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Western Africa

Western Africa is an area with a great span of geography, bioregions and cultures.

Western Africa is generally considered to include the following countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. The Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola, are usually considered to be part of Central Africa.

The modern boundaries between the West African nations are often a reflection of the old colonial boundaries, cutting across ethnic and cultural lines, often dividing single ethnic groups between two or more countries.

The southern and western borders of the region is the Atlantic Ocean. The northern border is the Sahara Desert, with the Niger Bend generally considered the northmost part of the region. The eastern border is less precise. Some place it at the Benue Trough, others on a line running from Mount Cameroon to Lake Chad, and others use the less precise border between Bantu and non-Bantu.

Historically, the area was home to several major African Empires, including the Mali Empire, Songhai Empire and the Ghana Empire. It was one of the world's great civilized regions, with the great city of Timbuktu being one of the most important centers of trade and learning in the Old World. Prosperous and cultural active states thrived in Western Africa for many centuries, although a variety of forces including the slave trade and climactic change in Western Africa led to these state's gradual decline.

Lying entirely within the tropics and sandwiched between the Sahara to the north and the equatorial Atlantic to the south, Western Africa displays a gradual change in climate from hot, wet and humid in the south to very hot and dry in the north. Most areas in Western Africa experience a single wet season, whose duration increases from three months in the north to 11 to 12 months along the southwest coast. Annual rainfall is more than 3,000 millimeters (120 inches) in the south and around 500 millimeters (20 inches) in Senegal to the north.

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