West Africa is made up of the Sahel region (semi-arid savannas) and tropical forests and grasslands. The region is rich in natural resources such as cocoa, diamonds, iron ore, gold, uranium, coffee, rice, cotton, fish and petroleum.
West Africa consists of 16 countries and over 1.9 million square miles. The population of West Africa is nearly 382 million people total. Boasting well over 190 million people, Nigeria has the largest population in West Africa and the entire continent of Africa. In terms of world population, Nigeria ranks as the seventh most populous country in the world.
West Africa has a rich and far-reaching history. Around 12,000 B.C. early human settlers arrived in the region. Over time the settlers began sedentary farming and eventually made contact with people farther north. The Iron Age empires (1500 B.C.) marked a time when trade began between West Africans and the rest of Africa. Later, politics began to form in West Africa. In the 1400's, Great Britain and France began controlling the region. Between 1650 and 1900, it is estimated that more than 55 percent of the 10 million enslaved Africans taken to the Americas, Europe and the Caribbean were from West Africa. After WWII the region became independent and the current West African countries were formed.
Many of Africa's largest and most populous ethnic groups are found in West Africa. In Nigeria alone, the Yoruba population contains well over 30 million people, which is more than five million people over the population of Texas. More than 54 percent of the population of West Africa identifies as Muslims.
The West African nation of Ghana is the second largest producer of cocoa in the world. West Africa is also home to Lake Volta, the world's largest artificial lake.