto-Novo, Benin

Street scene niamey 2006 002

Niamey, Niger

Kwamenkrumah av2

Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

Fort Thornton - Freetown - Sierra Leone

Freetown, Sierra Leone

Banjul great mosque

Banjul, Gambia

Conakry street (3329204314)

Conakry, Guinea

Praça Che Guevara, Bissau

Bissau, Guinea-Bissau

Monrovia Street

Monrovia, Liberia

Place des explorateurs, Koulouba - Bamako

Bamako, Mali

Georgetown Ascension1

Georgetown, Ascension Island

See also

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  52. ^ Mafé or Maafe is a Wolof word for it, the proper name is "Domodah" among the Mandinka people of Senegal and Gambia, who are the originators of this dish, or "Tigh-dege-na" among the Bambara people or Mandinka people of Mali. "Domodah" is also used by all Senegambians borrowed from the Mandinka language.
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  73. ^ November 2009 MEDIAGLOBAL Archived 2010-07-10 at the Wayback Machine

Further reading

  • Akyeampong, Emmanuel Kwaku. Themes in West Africa's History (2006)
  • Collins, Robert O. African History: Western African History (1990).
  • Davidson, Basil. A History of West Africa, 1000–1800 (1978), numerous editions
  • Edgerton, Robert B. The Fall of the Asante Empire: The Hundred-Year War For Africa'S Gold Coast (2002).
  • Festus, Jacob et al. eds. History of West Africa (Vol. 1, 1989)
  • Ham, Anthony. West Africa (2009).
  • Hopkins, Antony Gerald. An economic history of West Africa (2014).
  • Kane, Ousmane Oumar, Beyond Timbuktu: An Intellectual History of Muslim West Africa (2016).
  • Mendonsa, Eugene L. West Africa: An Introduction to Its History (2002).

External links

Coordinates: 12°N 3°E / 12°N 3°E

Bantustan

A Bantustan (also known as Bantu homeland, black homeland, black state or simply homeland; Afrikaans: Bantoestan) was a territory set aside for black inhabitants of South Africa and South West Africa (now Namibia), as part of the policy of apartheid. Ten Bantustans were established in South Africa, and ten in neighbouring South West Africa (then under South African administration), for the purpose of concentrating the members of designated ethnic groups, thus making each of those territories ethnically homogeneous as the basis for creating "autonomous" nation states for South Africa's different black ethnic groups.

The term was first used in the late 1940s and was coined from Bantu (meaning "people" in some of the Bantu languages) and -stan (a suffix meaning "land" in the Persian language and some Persian-influenced languages of western, central, and southern Asia). It was regarded as a disparaging term by some critics of the apartheid-era government's "homelands" (from Afrikaans tuisland). The word "bantustan", today, is often used in a pejorative sense when describing a region that lacks any real legitimacy, consists of several unconnected enclaves, or emerges from national or international gerrymandering.

Four of the South African Bantustans—Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda, and Ciskei (the so-called "TBVC States")—were declared independent, but this was not recognised outside South Africa. Other South African Bantustans (like KwaZulu, Lebowa, and QwaQwa) received partial autonomy but were never granted independence. In South West Africa, Ovamboland, Kavangoland, and East Caprivi were granted self-determination. The Bantustans were abolished with the end of apartheid and re-joined South Africa proper in 1994.

Berlin Conference

The Berlin Conference of 1884–85, also known as the Congo Conference (German: Kongokonferenz) or West Africa Conference (Westafrika-Konferenz), regulated European colonization and trade in Africa during the New Imperialism period and coincided with Germany's sudden emergence as an imperial power. The conference was organized by Otto von Bismarck, first Chancellor of Germany; its outcome, the General Act of the Berlin Conference, can be seen as the formalisation of the Scramble for Africa, although some scholars of history warn against an overemphasis of its role in the colonial partitioning of Africa, drawing attention to bilateral agreements concluded before and after the conference. The conference ushered in a period of heightened colonial activity by European powers, which eliminated or overrode most existing forms of African autonomy and self-governance.

French West Africa

French West Africa (French: Afrique occidentale française, AOF) was a federation of eight French colonial territories in Africa: Mauritania, Senegal, French Sudan (now Mali), French Guinea, Ivory Coast, Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), Dahomey (now Benin) and Niger. The capital of the federation was Dakar. The federation existed from 1895 until 1960.

