The dawn of the 20th century saw the region around West Africa booming with revolutionary changes, among them a considerable growth in population. This consequently led to the rise of major cities as well as a divide in the political realm. Today, we have many independent states, all trying to grow into a close integration with the rest of the world politically and economically. Political stability determines the economic state of any sovereign state, and West Africa is no different.
It is, however, sad that despite gaining independence increasing in the count of people, it remains poor, comparing to most other parts of the world. There is a reason behind every state of a nation, and anyone studying the reason behind the economic backset in West Africa must understand why it seems to be lacking behind. While discussing these issues here, we cannot fail to mention the contemporary political situation, the traditional variations on the communities within West Africa. Our emphasis is on the region’s unity amidst the variety, which creates an excellent environment for a bright future.
Among the tropical regions, West African sits closest to Europe, only separated from the Arabs of North Africa and the Middle East. Much of the history of its people has close ties with this factor. It is, however, still a huge mystery how the region has tripartite relationship to the regions across the Northeast Atlantic and the Mediterranean seas. Modern Europeans can only see West Africa through history as far as half a millennium ago when the Portuguese started their exploration. For them, it was a route through to the east. The Arabs, on the other hand, have related to West Africa since the 11th century starting with the temporary expansion of Almoravids. They conquered many regions, expanding their territory beyond the Maghreb and stretch the coast heading towards the Senegal River. It is not clear why they never stayed long, and even those who planned to invade West Africa failed to carry out their plans.
One of the reasons for its failed contact with the outside ancient world could have been the harsh climatic conditions. On one side was the scorching sun of the Sahara while on the other stood the Atlantic coastline. Only a few were brave enough to risk the long journeys across the desert in a place where there was a poor transport system. These conditions started changing a bit 5000 years ago; making it creates a somehow more sustainable environment, one that has led to the future we see today.
The history of West African’s settlement and human habitation reveals a fascinating story considering the stretch towards western Sudan. This region was filled with extensive grasslands, offering some valuable minerals and an excellent path for the Niger River and many other streams flowing into the Atlantic Ocean. To the far south of the savannah grassland stood dense tropical rain forests, swamps, and other natural features that made it impossible for ships to pass through. The eastern side, where lies the Congo basin, is a corridor extending far beyond Lake Chad, all the way into the Nile. Since no human being could have loved to stay in the wet forest lands, there is clear evidence of less population, as in the case of West Africa. Those indigenous cultures that lived within the savannah’s interior of Niger remain complicated and ancient, no with a comparison in the world.
There is a glimpse, with Arabian historians of Sudanic empires from Ghana and Mali of the Middle Ages, of how great wealth became the foundation of civilization, which opened ways for major political achievements. The population seemed more concentrated here. Much of the gold in the Mediterranean region originated from West African before Americas was discovered. The area was also a major producer of tropical products and slaves, as recorded in major historical stories. For several millennia, the historical development of the region has had a close link with its northern neighbors. One could have assumed this to be the most united region, but that is not the case as there fragmented communities of remote fishermen, farmers, and gatherers, as well as dwellers of urbanized states.
For 500 years, West Africa has been in a close commerce relation with Europe and the rest of the world. This has led to its separation into two major zones. On one side is the developed region with seemingly great economy and political stability, while on the other is the neglected and depopulated wastelands. In the coastal zone are great metropolitan ports like Lagos, Cotonou, and Abidjan which distribute different products to the rest of the world. The interior only remains as a source for cheap labor, with only skulls of the trans-Saharan trade living in legendary tales.
After the end of colonial rule, further divisions came in with many people now living in balkanized cluster. There are sixteen English-speaking and French-speaking states today, all dwarfed by Nigeria, which carries more than 160 million people. This is more than half the total population in West Africa and a sixth of the whole sub-Saharan Africa. It accounts for over two-thirds of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS). Leaders across the region have trying to promote national identity without much success owing to the factor of a single people formed and owns a nation. Success, if any, can only be inspired by Burkina Faso and Mali, who may have a firmer ethnic foundation, but even this has been drastically reversed. The departing colonialism left a hard task of many ethnic groups, which other nations must resolve first.
Today, West African Remains among the poorest regions and one with the most significant division both economically and politically. They are all small states, except Nigeria, and stand as passive members in the international community. Its economy runs towards foreign trade as machine revolution has failed to transform the people. The hot and humid climate in the region does not make things any easier. The unusually wet coastal forest zone and the dry interior doesn’t make things any easier. It leaves inhabitants vulnerable to endemic diseases, perhaps one of the reasons derailing political, economic development. Despite these factors, the region remains with great potential for sustainable development. If her people were to unite, it would be unmatched in the whole of Africa.
Mar 10, 2020