West Africa

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**Historical Overview**:
– West Africa’s history spans prehistory, Iron Age empires, major polities, the colonial period, and the post-independence era.
– Prehistoric populations in West Africa interacted throughout history.
– Notable civilizations include Dhar Tichitt, Djenné-Djenno, Ghana, Mali, Songhai, and more.
– European contact led to the Atlantic slave trade and subsequent colonial exploitation.
– Post-independence, countries like Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, and Senegal played significant roles in regional and global economies.

**Population and Demographics**:
– West Africa’s population was estimated at 419 million in 2021, making it one of the fastest-growing regions in Africa.
– The region’s demographic diversity and growth contribute to its economic significance.
– The United Nations defines West Africa as 16 countries, with a population that is the third-largest in Africa.
– Gender distribution in the region is nearly equal.
– Key countries like Nigeria, Ghana, and Senegal play crucial roles in the regional and global economies.

**Ecology and Wildlife Conservation**:
– West Africa boasts rich biodiversity and distinct regions, influenced by the Sahara and the Atlantic Ocean.
– The region faces threats from economic development pressures, leading to deforestation, biodiversity loss, and pollution.
Climate change poses additional challenges to West Africa’s ecological balance.
Wildlife conservation efforts include protected nature reserves like Bandia Nature Reserve and Yankari National Park.
– Deforestation is a significant issue, with countries like Nigeria, Liberia, Guinea, Ghana, and Ivory Coast experiencing large losses of rainforest.

**Geography, Climate, and Natural Resources**:
– West Africa covers over 6,140,000 km², with diverse geography including plains, the Sahel, forests, and the Sahara.
– Mauritania faces locust plagues affecting crops and water sources.
– The region’s climate is divided into different zones like the Guinea Coast, Soudano-Sahel, Sahel, and Sahara.
– Natural resources like cocoa, coffee, tropical timber, and gold are significant exports.
– Overfishing threatens fish stocks, food security, and livelihoods in West Africa.

**Infrastructure and Development**:
– Transportation projects like the Trans-ECOWAS railway aim to upgrade rail networks in West Africa.
– The Trans-West African Coastal Highway links 12 coastal states and connects landlocked countries like Mali and Burkina Faso.
– Efforts are ongoing to improve healthcare infrastructure in the region, addressing challenges like malaria, Ebola, limited access to healthcare in rural areas, and high maternal and child mortality rates.
Climate change, urbanization, and population growth impact the region’s development and natural resources.
– Geopolitical divisions and historical legacies influence West Africa’s economic and social dynamics.

West Africa (Wikipedia)

West Africa or Western 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, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo, as well as Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha (United Kingdom Overseas Territory). The population of West Africa is estimated at 419 million people as of 2021, and at 381,981,000 as of 2017, of which 189,672,000 were female and 192,309,000 male. The region is demographically and economically one of the fastest growing on the African continent.

West Africa
  Western Africa (UN subregion)
Area5,112,903 km2 (1,974,103 sq mi) (7th)
Population418,544,337 (2021 est.) (3rd)
381,981,000 (female: 189,672,000; male: 192,309,000 (2017 est.)
Density49.2/km2 (127.5/sq mi)
DemonymWest African
Dependencies Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
Time zonesUTC−1 to UTC+1
Major Regional OrganizationsEconomic Community of West African States (ECOWAS; established 1975)
Total GDP (PPP)US$2.091 trillion (2022) (23rd)
GDP (PPP) per capita$2,500 (2013)
Total GDP (nominal)$810 billion (2023)
Total GDP (nominal) per capita$1,937 (2023)
Largest cities
UN M.49 code011 – West Africa
202Sub-Saharan Africa

Early history in West Africa included a number of prominent regional powers that dominated different parts of both the coastal and internal trade networks, such as the Mali and Gao Empires. West Africa sat at the intersection of trade routes between Arab-dominated North Africa and further south on the continent, the source of specialized goods such as gold, advanced iron-working, and ivory. After European exploration encountered rich local economies and kingdoms, the Atlantic slave trade built on already existing slave systems to provide labor for colonies in the Americas. After the end of the slave trade in the early 19th century, European nations, especially France and Britain, continued to exploit the region through colonial relationships. For example, they continued exporting a number of extractive goods, including labor-intensive agricultural crops like cocoa and coffee, forestry products like tropical timber, and mineral resources like gold. Since independence, many West African countries, like Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal, have played important roles in the regional and global economies.

West Africa has a rich ecology, with strong biodiversity and several distinct regions. The area's climate and ecology are heavily influenced by the dry Sahara to the north and east, which provides dry winds during the Harmattan, as well as the Atlantic Ocean to the south and west, which provides seasonal monsoons. This mixture of climates gives West Africa a rich array of biomes, from biodiversity-rich tropical forests to drylands supporting rare and endangered fauna such as pangolins, rhinoceros, and elephants. Because of the pressure for economic development, many of these ecologies are threatened by processes like deforestation, biodiversity loss, overfishing, pollution from mining, plastics and other industries, and extreme changes resulting from climate change in West Africa.

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