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WEST AFRICA, also called WESTERN AFRICA and the WEST OF AFRICA, is the westernmost subregion of Africa
Africa
. West
West
Africa
Africa
has been defined as including 18 countries: Benin
Benin
, Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso
, the island nation of Cape Verde
Cape Verde
, Gambia , Ghana
Ghana
, Guinea
Guinea
, Guinea-Bissau , Ivory Coast , Liberia
Liberia
, Mali
Mali
, Mauritania
Mauritania
, Niger
Niger
, Nigeria
Nigeria
, the island of Saint Helena , Senegal
Senegal
, Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone
, São Tomé and Príncipe and Togo
Togo
. The population of West
West
Africa
Africa
is estimated at over 349 million people as of 2015. Islam
Islam
is the predominant religion of 70% of the population, with smaller amounts practicing Christianity
Christianity
and Traditional African religions .

CONTENTS

* 1 List of countries

* 2 History

* 2.1 Prehistory * 2.2 Empires * 2.3 Slavery and European contact * 2.4 Colonialism * 2.5 Postcolonial eras

* 3 States

* 3.1 Area

* 4 Cities

* 5 Geography and climate

* 5.1 Background

* 6 Transport

* 6.1 Rail transport * 6.2 Road transport * 6.3 Air transport

* 7 Culture

* 7.1 Traditional architecture * 7.2 Clothing * 7.3 Cuisine * 7.4 Recreation and sports

* 7.5 Music

* 7.5.1 Griot and Praise-singing

* 7.6 Film industry

* 8 Religion
Religion

* 8.1 Islam
Islam
* 8.2 African traditional * 8.3 Christianity
Christianity

* 9 Demographics and languages

* 10 Economic and regional organizations

* 10.1 Women\'s peace movement

* 11 Gallery

* 11.1 Cityscapes of largest cities * 11.2 Capital cities of West
West
Africa
Africa

* 12 See also * 13 References * 14 Further reading * 15 External links

LIST OF COUNTRIES

REGION COUNTRY

Western Africa

Benin
Benin

Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso

Cape Verde
Cape Verde

Ivory Coast

Gambia

Ghana
Ghana

Guinea
Guinea

Guinea-Bissau

Liberia
Liberia

Mali
Mali

Mauritania
Mauritania

Niger
Niger

Nigeria
Nigeria

Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha

(United Kingdom)

Senegal
Senegal

Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone

Togo
Togo

HISTORY

Main article: History of West
West
Africa
Africa

The history of West
West
Africa
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
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
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
Africa
around 12,000 B.C. 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
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
Sahara
, including Carthage
Carthage
and the Berbers ; major exports included gold , cotton cloth, metal ornaments, 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
Africa
and Europe
Europe

The development of the region's economy allowed more centralized states and civilizations to form, beginning with the Nok culture that began in 1000 B.C. and the Ghana
Ghana
Empire that first flourished between the 9th and 12th centuries, which later gave way to the Mali
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 . Also, based on the archaeology of city of Kumbi Saleh in modern-day Mauritania, the Mali
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
Gao
and Kanem .

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
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
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
West
African medieval state in the present-day southeastern Nigeria
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
Nigeria
,. Established in the 15th century, the Oyo Empire grew to become one of the largest West
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
Benin
to the west.

The Benin
Benin
Empire was a pre-colonial empire located in what is now southern Nigeria
Nigeria
. Its capital was Edo, now known as Benin
Benin
City
City
, Edo . It should not be confused with the modern-day country called Benin
Benin
, formerly called Dahomey
Dahomey
. The Benin
Benin
Empire was "one of the oldest and most highly developed states in the coastal hinterland of West
West
Africa, dating perhaps to the eleventh century CE",. The Benin
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
Haarlem
. " Olfert Dapper , a Dutch writer, describing Benin
Benin
in his book _Description of Africa
Africa
_ (1668) ". Its craft was the most adored and treasured bronze casting in the history of Africa. It was annexed by the British Empire
British Empire
in 1897 during the invasion and scramble of Africa.

SLAVERY AND EUROPEAN CONTACT

Main article: Atlantic slave trade West
West
Africa
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
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
Bambara Empire
and Dahomey
Dahomey
, whose economic activities include but not limited to exchanging slaves for European firearms .

COLONIALISM

French in West
West
Africa
Africa
circa 1913

In the early 19th century, a series of Fulani
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
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
West
African military resistance to colonial rule resulted in failure.

