The West Africa Region has an estimated area of 5 Million (sq m) situated westward of the continent. West Africa shares a common unique entity in terms of culture and the language traits. The region is made up of sixteen countries all been members of the regional bloc Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
West Africa in the sixteen and nineteenth century respectively fell victim to slavery and colonialism.
Slavery and Colonization:
After the collapse of the ancient Songhai Empire in the 16th century, different states in the West African region began to spring up. This division in the region drew in several European colonialists like the Portuguese, French and the English who were interested much in trading. The Portuguese who had settled quicker along major coast seem to emerge as West Africa major trading partners in 1445 C.E. The Great Britain and France, who were also interested in the region, began to export slaves from West Africa.
The lucrative business of the slave trade established states like Dahomey and the Bambara Empire which sold thousands of slaves to rich European traders in return for valuable goods and firearms.
The 19th century came with it some strong laws that put an end to slavery. The American government and the European government respectively enacted laws that stopped the trans-Atlantic importation of slaves from West Africa and Africa in general. Brazil was the last country to stop the shipping of slaves in 1888.
The West African region in the 19th century witnessed huge reforms and interventions by the European forces. Western Sudan was captured by the Fulani Jihadist who demanded for both legislative and social change. Another jihad champion against Bambara by Mal. Seku Amadu is said to give birth to the modern day Mali.
Painting of Slaves Traffic in the West Coast of Africa (C.E Wagstaff. UK. Chicago History Museum)
In the midst of its internal crisis, the region became a prey for both the British and French Forces. As both colonialist fought to amass more territories, the struggle for the ownership of Africa raged on leading to the capturing of kingdoms and Empires.
Even though strong moves were put in place by the small and under developed West African army to resist the invading and capturing of new territories by the colonialists, their resistance could not match with the strong British and French Armies.
The invasion of West Africa by the colonialists saw the British controlling West African countries like Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Ghana and Gambia. The French controlled Senegal, Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Niger and Guinea. The Guinea-Bissau was claimed to be founded by the Portuguese while the West African Country of Togo is still been claimed by the German even though it was split after WW1 between Britain and France. Today, the Anglophone West African Countries are Liberia, Ghana and Sierra Leone while the Francophone countries includes; Guinea, Guniea Bissau, Senegal, Mali, Niger, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Benin and Togo
Do you know?
That even though Mauritania is part of West Africa it is not a member of the Economic Community of West African States. And that only Liberia was the only West African Country not colonized.