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West and Central Africa. Preview Section 1: Natural Environments Section 2: History and Culture Section 3: The Region Today Chapter Wrap-Up. Section 1: Natural Environments. Read to Discover What are West and Central Africa’s main landforms and rivers?

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west and central africa

West and Central Africa


Section 1:Natural Environments

Section 2:History and Culture

Section 3:The Region Today

Chapter Wrap-Up

section 1 natural environments
Section 1: Natural Environments

Read to Discover

  • What are West and Central Africa’s main landforms and rivers?
  • Which climates and biomes are found here?
  • What are some of the region’s important resources?

Section 1: Natural Environments

West and Central Africa

Natural Resources

Climates and Vegetation

Landforms and Rivers

Tropical timber

Good soils

Oil, particularly in Nigeria

Minerals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Cacao in Côte d’Ivoire

Coconuts and peanuts

Zonal climate, mostly tropical

Warm throughout the year

Arid/semiarid to north

Tropical wet and dry to south

Plains and low hills

Some highland areas

Broad depressions

El Djouf

Congo River

Niger River

section 1 natural environments1
Section 1: Natural Environments
  • Plains and low hills; a few highlands
  • Broad depressions—El Djouf (desert), Lake Chad, Congo Basin
  • Key rivers—Niger and Congo
  • Coastal plain, with few natural harbors and large sandbars

Landforms and Rivers

section 1 natural environments2
Section 1: Natural Environments
  • All within the tropics; zonal climate bands run east-west
  • Arid—Northern zone; Sahara; Sahel semiarid region; scattered trees, shrubs, grasses
  • Tropical wet and dry—South of Sahel; open grasslands; once home to many large animals (zebras, elephants, giraffes), now much of it is farmland
  • Tropical humid—Near equator; dense rainforest; many birds, insects, primates

Climates and Biomes

section 1 natural environments3
Section 1: Natural Environments
  • Tropical timber, good soils
  • Oil—Nigeria is Africa’s leading producer
  • Minerals—Copper, diamonds, cobalt in Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Cacao—World’s main source
  • Other crops—Coffee, coconuts, peanuts

Key Resources

section 2 history and culture
Section 2: History and Culture

Read to Discover

  • What are the main eras in the history of West and Central Africa?
  • What are some features of this region’s cultures?

Section 2: History and Culture


What are the important events and eras in the history of West and Central Africa?


Early History

Great kingdoms, including Ghana and Mali, ruled the region.

Tombouctou served as a trade and education center.

European Contact

Explorers reached area by late 1400s.

Slave trade of 1500s to 1800s brought at least 10 million Africans to Americas.

Colonial Era

European countries wanted African resources.

Many Africans began to work for wages.

Postcolonial Era

All of West and Central Africa was independent by 1976.

Some countries enjoy modern technology but also face many challenges.

Section 2: History and Culture

section 2 history and culture1
Section 2: History and Culture

Historical Eras

  • Precolonial—This era saw the rise of great empires, including Ghana and Mali, along with smaller groups of forest peoples. European contact by explorers began in the late 1400s and changed focus with the slave trade.
  • Colonial—European powers took control of the region, establishing plantations, mines, and coastal cities.
  • Postcolonial—Ghana was the first to win independence in 1957; others followed. Colonialism created dependence on commodity exports and political and economic problems.
section 2 history and culture2
Section 2: History and Culture
  • Great diversity—Reflecting African, Muslim, European influences
  • Most languages in Niger-Congo family; Arabic and European languages also used
  • Mainly rural residents, but urban populations growing rapidly
  • Religions—Islam in the Sahel; Christians to the south; African spirit religions
  • Low literacy rates, high poverty
  • Staple crops—Cassava, corn, yams, millet, sorghum
  • Societies based on extended families

Cultural Features

section 3 the region today
Section 3: The Region Today

Read to Discover

  • How economically developed are West and Central African countries?
  • What major challenges do the countries face today?

Section 3: The Region Today


To what extent are West and Central African countries economically developed?


Economic Development of West and Central Africa

Subsistence Activities

• Sahel grasslands used for herding

• Many crops planted in tropical rain forest

• Many crops planted in one field

Market Activities

• Primary goods exported

• Heavy dependence on a few main exports

• Small amount of manufacturing

• Plantation agriculture, ranching

Section 3: The Region Today

section 3 the region today1
Section 3: The Region Today

Level of Development

  • Developing countries—Poverty, low levels of education, shorter lifespans
  • Dual economies—For export market and local market
  • Plantation agriculture and ranches hurt subsistence farming and grazing
  • Dependence on export of a few key primary products
section 3 the region today2
Section 3: The Region Today


  • Economic development
  • Population growth—Crowding, hunger
  • Political problems—War and conflict
  • Environmental destruction—Deforestation, species extinction, desertification
  • Disease—Malaria, HIV

Chapter Wrap-UpUnderstanding the Main Ideas

1. In which latitudes are the countries of West and Central Africa located? How does this affect the region’s climates?

2. What is the environment of the Sahel like?

3. How did Islam spread into West and Central Africa?

4. In which part of West and Central Africa is Arabic spoken?

5. How has rapid population growth affected cities in West and Central Africa?