French West Africa in World War II

In World War II, French West Africa (Afrique occidentale française, AOF) was not the scene of major fighting. Only one large-scale action took place there: the Battle of Dakar (23–25 September 1940). The region remained under the control of Vichy France after the fall of France (25 June 1940) and until the Allied invasion of North Africa (8–16 November 1942). French Gabon, the only colony of French Equatorial Africa not to join Free France after the armistice, fell to invading Free French Forces from the neighbouring colonies after the Battle of Gabon (8–12 November 1940), further isolating West Africa.

Unlike in metropolitan France, the French Colonial Troops in West Africa were not reduced after the 1940 armistice and the region was little interfered with by the Axis powers, providing a valuable addition to the forces of Free France after it had been liberated. Before this happened, there was some tension between the French and the neighbouring British colonies, particularly Sierra Leone, leading to the formation of the Freetown Defence Flight in June 1941, but no military incidents took place.

German South West Africa

German South West Africa (German: Deutsch-Südwestafrika) was a colony of the German Empire from 1884 until 1919. With an area of 835,100 km², it was one and a half times the size of the mainland German Empire in Europe at the time. The colony had a population of around 2,600 Germans.

In 1915, during World War I, German South West Africa was invaded by the Western Allies in the form of South African and British forces. After the war its administration was taken over by the Union of South Africa (part of the British Empire) and the territory was administered as South West Africa under a League of Nations mandate. It became independent as Namibia in 1990.

History of West Africa

The history of West Africa began with the first human settlements around 4,000 BCE. It has been commonly divided into its prehistory, the Iron Age in Africa, the major polities flourishing, the colonial period, and finally the post-independence era, in which the current nations were formed. West Africa is west of an imagined north-south axis lying close to 10° east longitude, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and Sahara Desert.

Colonial boundaries are reflected in the modern boundaries between contemporary West African states, cutting across ethnic and cultural lines, often dividing single ethnic groups between two or more states. Early human settlers arrived in West Africa around 12,000 BCE. In the fifth millennium, as the ancestors of modern West Africans began entering the area, the development of sedentary farming began to take place in West Africa. The Iron industry, in both smelting and forging for tools and weapons, appeared in Sub-Saharan Africa by 1200 BCE, and by 400 BCE, contact had been made with the Mediterranean civilizations, and a regular trade included exporting gold, cotton, metal, and leather in exchange for copper, horses, salt, textiles, and beads. Culture developed further with the Nok culture (1000 BCE to 200 or 300 BCE), Serer people's ancient history, and construction of the Senegambian stone circles (between the third century B.C. and the sixteenth century C.E.). The Sahelian kingdoms were a series of kingdoms or empires that were built on the sahel, the area of grasslands south of the Sahara. They controlled the trade routes across the desert, and were also quite decentralised, with member cities having a great deal of autonomy. The Ghana Empire may have been established as early as the 7th century CE. It was succeeded by the Sosso in 1230, the Mali Empire in the 13th century CE, and later by the Songhai and Sokoto Caliphate. There were also a number of forest empires and states in this time period.

Following the collapse of the Songhai Empire, a number of smaller states arose across West Africa, including the Bambara Empire of Ségou, the lesser Bambara kingdom of Kaarta, the Fula/Malinké kingdom of Khasso (in present-day Mali's Kayes Region), and the Kénédougou Empire of Sikasso. European traders first became a force in the region in the 15th century. The transatlantic African slave trade resumed, with the Portuguese taking hundreds of captives back to their country for use as slaves; however, it would not begin on a grand scale until Christopher Columbus's voyage to the Americas and the subsequent demand for cheap colonial labour. As the demand for slaves increased, some African rulers sought to supply the demand by constant war against their neighbours, resulting in fresh captives. European, American and Haitian governments passed legislation prohibiting the Atlantic slave trade in the 19th century, though the last country to abolish the institution was Brazil in 1888.

In 1725, the cattle-herding Fulanis of Fouta Djallon launched the first major reformist jihad of the region, overthrowing the local animist, Mande-speaking elites and attempting to somewhat democratise their society. At the same time, the Europeans started to travel into the interior of Africa to trade and explore. Mungo Park (1771–1806) made the first serious expedition into the region's interior, tracing the Niger River as far as Timbuktu. French armies followed not long after. In the Scramble for Africa in the 1880s the Europeans started to colonise the inland of West Africa, they had previously mostly controlled trading ports along the coasts and rivers. Following World War II, campaigns for independence sprung up across West Africa, most notably in Ghana under the Pan-Africanist Kwame Nkrumah (1909–1972). After a decade of protests, riots and clashes, French West Africa voted for autonomy in a 1958 referendum, dividing into the states of today; most of the British colonies gained autonomy the following decade. Since independence, West Africa has suffered from the same problems as much of the African continent, particularly dictatorships, political corruption and military coups; it has also seen bloody civil wars. The development of oil and mineral wealth has seen the steady modernization of some countries since the early 2000s, though inequality persists.

