West Africa - Mr. Tchakerian's Memorial HS Courses
West Africa Physical Geography of West Africa The Ebri Lagoon is the largest lagoon in West Africa with a surface area of 218 square miles. Lagoons run parallel to the shoreline of many West African nations. In the south-central part of West Africa are the Guinea Highlands. This mountainous plateau rises several thousand feet above the coastal plains in southeastern Guinea, northern Sierra Leone, Liberia, and northwestern Cte dIvoire. The plateau contains the Nimba Range, the Loma Mountains, and the Tingi Mountains. These highlands are covered with savanna and rain forest. In the southeast are the Cameroon Highlands, which lie between Nigeria and Cameroon. Forest and grasslands with a rich biodiversity cover these highlands.
They form part of a chain of former volcanoes that stretch inland from the sea. The largest and only active one of these volcanoes is Mount Cameroon, which rises to a height of 13,353 feet . The Ebri Lagoon Guinea Highlands Water Systems The water systems of West Africa are not only important to wildlife but to people as well.
The lagoons and mangrove swamps are important parts of the coastal ecosystem of the sub region The Atlantic Ocean provides fish. Lake Chad, in west-central Africa, is bordered by Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Cameroon. Lake Chad has shrunk by about 90 percent, but it is still vital to the region for irrigation of farmland and fishing.
Lake Volta is a human-made lake and is the fourth-largest reservoir in the world. A reservoir is an artificial or natural lake where water is stored and used to supply farms, homes, and businesses in the area with freshwater. The Niger River, which runs about 2,600 miles (4,183 km), is the thirdlongest river in Africa. The Niger is the main river of western Africa. Commercial shipping takes place on about 80 percent of the river. Climate
In the north, where some countries of West Africa border the Sahara, the climate is hot and dry with very little rainfall. Parts of the African Transition Zone are steppe, with low-growing grasses, shrubs, and acacia trees. This area receives about 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 cm) of rainfall a year. South in West Africa, the land slowly becomes savanna. During the rainy season, the average rainfall here is about 15 to 25 inches a month. The rainy season begins in May and ends in November as warm, moist air is drawn from the Gulf of Guinea. Resources Oil, natural gas, coal, gold, and uranium deposits are just some of the
natural resources found in West Africa. Diamonds from Africa have been referred to as conflict diamonds, or blood diamonds. Conflict diamonds are diamonds that are mined in a war zone. Often the money from the sale of diamonds in these areas is used to finance war. For example, during the conflict in Sierra Leone in the 1990s, rebels used forced labor to mine diamonds. These diamonds were then sold in neighboring countries and then in European markets. The money earned from these sales was used to finance the civil war in Sierra Leone. African Diamond Mine Empires of West Africa
The first empire to emerge in West Africa was the Ghana Empire. It became one of the richest trading civilizations of West Africa. Empire profited from its location midway between the salt mines in the Sahara and the gold mines farther south. Archaeologists believe the empire began around A.D. 300. It lasted until about the thirteenth century.
During its time as a trading empire, the kingdom prospered by imposing taxes on trade goods. Muslim traders from North Africa sent caravans of goods and salt across the Sahara to Ghana. Gold from Ghana was traded for salt. Muslim traders also brought Islamic beliefs and customs to the kingdom. Eventually, many Ghanaians converted to Islam. Ghana Empire
Empires of West Africa The Mali Empire developed after the small state of Kangaba broke away from Ghana. Sundiata Keita, one of Malis early kings, helped Mali flourish. He took over Timbuktu and made it an important center of trade and scholarship. Songhai broke from Mali after the death of Malis most well-known king, Mansa Musa. Sunni Ali Ber conquered the cities of Timbuktu and Djenn, expanding his
empire to include most of the West African savanna. The empire prospered until about A.D. 1600, when it fell to the Moroccans. The kingdom of Benin, which occupied the area of present-day Nigeria, developed into an important power from the thirteenth to the nineteenth century. Benin Empire started in the 1400s. Between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries, the kingdom grew in wealth and power through trade with the Portuguese and Dutch. By the nineteenth century, however, infighting weakened the kingdom. At the same time, suppression of the slave trade, from which Benin had greatly profited, led to the kingdoms decline. The Colonization of Africa
European countries laid claim to territories in Africa causing disputes over territory. At the Berlin Conference between 1884 and 1885, 14 European countries met in an effort to sort out how territory would be divided. With no African input at the Berlin Conference, colonial boundaries were drawn with little regard for African ethnic boundaries. One example of this is in Nigeria, where boundaries were drawn that merged Muslim societies with animist cultures. As Christianity was introduced, additional tensions emerged. These and other issues set African peoples against one another and strengthened European rule.
Decolonization and Difficulties Europeans had colonies in West Africa until the mid-1900s. Years of strife affected many of the countries. In Nigeria, for example, the boundaries drawn by the colonial powers led to increasing tensions between Muslims and Christians. 2009 the Nigerian government began fighting against a militant Islamist group that sought to establish an Islamist state in Nigeria. Corruption in government is another huge problem. Nigerian leaders stole billions of dollars paid by foreign companies for oil extraction rights. Some believe they stole close to 400 billion.
Changes in infrastructure and culture produced by European colonization continued even after independence. The countries economies were still dependent on providing raw materials to European countries. They were largely unable to revive their traditional cultural knowledge and practices that had been lost during colonization. Population Patterns Africas population is increasing rapidly. Most people in West Africa live along the coast and river plains. About half of the people in West Africa live in crowded urban locations. West Africa is one of the most populous regions of Africa, and the country of Nigeria has the largest population of any country in Africa. Lagos, the commercial center of Nigeria, is Africas largest city with an
estimated population of more than 20 million. In 2012, about 170 million people lived in Nigeria. By 2025, the countrys population is projected to exceed 190 million.
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