Western Africa is the westernmost region of the African continent. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Western Africa includes the following 16 countries distributed over an area of approximately 5 million square km: Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Cape Verde, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.
Colonial boundaries are reflected in the modern boundaries between contemporary Western African nations, cutting across ethnic and cultural lines, often dividing single ethnic groups between two or more countries.
Geography and climateEdit
Western Africa occupies an area in excess of 6,140,000 km², or approximately one-fifth of Africa. The vast majority of this land is plains lying less than 300 meters above sea level, though isolated high points exist in numerous countries along the southern shore of the region.
The northern section of West Africa is composed of semi-arid terrain, a transitional zone between the Sahara desert and the savannas of the western Sudan. forests form a third belt between the savannas and the southern coast, ranging from 160 km to 240 km in width.
Culture and religionEdit
Despite the wide variety of cultures in Western Africa, from Nigeria through to Senegal, there are general similarities in dress, cuisine, music and culture that are not shared extensively with groups outside the geographic region. Islam is the predominant historical religion of the West African interior and the far west coast of the continent; Christianity is the predominant religion in coastal regions of Nigeria, Ghana, and Cote d'Ivoire; and elements of indigenous religions are practiced throughout. Before the decline of the Mali and Songhai Empires there was a sizable group of Jewish communities in areas like Mali, Senegal, Mauritania, and Nigeria. Today there are small Jewish populations in Ghana, Nigeria and Mali. Along with historic migrations, these religions have culturally linked the peoples of West Africa more than those in other parts of Sub-Saharan Africa.
A typical formal attire worn in this region is the flowing Boubou (also known as Agbada and Babariga), which has its origins in the clothing of nobility of various West African empires in the 12th century.