Liberia

Liberia ( (listen)), officially the Republic of Liberia, is a country on the West African coast. It is bordered by Sierra Leone to its northwest, Guinea to its north, Ivory Coast to its east, and the Atlantic Ocean to its south-southwest. It covers an area of 111,369 square kilometers (43,000 sq mi) and has a population of around 4,700,000. English is the official language and over 20 indigenous languages are spoken, representing the numerous ethnic groups who make up more than 95% of the population. The country's capital and largest city is Monrovia.

Liberia began as a settlement of the American Colonization Society (ACS), who believed black people would face better chances for freedom and prosperity in Africa than in the United States. The country declared its independence on July 26, 1847. The U.S. did not recognize Liberia's independence until February 5, 1862, during the American Civil War. Between January 7, 1822, and the American Civil War, more than 15,000 freed and free-born black people who faced legislated limits in the U.S., and 3,198 Afro-Caribbeans, relocated to the settlement. The settlers carried their culture and tradition with them. The Liberian constitution and flag were modeled after those of the U.S. On January 3, 1848, Joseph Jenkins Roberts, a wealthy, free-born African American from Virginia who settled in Liberia, was elected Liberia's first president after the people proclaimed independence.Liberia was the first African republic to proclaim its independence, and is Africa's first and oldest modern republic. It retained its independence during the Scramble for Africa. During World War II, Liberia supported the United States war efforts against Germany and in turn, the U.S. invested in considerable infrastructure in Liberia to help its war effort, which also aided the country in modernizing and improving its major air transportation facilities. In addition, President William Tubman encouraged economic changes. Internationally, Liberia was a founding member of the League of Nations, United Nations, and the Organisation of African Unity.

The Americo-Liberian settlers did not relate well to the indigenous peoples they encountered, especially those in communities of the more isolated "bush". The colonial settlements were raided by the Kru and Grebo from their inland chiefdoms. Americo-Liberians developed as a small elite that held on to political power, and indigenous tribesmen were excluded from birthright citizenship in their own land until 1904, in an echo of the United States' treatment of Native Americans. Americo-Liberians promoted religious organizations to set up missions and schools to educate the indigenous peoples.

In 1980 political tensions from the rule of William R. Tolbert resulted in a military coup during which Tolbert was killed, marking the beginning of years-long political instability. Five years of military rule by the People's Redemption Council and five years of civilian rule by the National Democratic Party of Liberia were followed by the First and Second Liberian Civil Wars. These resulted in the deaths of 250,000 people (about 8% of the population) and the displacement of many more, and shrank Liberia's economy by 90%. A peace agreement in 2003 led to democratic elections in 2005, in which Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected President. National infrastructure and basic social services were severely affected by the conflicts, with 83% of the population now living below the international poverty line.

Maghreb

The Maghreb (; Arabic: المغرب‎, translit. al-Maɣréb, lit. 'The West'), also known as Northwest Africa or Northern Africa, Greater Arab Maghreb (Arabic: المغرب العربي الكبير‎, translit. al-Maghrib al-ʿArabi al-Kabir), Arab Maghreb (Arabic: المغرب العربي‎, translit. al-Maghrib al-ʿArabi) or Greater Maghreb (Arabic: المغرب الكبير‎, translit. al-Maghrib al-Kabīr), or by some sources the Berber world, Barbary and Berbery, is a major region of North Africa that consists primarily of the countries Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania. It additionally includes the disputed territories of Western Sahara (mostly controlled by Morocco) and the cities of Melilla and Ceuta (both controlled by Spain and claimed by Morocco). As of 2018, the region has a population of over 100 million people.

In historical English and European literature, the region was known as the Barbary Coast or the Barbary States, derived from the native Berbers. Sometimes it was referred to as the Land of the Atlas, derived from the Atlas Mountains. In current Berber language media and literature, the region is part of what is known as Tamazgha.

The region is usually defined as much or most of northern Africa, including a large portion of Africa's Sahara Desert, and excluding Egypt, which is part of Mashriq. The traditional definition of the region that restricted it to the Atlas Mountains and the coastal plains of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya was expanded by the inclusion of Mauritania and of the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

During the era of Al-Andalus in the Iberian Peninsula (711–1492), the Maghreb's inhabitants, the Muslim Berbers or Maghrebis, were known by Europeans as "Moors", or as "Afariqah" (Roman Africans). Morocco transliterates into Arabic as "al-Maghreb" (The Maghreb).

