West Africa region: countries, landscapes and areas

West Africa borders the Sahara desert and consists largely of low plains, desert steppes and savannas, the Sahel. Between the savannas and the Atlantic west coast of Africa, lush tropical rainforests form a green strip, through which the Niger River flows in a crescent shape. A wide variety of flora and fauna can be found in the rainforest region of western Africa.

To land

of sixteen countries according to the United Nations composition of continental regions . The British overseas island of Saint Helena in the Atlantic Ocean is also included.

  • Benin
  • Burkina Faso
  • Ivory Coast
  • Gambia
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Cape Verde
  • Liberia
  • Mali
  • Mauritania
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Senegal
  • Sierra Leone
  • Togo


Areas and landscapes in West Africa

The Sahel

‘coast’ in Arabic , indicating the coast (edge) of the Sahara desert. It is a wide transitional region of savannas, desert steppes and lowlands where it is quite dry and warm. South of here begins a humid tropical area. The strip runs all the way from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. The West African countries of Senegal, Gambia, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria are located in the Sahel. As well as the northern parts of Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo and Benin. Many Sahel countries are among the poorest in the world. Most people who live here are poor. The population survives by keeping livestock, such as cows and goats. But especially in very dry periods and other disasters, they have few reserves.

The Air Mountains

The Aïr Mountains are located in the north of Niger. This mountain range is a triangular mountain massif with heights of almost 2000 meters. The landscape consists of blue marble, black basalt and high sand dunes of the Sahara desert. It almost never rains in this area. Tuaregs, members of a Berber tribe, live here. These are nomads, they often wear the traditional blue clothing and indigo-colored turbans. The Aïr Mountains are best known for the petroglyphs of prehistoric man.

The Atlantic Ocean

The west coast of Africa borders the Atlantic Ocean. The coastline includes sandy beaches, mangrove swamps and lagoons. Behind it are lowlands and hilly landscapes, and further inland the tropical forests begin. The population lives from fishing and agriculture, among other things. In addition to many other marine animals, the endangered West African manatee (manatee) lives in the water off the coast, but also in the lagoons of estuaries, large rivers and lakes. Cape Verde is located off the coast of Mauritania and Senegal, which consists of a group of islands of volcanic origin. The British island of Saint Helena is located in the south of the Atlantic Ocean, about 2,800 kilometers west of Angola.

The Niger

The Niger River is approximately 4,200 kilometers long and has its source in the mountains of Guinea. The river flows in a crescent shape through Guinea, Mali, Niger, Benin and Nigeria. There is a tropical climate along the banks of the Niger. The Niger flows through a large delta (estuary) into the Gulf of Guinea. Crocodiles and hippos live in the river.

The tropical rainforest

The southern part of West Africa consists largely of tropical rainforest. It is warm and humid here, there is a lot of rain and many plant and animal species live here. Mammals such as the African forest elephant, African golden cat, the giant forest pig and many species of monkeys, including the gorilla and the West African chimpanzee. Many native bird species also live in the rainforest, such as the African gray parrot. It is a beautiful area, which is unfortunately seriously threatened by deforestation. This results in climate change through erosion and flooding, causing the extinction of plants and animals.

Colonial times and slave trade

In the 1480s, Europeans moved to West Africa in search of gold. Many Dutch, Portuguese, English and French colonies have been founded, especially in the coastal regions. The trade in gold, ivory and pepper increased, as did the slave trade. Many thousands of slaves were exported from West Africa every year, mainly to America. The slaves were used for work in gold mines and sugar plantations, among other things. As a result of colonization, French and English influences are still clearly noticeable throughout West Africa, including in the official language.


In West Africa, the longest-lasting and most common group is black Africans. Within this group there are hundreds of different tribes with major cultural differences and traditions. This makes it difficult for them to live together. Together with the attractiveness of the climate, the mineral resources and the fertile soil, this is the reason why western Africa has suffered so much from wars and other conflicts between all these groups. Music plays a major role in western Africa, it is part of life. Song and dance and the rhythm and sound of, for example, the djembe drum. Some of the most important population groups:

  • Hausa, most of these people live in Nigeria. The language they speak is also called Hausa, it is the most widely used language in West Africa.
  • Fulani, the largest nomadic group in the world, also called Fulbe. They live in many countries in West Africa.
  • Mandinka, an ethnic group living in Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Burkina Faso, Mali and Ivory Coast.