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French West Africa

French West Africa (Afrique occidentale française, or AOF) was a federation of eight French territories in Africa: Mauritania, Senegal, French Sudan (now Mali), Guinea, Côte d'Ivoire, Niger, Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) and Dahomey (now Benin).

Originally created in 1895 as a union of Senegal, French Sudan, Guinea and Côte d'Ivoire only, the federation was placed on a permanent footing in 1904 with a governor-general based first in Saint-Louis, then (from 1902) in Dakar, both in Senegal, the oldest French settlement.

The federation ceased to exist after the September 1958 referendum on the future French Community, in which the constituent territories voted to became autonomous republics except for Guinea, which voted overwhelmingly for independence. Côte d'Ivoire, Niger, Upper Volta and Dahomey subsequently formed the short-lived Sahel-Benin Union, later the Conseil de l'Entente.

With an area of some 4,689,000 km² (mostly the desert or semi-desert interior of Mauritania, Soudan and Niger) extending from Africa's westernmost point at Cape Verde to the depths of the Sahara, the federation contained rather more than ten million inhabitants at its creation and some 25 million at its dissolution.

Postage stamps

The territories issued their own postage stamps until 1943, although in many cases the stamps were inscribed with the name of the federation as well as the colony's own name. In 1943 and 1944, stamps of Senegal and Mauritania were overprinted with new values and valid throughout French West Africa. The first issues printed specifically for the federation were the Eboue common design type and a definitive series depicting colonial soldiers, both in 1945.

A series of 1947 featured 19 scenes and people of the various colonies, then during the 1950s there were about 30 various commemoratives. The last issue inscribed "Afrique occidentale française" and "RF" was the Human Rights issue of December 1958; it was followed by a Stamp Day issue on March 21, 1959, which omitted the federation's name and was inscribed "CF" along with "Dakar-Abidjan".

All of the stamps of French West Africa are common and inexpensive, both mint and used, many of them valued at the minimum price. The most expensive is the Vridi Canal airmail stamp of 1951, which is about 10 US$ in mint condition.