Before the establishment of modern nation states in the region during the 20th century, Maghreb most commonly referred to a smaller area, between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlas Mountains in the south. It often also included the territory of eastern Libya, but not modern Mauritania. As recently as the late 19th century, Maghreb was used to refer to the Western Mediterranean region of coastal North Africa in general, and to Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, in particular.The region was somewhat unified as an independent political entity during the rule of the Berber kingdom of Numidia, which was followed by the Roman Empire's rule or influence. That was followed by the brief invasion of the Germanic Vandals, the equally brief re-establishment of a weak Roman rule by the Byzantine Empire, the rule of the Islamic Caliphates under the Umayyad Caliphate, the Abbasid Caliphate and the Fatimid Caliphate. The most enduring rule was that of the local Berber empires of the Almoravid dynasty, Almohad Caliphate, Hammadid dynasty, Zirid dynasty, Marinid dynasty, Zayyanid dynasty, and Wattasid dynasty - from the 8th to 13th centuries. The Ottoman Empire for a period also controlled parts of the region.

Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya established the Arab Maghreb Union in 1989 to promote cooperation and economic integration in a common market. It was envisioned initially by Muammar Gaddafi as a superstate. The union included Western Sahara implicitly under Morocco's membership, putting Morocco's long cold war with Algeria to a rest. However, this progress was short-lived, and the union is now dormant. Tensions between Algeria and Morocco over Western Sahara re-emerged, reinforced by the unsolved border dispute between the two countries. These two main conflicts have hindered progress on the union's joint goals and practically made it inactive as a whole. However, the instability in the region and growing cross-border security threats revived the calls for regional cooperation, with foreign ministers of the Arab Maghreb Union declaring a need for coordinated security policy in May 2015 at the 33rd session of the follow-up committee meeting, which revived hope of some form of cooperation.

Music of West Africa

The influence of 'The Music of West Africa' can be found in music elsewhere. Griots, wandering musicians, are found throughout the region.

SWAPO

The South-West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO), (pronunciation: ), (German: Südwestafrikanische Volksorganisation, SWAVO; Afrikaans: Suidwes-Afrikaanse Volks Organisasie, SWAVO) and officially known as SWAPO Party of Namibia, is a political party and former independence movement in Namibia. It has been the governing party in Namibia since the country achieved independence in 1990. The party continues to be dominated in number and influence by the Ovambo ethnic group.

In the general election held in November 2014, the party won 86.73% of the popular vote and 77 out of the 104 seats in the National Assembly as well as 40 out of the 42 seats in the National Council. As of November 2017, Namibian President Hage Geingob has been the president of SWAPO.

Slave Coast of West Africa

The Slave Coast is a historical name formerly used for parts of coastal West Africa along the Bight of Benin. The name is derived from the region's history as a major source of African slaves during the Atlantic slave trade from the early 16th century to the late 19th century. Other nearby coastal regions historically known by their prime colonial export are the Gold Coast, the Ivory Coast, and the Pepper Coast (or Grain Coast).

Slavery in Africa

This article discusses systems, history, and effects of slavery within Africa. See Arab slave trade, Atlantic slave trade, Maafa, and Slavery in contemporary Africa for other discussions.

Slavery has historically been widespread in Africa, and still continues today in some countries.

Systems of servitude and slavery were common in parts of Africa, as they were in much of the ancient world. In many African societies where slavery was prevalent, the enslaved people were not treated as chattel slaves and were given certain rights in a system similar to indentured servitude elsewhere in the world. When the Arab slave trade and Atlantic slave trade began, many of the local slave systems began supplying captives for slave markets outside Africa.Slavery in historical Africa was practiced in many different forms: Debt slavery, enslavement of war captives, military slavery, and criminal slavery were all practiced in various parts of Africa. Slavery for domestic and court purposes was widespread throughout Africa. Plantation slavery also occurred primarily on the eastern coast of Africa and in parts of West Africa. The importance of domestic plantation slavery increased during the 19th century due to the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade. Many African states dependent on the international slave trade reoriented their economies towards legitimate commerce worked by slave labor.

South West Africa

South West Africa (Afrikaans: Suidwes-Afrika; Dutch: Zuidwest-Afrika; German: Südwestafrika) was the name for modern-day Namibia when it was under South African administration, from 1915 to 1990.

