Updated: Dec 24, 2019
West Africa, also called Western Africa and the West of Africa, is the westernmost region of Africa. West Africa has been defined as including 17 countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, the island nation of Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, the islands of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.The population of West Africa is estimated at about 362 million people as of 2016.
The Economic Community of West African States, established in May 1975, has defined the region of West Africa since 1999 as including the following 15 states:
Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Western Africa includes the preceding states with the addition of Mauritania (which withdrew from ECOWAS in 1999), comprising an area of approximately 6.1 million square km. The UN region also includes the island of Saint Helena, a British overseas territory in the south Atlantic Ocean.
In the United Nations scheme of African regions, the region includes 17 states and the island of Saint Helena, an overseas territory: Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Niger are mostly in the Sahel, a transition zone between the Sahara desert and the Sudanian Savanna, Benin, Cote d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Togo, and Nigeria compose Guinea, the traditional name for the area near the Gulf of Guinea, Cape Verde is an island country in the Atlantic Ocean, Mauritania lies in the Maghreb, the northwestern region of Africa that has historically been inhabited by both traditionally West African groups such as the Fulani, Soninke and Wolof, along with Arab-Berber Maghrebi people. Due to its increasingly close ties to the Arab World and its 1999 withdrawal from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in modern times it is often considered, especially in Africa, as now part of western North Africa.