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 ██ Western Africa (UN subregion) ██ Maghreb

██ Western Africa ( UN subregion)

██ Maghreb

West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region of the African continent. Geopolitically, the UN definition of Western Africa (which coincides with common reckonings of the region) includes the following 16 countries:
The Maghreb, an Arabic word meaning "western", is a region in northwest Africa comprised of Morocco (including Western Sahara), Algeria, Tunisia, and (sometimes) Libya (see North Africa).The UN region also includes the island of Saint Helena, a British overseas territory in the South Atlantic Ocean.West Africa is an area with a great span of geography, bioregions, and cultures. It is oriented west of an imagined north-south axis, principally on what is known as the Bulge of Africa. The Atlantic Ocean forms the western and southern borders of the region. The northern border is the Sahara Desert, with the Niger Bend generally considered the northernmost part of the region. 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 nations, cutting across ethnic and cultural lines, often dividing single ethnic groups between two or more countries.

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Geography and climate
Regional organizations

Geography and climate - Contents

West Africa 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 countries along the southern shore of the Bulge.The northern section of West Africa is composed of semi-arid terrain known as Sahel, a transitional zone between the Sahara desert and the savannahs of the western Sudan to the south. Equatorial forests form a third belt between the savannahs and the southern coast, ranging from 160 km to 240 km in width.

Culture - Contents

The game Oware is quite popular in many parts of West Africa. Football is also a pastime enjoyed by many, either spectating or playing. The national teams of some West African nations, especially Nigeria, regularly qualify for the World Cup. Mbalax music and oral history as conveyed over generations by Griots are typical of west african culture.

History - Contents

The history of West Africa can be divided into five major periods: first, its prehistory, in which the first human settlers arrived, agriculture developed, and contact made with the Mediterranean civilizations to the north; the second, the Iron Age empires that consolidated trade and developed centralized states; third, the slave-trading kingdoms, jihads, and colonial invaders of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; fourth, the colonial period, in which France and Great Britain controlled nearly the whole of the region; fifth, the post-independence era, in which the current nations were formed.

Early human settlers, probably related to the Pygmies, arrived in West Africa around 12,000 BCE. Sedentary farming began around the fifth millennium, as well as the domestication of cattle. By 400 BCE, ironworking technology allowed an expansion of agricultural productivity, and the first city-states formed. The domestication of the camel allowed the development of a cross-Saharan trade with Mediterranean cultures, including Carthage and the Berbers; major exports included gold, cotton cloth, metal ornaments and leather goods, which were then exchanged for salt, horses, and textiles.

The development of the region's economy allowed more centralized states to form, beginning with the Soninke Ghana Empire in the eighth century. Based around the city of Kumbi Saleh in modern-day Mauritania, the empire came to dominate much the region until its defeat by Almoravid invaders in 1052. 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, Kankan Musa I before a succession of weak rulers led to its collapse under Mossi, Tuareg and Songhai invaders. In the fifteenth century, the Songhai would form a new dominant state based around Gao, the Songhai Empire, under the leadership of Sonni Ali and Askia Mohammed. Meanwhile, south of the Sudan, strong city states arose in Ife, Bono, Arochukwu, and Benin around the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Further east, Oyo arose as the dominant Yoruba state and the Aro confederacy as a dominant Igbo state in modern-day Nigeria.

Slavery and colonialism
Following the 1591 destruction of the Songhai capital by Moroccan invaders, a number of smaller states arose across West Africa, including the Bambara Empire of Ségou, the Bambara kingdom of Kaarta, the Peul/ Malinké kingdom of Khasso, and the Kénédougou Empire of Sikasso. Portuguese traders began establishing settlements along the coast in 1445, followed by the French and English; 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 Bambara Empire and Dahomey, whose economies largely depended on exchanging slaves for European firearms, which were then used to capture more slaves.In the early nineteenth century, a series of Fulani reformist jihads swept across the Western Sudan. 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, West African military resistance to colonial rule came to an effective end.Britain controlled the Gambia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, and Nigeria throughout the colonial era, while France unified Senegal, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, Côte d'Ivoire 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 World War I. Only Liberia retained its independence, at the price of major territorial concessions.

Postcolonial era
Following World War II, nationalist movements arose across West Africa, most notably in Ghana under Kwame Nkrumah. In 1957, Ghana became the first sub-Saharan colony to achieve its independence, followed the next year by France's colonies; by 1974, West Africa's nations were entirely autonomous. Since independence, many West African nations have been plagued by corruption and instability, with notable civil wars in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Côte d'Ivoire, and a succession of military coups in Ghana and Burkina Faso. Many states have failed to develop their economies despite enviable natural resources (see: Petroleum in Nigeria), and political instability is often accompanied by undemocratic government. AIDS is also a growing problem for the region, particularly in Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia, and Nigeria. Famine has been a problem in parts of northern Mali and Niger, the latter of which is currently undergoing a food crisis.

Regional organizations - Contents

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.Every country of West Africa is also a member of the African Union except Morocco.
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