Previously the colony of German South West Africa from 1884, it was made a League of Nations mandate of the British-ruled Union of South Africa following Germany's losses in World War I. Although the mandate was abolished by the UN in 1966, South African rule continued despite it being illegal under international law. The territory was administered directly by the South African government from 1915 to 1978, when the Turnhalle Constitutional Conference laid the groundwork for semi-autonomy. During an interim period between 1978 and 1985, South Africa gradually granted South West Africa a limited form of home rule, culminating in the formation of a Transitional Government of National Unity.

In 1990, South West Africa was granted independence as the Republic of Namibia with the exception of Walvis Bay and the Penguin Islands, which continued to remain under South African rule until 1994.

South West Africa campaign

The South West Africa Campaign was the conquest and occupation of German South West Africa (Namibia) by forces from the Union of South Africa acting on behalf of the British Imperial Government at the beginning of the First World War.

West Africa Squadron

The Royal Navy established the West Africa Squadron at substantial expense in 1808 after Parliament passed the Slave Trade Act of 1807. The squadron's task was to suppress the Atlantic slave trade by patrolling the coast of West Africa. With a home base at Portsmouth, it began with two small ships, the 32-gun fifth-rate frigate HMS Solebay and the Cruizer-class brig-sloop HMS Derwent. At the height of its operations, the squadron employed a sixth of the Royal Navy fleet and marines. In 1819 the Royal Navy established a West Coast of Africa Station and the West Africa Squadron became known as the (Preventative Squadron) it remained an independent command until 1856 and then again 1866 to 1867.

Between 1808 and 1860 the West Africa Squadron captured 1,600 slave ships and freed 150,000 Africans.

West Africa Time

West Africa Time, or WAT, is a time zone used in west-central Africa; with countries west of Benin instead using Greenwich Mean Time (GMT; equivalent to UTC with no offset). West Africa Time is one hour ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC+01), which makes it the same as Central European Time (CET) during winter, or Western European Summer Time (WEST) and British Summer Time (BST) during the summer.

As most of this time zone is in the tropical region, there is little change in day length throughout the year, so daylight saving time is not observed.

West Africa Time is used by the following countries:

Algeria (as Central European Time)

Angola

Benin

Chad

Cameroon

Central African Republic

Democratic Republic of the Congo (western side only)

Equatorial Guinea

Gabon

Morocco (as Central European Time)

Niger

Nigeria

Republic of the Congo

Tunisia (as Central European Time)

Western Sahara (as Central European Time)

West African Ebola virus epidemic

The most widespread outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in history began in 2013 and continued until 2016, causing major loss of life and socioeconomic disruption in the West African region, mainly in the countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. The first cases were recorded in Guinea in December 2013; later, the disease spread to neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone, with minor outbreaks occurring elsewhere. It caused significant mortality, with the case fatality rate reported at slightly above 70%, while the rate among hospitalized patients was 57–59%. Small outbreaks occurred in Nigeria and Mali, and isolated cases were recorded in Senegal, the United Kingdom and Sardinia. In addition, imported cases led to secondary infection of medical workers in the United States and Spain but did not spread further. The number of cases peaked in October 2014 and then began to decline gradually, following the commitment of substantial international resources. As of 8 May 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) and respective governments reported a total of 28,616 suspected cases and 11,310 deaths (39.5%), though the WHO believes that this substantially understates the magnitude of the outbreak.On 29 March 2016, the WHO terminated the Public Health Emergency of International Concern status of the outbreak. Subsequent flare-ups occurred; the last was declared over on 9 June 2016, 42 days after the last case tested negative on 28 April 2016 in Monrovia.The outbreak left about 17,000 survivors of the disease, many of whom report post-recovery symptoms termed post-Ebola syndrome, often severe enough to require medical care for months or even years. An additional cause for concern is the apparent ability of the virus to "hide" in a recovered survivor's body for an extended period of time and then become active months or years later, either in the same individual or in a sexual partner. In December 2016, the WHO announced that a two-year trial of the rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine appeared to offer protection from the strain of Ebola responsible for the West Africa outbreak. The vaccine has not yet been given regulatory approval, but it is considered to be so effective that 300,000 doses have already been stockpiled.

West African cuisine

West African cuisine encompasses a diverse range of foods that are split between its 16 countries. In West Africa, many families grow and raise their own food, and within each there is a division of labor. Indigenous foods consist of a number of plant species and animals, and are important to those whose lifestyle depends on farming and hunting.

The history of West Africa also plays a large role in their cuisine and recipes, as interactions with different cultures (particularly the Arab world and later Europeans) over the centuries have introduced many ingredients that would go on to become key components of the various national cuisines today.

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See also
Earth's primary regions

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