History of West Africa

Topics: Africa, West Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa Pages: 176 (51580 words) Published: April 6, 2013
The history of West Africa is the long history of human movements, incursions, displacements, intermixtures of peoples, and of the impact of these on the beliefs, attitudes, social and political organization to the peoples West Africa. The history of West Africa can be divided into three major periods: first, its prehistory, second, colonial period, in which Great Britain and France controlled nearly the whole of the region and the post-independence era, in which the current nations were formed. 1.

Geographical location & regional environmental variation in brief

Without a geographical basis, such story of West Africa and any other country in the world would be like dead body having neither life nor motion at all. (Ajayi and Michael Crowder p1).
-Development of West Africa is often conditioned by the nature of environment with addition to the development of science and technology.
-West Africa occupies an area 2.4 million square miles, or approximately one-fifth of Africa. It extends roughly from 5 degrees to 25 degrees north latitude and from 17 degrees west to 15 degrees east longitude.

-West Africa constitute Benin, Burkina, Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, GuineaBissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo.
-West Africa is a very diverse region. It has desert landscapes and tropical rain forests. 1


Coastal belt

Forest belt

Savanna belt

Sahara belt


The coastal belt
- Dominated by lowlands between 0-200 km.
- It is true in some areas like Niger delta, there are few river inlets. - Temperature is high throughout the year (25 -300C)
- High rainfall (between 1500 – 2000) throughout the year
- Economic activities include cultivation of root tubers like kolanuts


The Forest belt
- Located in the Niger delta
- Mangrove swamps
- Economic activities fishing (supported by Niger River) and tree plants e.g. Palm



rubber, mahogany, etc

Savanna belt

- Covers 75% of historical West Africa.
- Receives rains between 1000-1500 mm but sometimes may decrease to 750mm. - Plenty of trees, tall grasses and free from tsetse flies
- Conducive for livestock keeping and cereal crop cultivation -Part as the Sahara desert
-Has few and scattered trees, shortage of grasses and tree, free from tsetse flies -Allows livestock keeping but in a small size compared to the savanna because of shortage of grasses.
4. The Sahara desert belt
- Out of West Africa but has great influence to the East of West Africa. - Trees are scarce
- Rains range between 250-500mm
- Sandy soils

- Hot throughout the year
- Human settlement along oases where livestock keeping (sheep) and cultivation of dates & wheat are done.
- Climatic changes, occurred, affect vegetation cover and climate itself

N.B Different sources show that there was no Sahara desert before but it was formed due to natural and human made activities. Desertification started even before Christ. The climate of the Sahara has undergone various variations between wet and dry over the hundred thousand years. Archeological evidence support the idea that Sahara was inhabited (evidence include remains of pottery, crops)

-Therefore, West Africa as in other places in the world experiences the increase of deterioration of the environment by wind, water and action of man. The major fact is that throughout history human activities have been a most potent factor of environmental modification.

-Marginal modification is more commonly the product of dete rioration of environment. E.g. both overgrazing and over cultivation can give rise to deterioration of grassland into desert. An example of this is ancient Ghana. The core of the former empire is now a desert.

West Africa population: Peoples and cultures unlike in East and Central Africa, there have been no spectacular/impressive archaeological finds...
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