West Africa occupies about one fifth of the area of Africa and has a total land area of approximately 6,143,000 square kilometres. The main offshore islands include Sao Tome, Principe, Fernando Po, Annobon and Cape Verde which occupy another land area of 1400 sq km. Thus, the overall land area of West Africa has a regional extent of about 3200km from west to east and 1200km from north to south.
The countries with large land areas include Niger(1,204 sq. km), Mali(1,189 sq. km), Mauritania(1,085 sq. km) and Nigeria(923,768 sq. km).
West Africa is located between longitude 15 degrees east and 18 degrees west and latitude 4 degrees north and 20 degrees north.
West Africa is found in the western part of Africa. It is bounded to the West and South by the Atlantic Ocean, to the East by the Republic of Cameroun, Adamawa, Mandara Mountains and Lake Chad, its Northern boundary is the Sahara Desert.
West Africa is made up of fifteen mainland countries and other offshore islands. These countries are grouped according to the major languages they speak, that is, English, French and Portuguese languages.
- Anglophone Countries: These countries speak English as their official language. Examples include; Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Gambia.
- Francophone Countries: These countries speak French as their official language. Examples include; Republic of Benin, Togo, Niger, Cote D’ivoire, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Senegal, Mali and Mauritania.
- Portuguese countries: The only country in this group is Guinea Bissau. The people speak Portuguese. Out of these countries, Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso are popularly referred to as landlocked countries because they do not have access to the coast.
Landlocked countries refer to those countries which do not have any access or boundaries with the coast or oceans. Examples include: Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad.
PROBLEMS OF LANDLOCKED COUNTRIES
- They depend economically on other countries.
- There is always insecurity of goods.
- They experience high freight cost.
- They depend politically on other countries.
- There is also political instability.
- They experience loss of revenue due to smuggling and inability to control duties.