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

POSTCOLONIAL ERAS

Following World War II
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
Guinea
in 1958 under the leadership of President Ahmed Sekou Touré); by 1974, West
West
Africa's nations were entirely autonomous.

Since independence, many West
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
Ghana
and Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso
.

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

* Nigerian Civil War
Nigerian Civil War
* First Liberian Civil War * Second Liberian Civil War * Guinea-Bissau Civil War * Ivorian Civil War * Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone
Rebel War

STATES

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

* BENIN * BURKINA FASO * CAPE VERDE * IVORY COAST * GAMBIA * GHANA * GUINEA * GUINEA-BISSAU * LIBERIA * MALI * NIGER * NIGERIA * SENEGAL * SIERRA LEONE * TOGO * CAMEROON

Geopolitically , the United Nations
United Nations
definition of Western Africa includes the preceding states with the addition of Mauritania
Mauritania
(which withdrew from ECOWAS in 1999), comprising an area of approximately 6.1 million square km. The UN region also includes the island of Saint Helena , a British overseas territory in the south Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
.

AREA

In the United Nations
United Nations
scheme of African regions , the region includes 17 states and the island of Saint Helena
Saint Helena
, an overseas territory : Mali
Mali
, Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso
, Senegal
Senegal
and Niger
Niger
are mostly in the Sahel
Sahel
, a transition zone between the Sahara
Sahara
desert and the Sudanian Savanna , Benin
Benin
, Cote d\'Ivoire , Gambia , Ghana
Ghana
, Guinea
Guinea
, Guinea-Bissau , Liberia
Liberia
, Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone
, Togo
Togo
, and Nigeria
Nigeria
compose Guinea
Guinea
, the traditional name for the area near the Gulf of Guinea
Guinea
, Cape Verde
Cape Verde
is an island country in the Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
, Mauritania
Mauritania
lies in the Maghreb
Maghreb
, the northwestern region of Africa
Africa
that has historically been inhabited by both traditionally West
West
African groups such as the Fulani , Soninke and Wolof , along with Arab-Berber Maghrebi people . Due to its 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
North Africa
.

CITIES

Major cities in West
West
Africa
Africa
include:

* Abidjan
Abidjan
, Ivory Coast * Accra
Accra
, Ghana
Ghana
* Bamako , Mali
Mali
* Benin
Benin
City
City
, Nigeria
Nigeria
* Conakry , Guinea
Guinea
* Dakar
Dakar
, Senegal
Senegal
* Freetown , Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone
* Ibadan , Nigeria
Nigeria
* Kaduna , Nigeria
Nigeria
* Kano
Kano
, Nigeria
Nigeria
* Kumasi , Ghana
Ghana
* Lagos
Lagos
, Nigeria
Nigeria
* Lomé , Togo
Togo
* Ouagadougou , Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso
* Port Harcourt , Nigeria
Nigeria

GEOGRAPHY AND CLIMATE

West
West
Africa, broadly defined to include the western portion of the Maghreb
Maghreb
( Western Sahara , Morocco
Morocco
, Algeria
Algeria
, and Tunisia
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
West
Africa.

_WEST AFRICA TROPICAL ECOZONE_

Benin
Benin
Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso
Gambia Ghana
Ghana
Guinea-Bissau Guinea
Guinea
Ivory Coast Liberia
Liberia
Mali
Mali
Mauritania
Mauritania
Nigeria
Nigeria
Niger
Niger
Senegal
Senegal
Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone
Togo
Togo

STATE THE BIOSTATE LOCATION IN AFROTROPIC

Satellite imagery from outer space of West
West
Africa
Africa

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

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

BACKGROUND

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

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

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

TRANSPORT

RAIL TRANSPORT

Main article: ECOWAS rail

A Trans-ECOWAS project, established in 2007, plans to upgrade railways in this zone. One of the goals of the Economic Community of West
West
African States (ECOWAS) is the development of an integrated railroad network. 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
Lagos
, Cotonou
Cotonou
, Lomé and Accra
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 3⁄8 in) metre gauge systems, which would require four rail dual gauge , which can also provide standard gauge .

ROAD TRANSPORT

Main article: Trans– West
West
African Coastal Highway
Highway

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

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

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

AIR TRANSPORT

The capital's airports include:

* Cadjehoun Airport
Cadjehoun Airport
(COO) International; Cotonou, Benin * Ouagadougou Airport (OUA); Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso * Amílcar Cabral International Airport (SID); Praia, Cape Verde * Banjul International Airport (BJL) International; Banjul, Gambia * Kotoka International Airport (ACC); Accra; Ghana * Conakry International Airport (CKY); Conakry, Guinea * Osvaldo Vieira International Airport (OXB); Bissau, Guinea-Bissau * Port Bouet Airport
Port Bouet Airport
(ABJ); Abidjan, Ivory Coast * Roberts International Airport (ROB); Monrovia, Liberia * Bamako–Sénou International Airport (BKO); Bamako, Mali * Diori Hamani International Airport (NIM); Niamey, Niger * Murtala Muhammed International Airport (LOS); Lagos, Nigeria * Saint Helena
Saint Helena
Airport ; Jamestown, Saint Helena * Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport (DKR); Dakar, Senegal * Lungi International Airport (FNA); Freetown, Sierra Leone * Lomé–Tokoin Airport (LFW); Lomé, Togo

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

CULTURE

Despite the wide variety of cultures in West
West
Africa, from Nigeria through to Senegal
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
Ghana
Empire (proper: Wagadou Empire), Mali Empire or perhaps before these empires.

TRADITIONAL ARCHITECTURE

A street and airport in the famous town of Timbuktu
Timbuktu
, Mali
Mali
, showing the Sudano-Sahelian architectural style of the West
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
West
African family life or strict distinction between the private and public worlds needed to maintain taboos or social etiquette.

CLOTHING

_ A man in the Boubou (or Agbada_), a traditional robe symbolic of West
West
Africa
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
West
Africa
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
Kaftan
(also known as _Agbada_ and _Babariga_), which has its origins in the clothing of nobility of various West
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. 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
Ghana
and Ivory Coast ), who wear them as a gesture of national pride.

CUISINE

Main article: West
West
African cuisine _ Jollof rice
Jollof rice
or Benachin_, one of many Pan– West
West
African dishes found only in West
West
Africa
Africa

Scores of foreign visitors to West
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
West
African cuisines have had a significant influence on those of Western civilization for centuries; several dishes of West
West
African origin are currently enjoyed in the Caribbean (e.g., the West
West
Indies and Haiti
Haiti
); Australia; the USA (particularly Louisiana
Louisiana
, Virginia
Virginia
, North and South Carolina
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.

West
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. Rice is also a staple food, as is the Serer people 's sorghum couscous (called "_Chereh_" in Serer ) particularly in Senegal
Senegal
and the Gambia . Jollof rice
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; Mafé (proper: "_Tigh-dege-na"_ or _Domodah_) from Mali
Mali
(via the Bambara and Mandinka ) —a peanut-butter stew served with rice; Akara (fried bean balls seasoned with spices served with sauce and bread) from Nigeria
Nigeria
is a favourite breakfast for Gambians and Senegalese, as well as a favourite side snack or side dish in Brazil
Brazil
and the Caribbean
Caribbean
just as it is in West
West
Africa. It is said that its exact origin may be from Yorubaland in Nigeria. Fufu
Fufu
(from the Twi language , a dough served with a spicy stew or sauce for example okra stew etc.) from Ghana
Ghana
is enjoyed throughout the region and beyond even in Central Africa
Africa
with their own versions of it.

RECREATION AND SPORTS

See also: West
West
Africa
Africa
cricket team 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. The major multi-sport event of West
West
Africa
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
West
Africa, the Ghana
Ghana
national football team , the Ivory Coast national football team , and the Nigeria
Nigeria
national football team regularly win the Africa
Africa
Cup of Nations . Major football teams of West
West
Africa
Africa
are Asante Kotoko SC and Accra
Accra
Hearts of Oak SC of the Ghana
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
West
Africa
Africa
is the West
West
African Football Union (WAFU) and the major tournament is the West
West
African Club Championship and WAFU Nations Cup , along with the annual individual award of West African Footballer of the Year .

MUSIC

Main article: Music of West
West
Africa
Africa
The talking drum is an instrument unique to West
West
Africa.

Mbalax , Highlife , Fuji and Afrobeat
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 .

Griot And Praise-singing

Kora-playing Griots in Senegal
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
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
West
African culture in Mande , Wolof , Songhay , Moor 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
Mali
, Senegal
Senegal
, Mauritania
Mauritania
and Guinea
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
West
Africa, primarily among the Hausa , Mossi , Dagomba and Yoruba in the area encompassing Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso
, northern Ghana
Ghana
, Nigeria
Nigeria
and Niger
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
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

Main article: Cinema of Nigeria
Nigeria

Nollywood of Nigeria, is the main film industry of West
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
Hollywood
. Senegal
Senegal
and Ghana
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

Further information: Islam
Islam
in Africa
Africa
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
West
Africa. It is listed an UNESCO World Heritage Site .

