Country: BENIN
AAQS region: Western
Area in km2: 112 622
Capital: Porto-Novo
Approximate population: 6 000 000
Languages: French, Bariba, Fulani, Fon & Yonuba
Currency: Franc (CFAF)
Brief history: It is an agricultural country with many subsistence farmers. It exports crops such as oil palms and coca grow in the wetter, densely settled south. The north of the country is savannah grassland. Beautiful wildlife parks and a sandy coast offer potential for tourism

Country: BURKINA -FASO
AAQS region: Western
Area in km2: 274 200
Capital: Ouagadougou
Approximate population: 12 000 000
Languages: French, Mossi, many local languages
Currency: Franc (CFAF)
Brief history: Burkina lies on the edge of the Sahara. Its rainfall is low and variable and temperatures are high, allowing some crops and forage for livestock to grow. The Volta River, from which Burkina's former name of Upper Volta derives, provides potential for agricultural development

Country: CAPE VERDE
AAQS region: Western
Area in km2: 4033
Capital: Praia
Approximate population: 400 000
Languages: Portuguese, Creole
Currency: Escudos
Brief history: It gained independence in 1975. Despite the highland rising to 2829m the islands suffer serious droughts. Fishing and farming are the main occupations. The beaches offer potential for tourism

Country: THE GAMBIA
AAQS region: Western
Area in km2: 11 295
Capital: Banjui
Approximate population: 1 400 000
Languages: English, Mandinka, Fula, Wolof other local languages
Currency: Dalasi
Brief history: The country is dominated by the Gambia river, which is also a trade artery for Senegal. Fishing, groundnut cultivation, coastal tourism and subsistence farming are the main economic activities

Country: GHANA
AAQS region: Western
Area in km2: 238 537
Capital: Accra
Approximate population: 19 500 000
Languages: English, many local languages
Currency: New Cedi
Brief history: Between the 15th and 19th century, Ghana was known as the Gold Coast since it was the source of gold and slaves for European traders. Ghana was relatively rich during independence. Cocoa, oil palm and rubber all grown in the south, were major exports as was gold. Subsistence farming and livestock dominated the economies of the drier and less fertile centre. The country is poor and economic mismanagement caused the decline of export crops in favour of subsistence farming. Debt repayments are high

Country: GUINEA
AAQS region: Western
Area in km2: 245 857
Capital: Conakry
Approximate population: 7 600 000
Languages: French, Soussou,Manika, other local languages
Currency: Franc (FG)
Brief history: It became one of the world's poorest countries under the repressive rule of Sekou Toure. In the 1990s democracy was established and trading links with the West opened up. The land is well-watered and fertile, but the basis of the economy lies in rich deposits of minerals such as bauxite

Country: GUINEA- BISSAU
AAQS region: Western
Area in km2: 36 125
Capital: Bissau
Approximate population: 1 200 000
Languages: Portuguese, Creole
Currency: Franc (CFAF)
Brief history: It gained independence from Portugal in 1974. It is a poor country. The main cash crop is groundnuts, but there are unexploited resources such as large areas of forest

Country: IVORY COAST
AAQS region: Western
Area in km2: 322 462
Capital: Yamoussoukro
Approximate population: 16 000 000
Languages: French, many local languages
Currency: Franc (CFAF)
Brief history: Between the 15th and 19th century trade in ivory and slaves drew Europeans to the Ivory Coast. Since independence in 1960, relatively outward-looking policies have been pursued. Electrification has proceeded, there is good road network and an efficient railway from Abidjan provides neighbouring Burkina with its only rail link to the sea. Abidjan is the centre for a major coastal tourist industry based on long sandy beaches. It is the world's leading cocoa producer. Most of the population is engaged in subsistence and cash crop farming

Country: LIBERIA
AAQS region: Western
Area in km2: 97 754
Capital: Monrovia
Approximate population: 3 000 000
Languages: English, many local languages & dialects
Currency: Liberia Dollar
Brief history: During the 20th century, large rubber plantations and a sizable fleet of ships trading under Liberia's flag of convenience have financed development. Despite substantial timber and mineral resources, the country remains poor, having been in the throes of a bloody civil the country remains poor, having been in the throes of a bloody civil war during the 1980s and much of the 1990s

Country: MALI
AAQS region: Western
Area in km2: 1 240 192
Capital: Bamako
Approximate population: 10 000 000
Languages: French & 12 other official languages
Currency: Franc (CFAF)
Brief history: It was once a centre of a great empire. It is a landlocked arid waste which periodically suffers drought. Most people depend on livestock and limited farming. Cotton growing and gold production are also important sources of revenue

Country: NIGER
AAQS region: Western
Area in km2: 1 267 000
Capital: Niamey
Approximate population: 10 000 000
Languages: French, many local languages
Currency: Franc (CFAF)
Brief history: There is enough rainfall for limited rain-fed agriculture in the South of this desert country, but the most fertile areas are those seasonally flooded by the Niger River, and around the shores of Lake Chad. Nomadic livestock herding is also important. Uranium mining in the Air mountains gave a short-lived boost to the economy in the 1980s. Niamey, the capital is a modern, and in places elegant, city

Country: SENEGAL
AAQS region: Western
Area in km2: 196 722
Capital: Dakar
Approximate population: 10 000 000
Languages: French & many local languages
Currency: Franc (CFAF)
Brief history: Most people live in the wetter west where subsistence farming and groundnut production typify the country's agriculture. Its capital has a fine port and a railway link to Mali. It is also a tourist resort and a centre for manufacturing

Country: SIERRA LEONE
AAQS region: Western
Area in km2: 71 740
Capital: Freetown
Approximate population: 5 000 000
Languages: English, Krio, other local languages
Currency: Leone (LE)
Brief history: In 1787 its capital city was founded as a refuge for freed African slaves. The nation has rich mineral resources, including diamonds gold, iron ore and bauxite

Country: TOGO
AAQS region: Western
Area in km2: 56 785
Capital: Lome
Approximate population: 5 000 000
Languages: French, Kabiye, Ewe other local languages
Currency: Franc (CFAF)
Brief history: Subsistence farming is the dominant activity of Togo. Its main exports used to be cash crops, such as cocoa and groundnuts. There are phosphates, but their international prices have been unreliable. Its capital city is the focus of modern economic development which includes transit trade for inland states

Country: NIGERIA
AAQS region: Western
Area in km2: 923 768
Capital: Abuja
Approximate population: 150 000 000
Languages: English, Hausa, Yoruba, Ibo
Currency: Naira
Brief history: It is the most populous country in Africa. It became independent in 1960. The south of the country is covered in rain forest and is suitable for cocoa, rubber and oil palms as commercial crops. It is the most densely populated part. To the north, rainfall decreases and is less reliable. The middle belt of tree-covered savannah is rather infertile and sparsely populated. Fertile soils in the north make up for low and erratic rainfall conditions which allow dense settlement around Kano and other northern cities which used to engage in caravan trade across the sahara