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    Grace Amos

      The diversity among the West African regions has developed various cultures and traditions, each rich with history and modern significance. West Africa is located in the western region of Africa, the United Nations defines Western Africa as the 16 countries of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo as well as Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha ( United Kingdom Overseas Territory). The estimated population of West Africa is about 419 million people as of 2021 and at 381,981,000 as of 2017 of which 189,672,000 are female and 192, 309,000 male.


      West African People: The Ethnic Groups in West Africa

      There are over a thousand ethnic groups in Africa with each population generally having its own language or dialect of a language and culture. The largest ethnic group in West Africa is the Hausa, an Afro-Asiatic Chadic people found in the Sahel region of Africa and living on the edge of the Sahara desert. The Hausa are known for making the Tagelmust worn by Tuareg Berbers and also the Camel seats that most nomadic groups use. Also, the Fulani are the second largest and most widespread ethnic group, a Senegambian group of people found in every country of West Africa.


      Here are the major groups by ethnolinguistic affiliation found in West Africa:


      Afro-Asiatic: Found in the West Africa region of North Africa, Horn of Africa, and the Sahel having major groups of the Amhara, Hausa, Oromo, Somali, Tachelhit, Berber, and Tigrayan. Also, the Semitic and Chadic are under this category of West African ethnic group. Some examples of Semitic are the Diffa Arabs found in the Niger Republic, and the Baggara/Shuwa Arabs in Nigeria and Chad. The Berber groups in West Africa consist mainly of the Zenaga in Mauritania and Senegal, the Tuareg in Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Niger Republic, Mali, etc.


      Nilo-Saharan: The Nilo-Saharan people also referred to as Sudanic, live in the Sahelian and Saharan regions of West Africa. The major groups include Dinka, Kanuri, Luo, Maasai, and Nuer. Various dialects are spoken throughout the Sahel and Sahara regions in West Africa from Mali to Niger and Nigeria. The Kanuri, which the Hausa refer to as Beri or Beri-Beri and also known as Zaghawa in Arabic are a desert people and were once known for the Kanem empire which extended from what is today North Eastern Nigeria all the way into Libya, Nigeria, Niger and Chad.


      Niger-Congo: The major groups under this category include: Akan, Fula, Igbo, Kongo, Mande, Moore, Kotofan, Yoruba, Zulu, and Shona. Niger-congo is possibly the largest and most diverse language group in West Africa. So many language classifications have been categorized together into one large group. A few of these include;


      Yoruboid has several related languages mainly spoken in Ghana, Benin Republic once known as Dahomey, Togo, and Nigeria. The Yoruba are the largest group in this language cluster, mostly spoken in the South-West of Nigeria. Others like Igala, Itsekiri, and Edekiri can be found in this group of languages.


      Also, we have the Igboid languages which are predominantly found in South-Eastern Nigeria and the Delta region of Nigeria. Igbo is the largest language in the Igboid family. Others include; Ikwerre, Ika, Ogba.


      Edoid, this cluster of languages includes Edo (Benin in Nigeria), Esan, Otuo (Ghotuo), etc. Other language groups include Senegambian and Mande.


      In addition, here are the major ethnic groups in West African countries:

      • Akan in Ghana and Ivory Coast.
      • Amhara in Ethiopia.
      • Chewa in Malawi and Zambia.
      • Fulani in Mauritania, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Nigeria, Cameroon, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, Niger, Chad, Sudan, CAR, Ghana, Togo, and Sierra Leone.
      • Hausa in Nigeria, Niger, Benin, Ghana, Cameroon, Chad, and Sudan.
      • Hutu in Rwanda, Burundi, DR Congo.
      • Igbo in Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, and Gabon.
      • Kanuri in Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Cameroon.
      • Kongo in DR Congo, Angola, and the Republic of Congo.
      • Luba in DR Congo.
      • Maghrebis in Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya.
      • Dagbon in Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Ivory Coast.
      • Mongo in DR Congo.
      • Nilotes in South Sudan, Sudan, Chad, CAR, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Ethiopia.
      • Oromo in Ethiopia
      • Shona in Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
      • Somali in Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya.
      • Yoruba in Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Sierra Leone.
      • Zulu in South Africa.

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