Today, West Africa (including 'Equatorial' Africa) comprises: three sovereign Commonwealth nations -- Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone -- with a combined population of over 44 million (17); 14 republics formerly under French rule (14-16) -- population about 30 million; independent Liberia (11/2 million); and a few fragmentary British, Portuguese and Spanish dependencies (11/4 million). The rush to sovereignty has been particularly sweeping here (H). In 1956 only Liberia was independent (18). Then came Ghana in 1957, Guinea in 1958, Nigeria and 13 ex-French territories in 1960, Sierra Leone in 1961 (14-21).
The jigsaw pattern that has emerged is one of purely 'black' African communities, but divided by their different heritages (I); by their attitudes towards the former ruling powers; and by differences between (a) the Moslem and mainly conservative northern belt, strongly influenced in the past by contacts across the Sahara (E, 1), (b) the coastal south -- generally more developed and eager for change -- and (c) the small but distinctive and wholly detribalized coastal African communities, especially in Sierra Leone and Liberia (18).
Although the Portuguese arrived in the 15th century, and later Spaniards, French, English, Dutch, Swedes, Danes and Germans won coastal footholds (F), no European control was extended inland until the 1880's (G). A vigorous French drive, from north, west, and south, to reach the upper Niger and Lake Chad, later encircled the British, German and Portuguese territories and prevented their enlargement. But the impressive extent of the French domain was misleading, for it included most of the Sahara and the thinly peopled 'Equatorial' territories (16). The densest population was in British Nigeria. Germany's colonial effort in Togo (19) and Cameroons (21) was short-lived, its colonies being divided by Britain and France after 1918.
The competitive 'scramble' inland from coastal footholds produced such curious 'strip' territories as Gambia, Togo and Dahomey, and cut many tribes in two, leaving the now emerging states several problems. Transport has also developed in separate systems. For instance, the Lake Chad area's trade with the coast has tended to go round through ex-French territory rather than directly across Nigeria; Volta's railway goes to Ivory Coast, not down river to the closer Ghana ports.
New political trends, however, cut across the division into ex-