Islam
Islam
is the predominant religion of the West
West
African interior and the far west coast of the continent (70% of West
West
Africans); and was introduced to the region by traders in the 9th century. Islam
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. Ethnic intermarriage and shared cultural icons are established through a superseded commonality of belief or community, known as ummah . Traditional Muslim areas include Senegal , Gambia , Mali
Mali
, Mauritania
Mauritania
, Guinea
Guinea
, Niger
Niger
; the upper coast and inland two-thirds of Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone
and inland Liberia
Liberia
; the western, northern and far-eastern regions of Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso
; and the northern halves of the coastal nations of Nigeria
Nigeria
, Benin
Benin
, Togo
Togo
, Ghana
Ghana
and Ivory Coast .

AFRICAN TRADITIONAL

Further information: Traditional African religion
Traditional African religion
See also: West African Vodun Voodoo altar with several fetishes in Abomey , Benin
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. Although traditional beliefs vary from one place to the next, there are more similarities than differences.

CHRISTIANITY

Christianity
Christianity
, a relative newcomer introduced from the late 19th to mid-to-late 20th centuries, is associated with the British and French colonisation eras. As Western Christianity , it includes predominantly Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism . It has become the predominant religion in the central and southern part of Nigeria
Nigeria
, and the coastal regions stretching from southern Ghana
Ghana
to coastal parts of Sierra Leone . Like Islam, elements of traditional African religion are mixed with Christianity. This religion was brought to the region by European missionaries during the colonial era.

DEMOGRAPHICS AND LANGUAGES

West
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
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
West
Africa
Africa
bordering Central Africa
Africa
. The population of West
West
Africa
Africa
is estimated at 340 million people as of 2015.

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

Map of petroleum and natural gas within West
West
Africa
Africa

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), founded by the 1975 Treaty of Lagos
Lagos
, is an organization of West
West
African states which aims to promote the region's economy. The West
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
United Nations
Security Council Resolution 1325 in 2000, women have been engaged in rebuilding war-torn Africa. Starting with the Women of Liberia
Liberia
Mass Action for Peace and Women in Peacebuilding Network (WIPNET), the peace movement has grown to include women across West
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
Ghana
. The organization has a presence in Ghana, Nigeria
Nigeria
, Ivory Coast , Liberia
Liberia
and Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone
. Regional leaders of nonviolent resistance include Leymah Gbowee
Leymah Gbowee
, 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
Sudan
and Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe
, mobilizing African women to petition for peace and security.

GALLERY

CITYSCAPES OF LARGEST CITIES

Bird\'s-eye view of the West
West
Africa
Africa
City
City
of Lagos
Lagos
, Lagos State , Nigeria
Nigeria
Bird\'s-eye view of the West Africa
Africa
City
City
of Abuja
Abuja
, Federal Capital Territory , Nigeria
Nigeria
Bird\'s-eye view of the West
West
Africa
Africa
City
City
of Accra
Accra
, Greater Accra
Accra
, Ghana
Ghana
Bird\'s-eye view of the West
West
Africa City
City
of Abidjan
Abidjan
, Lagunes , Ivory Coast Bird\'s-eye view of the West
West
Africa
Africa
City
City
of Kumasi , Ashanti , Ghana
Ghana
Bird\'s-eye view of the West
West
Africa
Africa
City
City
of Port Harcourt , Rivers State , Nigeria
Nigeria

CAPITAL CITIES OF WEST AFRICA

* Capital cities of West
West
Africa

*

Praia
Praia
, Cape Verde
Cape Verde
*

Dakar
Dakar
, Senegal
Senegal
*

Lomé , Togo
Togo
*

Porto-Novo
Porto-Novo
, Benin
Benin
*

Niamey
Niamey
, Niger
Niger
*

Ouagadougou , Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso
*

Freetown , Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone
*

Banjul , Gambia *

Conakry , Guinea
Guinea
*

Bissau
Bissau
, Guinea-Bissau *

Monrovia , Liberia
Liberia
*

Bamako , Mali
Mali
*

Jamestown , Saint Helena
Saint Helena
*

Georgetown , Ascension Island *

Tristan da Cunha , Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha

SEE ALSO

* Africa
Africa
portal * Geography portal

* Ajami * Ebola virus epidemic in West
West
Africa
Africa
* Manillas , a form of archaic money unique to West
West
Africa * N\'Ko script * Nsibidi Script , an indigenously developed West
West
African writing system * Vai syllabary * West
West
African Craton * Western Sahara

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