West Africa – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Posted By on July 14, 2015

West Africa Area 5,112,903 km2 (7th) Population 340,000,000 (2013 est.) (4th) Density 49.2/km2 (127.5/sq mi) Demonym West African Countries Time zones UTC+0 to UTC+1 Major Regional Organizations Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS; established 1975) Total GDP (PPP) $ 752.983 Billion (2013) (23rd)[2] GDP (PPP) per capita $ 2,500 (2013)[3] Total GDP (nominal) $ 655.93485 Billion (2013)[4][5] Total GDP (nominal) per capita $ 1,929.22 (2013)[4] Currency Largest cities Lagos,Nigeria Abidjan,Ivory Coast Accra,Ghana Abuja,Nigeria Kumasi,Ghana Port Harcourt,Nigeria

West Africa, also called Western Africa and the West of Africa, is the westernmost subregion of the African continent. West Africa has been defined in Africa as including the 18 countries Benin, Burkina Faso, the island of Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, the island of Saint Helena, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sao Tome and Principe and Togo.[6]

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-African, and extra-African 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 whole of the region; fifth, the post-independence era, in which the current nations were formed.

Early human settlers from northern Holocene societies arrived in West Africa around 12,000 B.C.[dubious discuss] 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 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.

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 Empire that first flourished between the 1st and 3rd 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 Mand peoples. 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.

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 and Benin City 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.

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 Asante Empire, Bambara Empire and Dahomey, whose economic activities include but not limited to exchanging slaves for European firearms.

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.

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West Africa - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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