Welcome to a journey through the West African countries!
The land split into two drastically different climates. The dry Saharan desert and the more life friendly green Atlantic coast and the Niger River. Let us dig deeper into this region and find out what lies beneath it’s surface, shall we?
What is considered West Africa?
Quite a good amount of countries actually!
Starting all the way west from the Atlantic Ocean and making our way inward, West Africa expands all the way to the outskirts of Niger and Nigeria. From atop Mauritania, Mali and Niger; all the way down to Togo, Ghana, the Ivory coast and other nations on the Atlantic coast as you’re about to learn below.
Let us now look at the countries that make up Western Africa.
The Republic of Benin has its southern coast on the Bight of Benin which is part of the Gulf of Guinea. That should provide enough proof that the country is in West Africa. Benin spans a landmass of 114,763 square kilometers and has a population of 10.88 million.
The official language of the country is French. Even though Porto-Novo is the capital of Benin, all the economic and political activities take place in the city of Cotonou. The agricultural sector contributes most to the GDP and provides the most employment.
On the westernmost part of Africa, the country of Burkino Faso occupies 274,200 square kilometers of land area. Burkina Faso has a population of over 17.3 million. The capital of the country is Ouagadougou and its official language is French.
More than 80% of Burkinabes work in agriculture. This earnings from this sector make up 32% of the country’s GDP. The mining of mining of copper, iron, manganese, gold, cassiterite (tin ore), and phosphates also contribute to the economy of the country. In 2011, Burkina Faso became the fourth largest gold-producer in Africa.
The Republic of Cabo Verde consists of 10 volcanic islands in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of West Africa. Together the islands cover 4,000 square kilometers and an estimated population of 512,000. Cape Verde has the highest standard of living in West Africa.
The capital of the island nation is Praia. In 2007, the UN assigned developing country status to the island nation. The country’s commerce, transport, and public services sectors contribute the most to the country’s GDP. Among the country’s few mineral resources are salt and limestone.
The Republic of Côte d’Ivoire is in yes, West Africa. The country occupies 322,463 square kilometers and has a population of about 24 million. The country’s capital, Yamoussoukro is the seat of the government, however, the city of Abidjan sees the most economic activity.
About 78 languages inclusive of French, their official language, are spoken in Côte d’Ivoire. The country’s per capita income is just as high as the number of languages spoken. Côte d’Ivoire has the largest economy in West Africa, is the largest exporter of cocoa beans in the world.
Gambia is the country in West Africa pretty much swallowed up by Senegal. The Gambia River runs through the center of the country so you do not have to look far if you are wondering where the country got its name. It empties into the Atlantic Ocean which borders Gambia to the west.
The Republic of Gambia occupies 10,689 square kilometers and is the smallest country on the mainland of Africa. An estimated 1,882,450 people make up the country’s population. The capital is Banjul and the economy barely survives on farming, fishing, and tourism.
The Republic of Ghana is a country in West Africa. Within its southern border on the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean, Ghana has some of the most beautiful beaches in Africa. Ghana covers 238,535 square kilometers and has a population of about 27 million.
The capital of Ghana is Accra. Ghanaians enjoy a multicultural society and a prosperous economy. Hydrocarbons, industrial minerals and precious minerals contribution to the nation’s GDP. The county continues to make huge advancements in technology and industrialization and by 2020 hopes to become a developed country.
The Republic of Guinea is another country on the never ending list of countries in West Africa. It occupies 245,860 square kilometers and has a population of 10.5 million. The population consists of Muslims. The official language of the country is French but the people speak over 24 languages.
The country’s economic center is in its capital, Conakry. Guinea is the second largest bauxite producer in the world and is rich in gold and diamond deposits. Most Guineans however, farm in order to make a living.
Liberia, a landlocked country in West Africa covers 111,369 square kilometers of the Africa’s land surface. The 4,503,000 people of Liberia speak over 20 languages among themselves with English acting as their official language.
The economic and political center of Liberia is its capital Monrovia. The country exports iron ore, rubber, and timber but Liberia remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Liberia is Africa’s oldest and most modern republic.
Another landlocked country in West Africa is the Republic of Mali. It covers1,240,000 km2 of land space which makes it the 8th largest country in Africa. Mali has a population of 14.5 million people and its capital Bamako.
The Islamic Republic of Mauritania is an Arab country in the Maghreb region of West Africa. The country’ s 4 million inhabitants occupy 10% of 1,030,000 km2 of Mauritania. The rest is the Sahara desert. The country’s capital Nouakchott occupies prime real estate on the Atlantic Coast. It also holds approximately 90% of the country’s population.
The country has oil but the population depends largely on agriculture to earn money and feed their families. Surprisingly, Mauritania still practices slavery with 4% of the population enslaved against their will. About 20% of the population live on less than $1.25 a day.
Covering 1,270,000 square kilometers, Niger is the largest country in West Africa. The Sahara dessert, however, covers over 80% of Niger’s land space. The capital of Niger, Niamey is in the southwestern part of the country.
The country’s 19 million inhabitants occupy the south and western parts of Nigeria. The most dominant religion in Niger is Islam. The economy of the country depends on subsistence farming and the exportation of a few of its crops and livestock.
The Federal Republic of Nigeria like a few West African countries has a coast on the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean. Nigeria covers a land area of 923,768 square kilometers. Its very large economy and its large population of about 190 million give it the name ‘Giant of Africa.’
In 2015, Nigeria had the 20th largest economy in the world. A mover and shaker in the African region, Nigeria has a well developed financial sector, telecommunications sector, and transport sector.
It also has the second largest stock exchange in Africa. Among its many natural resources are natural gas, coal, bauxite, tantalite, and gold.
What to read next: Most beautiful churches in Nigeria.
Senegal is a country in West Africa. Its capital Dakar is at the western end of the country. A population of about 15 million calls the 197,000 km2 of land space that Senegal occupies home. Their official language is French but they speak a variety of other languages in their daily activities,
The economy of Senegal relies on its food processing, mining, cement, chemicals, refining imported petroleum, and tourism industries. There is also a thriving export market. Exports include fish, chemicals, cotton, fabrics, groundnuts and calcium phosphates.
Sierra Leone is a country in West Africa bordered on the west by the Atlantic Ocean. The country covers just 71,740 square kilometers and has a population of about 7 million, consisting of mostly Muslims. The language of the government is English but Sierra Leoneans speak the Krio language.
Sierra Leone is rich in mineral resources. The country mines diamond, gold, is one of the largest exporters of titanium and bauxite, and one of the largest rutile deposits in the world. Surprisingly, 70% of the population live below the international poverty line.
Occupying just 57,000 km2 of the African land mass, Togo is one of the smallest countries in West Africa and on the continent. The country of Togo has an estimated population of 7.5 million. The official language of the country is French but the diverse population speaks a variety of other languages.
The capital Lome sits on the Gulf of Guinea. Togo enjoys a vibrant economy and has one of the highest standards of living on the continent. The country exports phosphates and agricultural crops such as coffee, peanut and cocoa beans.
Plus the islands of:
- Saint Helena
- Ascension & Tristan da Cunha.
Final say on West Africa
Hopefully you’ve learned a great deal about the western region of the African continent by reading the above. If you ever find yourself traveling to West Africa, don’t forget to bring a positive attitude and an explorers spirit; this land is rich with adventure and good people with countless traditions.
You may also like: 10 Beautiful Churches, Mosques and Monasteries in Togo.