West Africa, also called Western Africa and the West of Africa, is the westernmost subregion of Africa. West Africa has been defined as including 18 countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, the island nation of Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, the island of Saint Helena, Senegal, Sierra Leone, São Tomé and Príncipe and Togo. The population of West Africa is estimated at about 362 million people as of 2016. Islam is the predominant religion of 70% of the population, with smaller amounts practicing Christianity and Traditional African religions.
Main article: History of West Africa
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-Africa, and extra-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 controlled nearly the entire region; and fifth, the post-independence era, in which the current nations were formed.
Prehistory [ edit ]
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