This summer the geography group has been finding out about some of the small countries in the west of Africa. They have magical names which could win you the jackpot in a TV quiz game like “Pointless” but their story is a sad one and they have not managed to win any jackpot for themselves.
Can you connect these capital cities to their own countries?
Accra Burkina Faso
Banjul Cote D’Ivoire
Bissau The Gambia
Freetown Guinea Bissau
Ouagadougou Sierra Leone
Long ago they were numerous small African kingdoms, some, no doubt, with more benign kings than others. But there was already a thriving slave trade amongst and between the kingdoms. Then the Europeans came sailing down the coast to explore the African continent. They found gold, ivory, diamonds, phosphate and of course, slaves. The Portuguese had a head start, then the Belgians, the British, French, Germans and Dutch each came and laid claim to parts of the African coast and as much of the interior as they could reach. In 1884 Otto von Bismarck called a conference in Berlin at which the European powers divided Africa up amongst themselves, drawing new boundaries and naming new countries in their own languages. There were further changes after the world wars when Germany’s holdings were confiscated, and still more changes in the 1960s and 1970s as each “country” achieved its independence.
Through all of this history there have been countless small civil wars, coups d’état, assassinations and massive corruption as people fight for control of the gold and diamond mines, the oil, the bauxite, iron, uranium etc. Today these countries are also used as a staging post for the transport of hard drugs from South America to Europe. You will not be surprised to hear that, with the exception of Ghana, all these countries are in the bottom 14% in the United Nations Development Index. That is, they have the lowest income per capita, literacy rate and life expectancy in the world.