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West Africa

West Africa is an area with a great span of geography, bioregions, and cultures. The continent of Africa is principally oriented on a north-south axis, with a bulge to the west, and it is this bulge which may be considered West Africa. However, the term is usually restricted to the sub-Saharan areas of this western bulge.

The coast of this area of Africa is on the south Atlantic Ocean, much of it trending east-west. Portions of this coast were once known as the Grain Coast, the Gold Coast, and the Ivory Coast. The slave trade was conducted in this area; most African Americans are descended from slaves transported from West Africa.

The coast is largely tropical, and a belt of tropical forest once followed the coast through most of this area. North and inland from this area, the land opens into savanna, then the Sahel.

Nations in this area (with the former colonial powers that controlled them), bordering the Atlantic, from northwest to southeast are:

Interior countries include: Colonial boundaries as reflected in the modern boundaries between contemporary West African nations, cut across ethnic and cultural lines, often dividing single ethnic groups between two or more countries.

Historically, the area was home to several major African empires, including: