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NIGER

 

Niger is a landlocked country in Western Africa named after the Niger River.  The name Niger derives in turn from the phrase (gher n-gheren), meaning “river among rivers,” in the Tamashek language. Niger is bordered by Libya to the northeast, Chad to the east, Nigeria and Benin to the south, Burkina Faso and Mali to the west, and Algeria to the northwest. Niger covers a land area of almost 1,270,000 km2, making it the largest country in West Africa. Over 80% of its land area lies in the Sahara Desert. Namey is the capital of Niger.

 

Niger's history begins with the expansion of the Songhai Empire in the 15th century. Following their decline the Mali, Dendi, Gao, Kanem-Bornu, and Hausa empires claimed key areas of Niger until contact with Europeans began during the 19th century. Niger became a French colony in 1922. The country gained independence from France in 1960 and experienced single-party and military rule under Niger's first president, Hamani Diori. Although Diori was highly respected internationally for being a spokesman on African affairs, within Niger his administration was completely corrupt. Widespread disorder plagued Niger until a military coup led by Seyni Kountche ended Diori's rule in 1974. Following his arrest the country fell into disarray until 1991, when Ali Saibou (Niger's third president) was forced by public pressure to allow multiparty elections that ultimately resulted in a democratic government in 1993. Political infighting brought the government to a standstill and in 1996, led to a coup by Col. Ibrahim Baré Maïnassara. In 1999, Ibrahim Baré Maïnassara was killed in a coup by military officers who promptly restored democratic rule and held elections that brought Mamadou Tandja to power in December of that year. Tandja was reelected in 2004. In February, 2010 a military junta was established, following a coup d'état which deposed Tandja. The country is led now by the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy (CSRD). The current president is Mahamadou Issoufou and the Prime Minister is Brigi Rafini.

Niger is an underdeveloped country however; the country is slowly gaining momentum to grow its economy. Although, Niger's economy relies on agriculture as it accounts for 40% of the GDP and provides an occupation for nearly 80% of the population. Majority of the government’s budget comes in the form of foreign aid. Niger is known to have reserves of uranium that is ranked among the most important in the world. In 2010, Niger was the fifth largest producer of uranium in the world and it accounted for about 7.8% of the world’s total production. However, the constantly fluctuating uranium price causes instability to Niger’s economy. The mining sector was also involved in the production of other mineral commodities such as coal, gold, silver, limestone, cement, gypsum, salt, and tin, phosphates, petroleum, molybdenum and salt.

 

Niger has a wide variety of ethnic groups. The ethnic makeup of Niger is as follows: Hausa (53.0%), Zarma-Sonrai (21.2%), Tuareg (10.4%), Fula (French: Peuls; Fula: Fulɓe) (9.9%), Kanuri Manga (4.4%), Tubu (0.4%), Arab (0.3%), Gourmantche (0.3%), other (0.2%). Niger has ten official national languages, namely French, Arabic, Buduma, Fulfulde, Gourmanchéma, Hausa, Kanuri, Zarma & Songhai, Tamasheq, Tassawaq, Tebu. Each is spoken as a first language primarily by the ethnic group with which it is associated. Hausa and Zarma-Sonrai, the two most spoken languages, are widely spoken throughout the country as first or second languages.

Landmarks and major tourist sights includes: W National Park, Abaaba National Park, Agadez Attraction, Sultan's Palace (Zinder), Dabous Giraffe Rock Art, Niamey, Ferme Youyou (Niamey), Grande Mosque de Zinder (Zinder), Ayorou Attractions, Zinder Attractions, Birni Quarter (Zinder).

Cuisine in Niger is a mix of traditional dishes and common dishes shared throughout West Africa. Meals usually start with colorful salads made from seasonal vegetables. Popular dishes include:

  • Dodo (fried plantains)

  • Efo (greens stew)

  • Jollof rice

  • Palm Nut Soup

  • Stews and soups.

 

The music of Niger has developed from the musical traditions of a mix of ethnic groups; Hausa, the Zarma Songhai people, Tuareg, Fula Kanuri, Toubou, Diffa Arabs and Gurma.The Hausa, who make up over half of the country's population, use the duma for percussion and the molo (a lute) in their Griot traditions, along with the Ganga, alghaïta (shawm) and kakaki (trumpet) for martial, state, and ceremonial occasions. These uses are typified by the ceremonial usage of large trumpets to mark the authority of the Sultanate of Damagaram in the southeast Zinder area (see Hausa music).

 
SENEGAL

 

Senegal is known as the “Gateway to Africa" due to its location on the westernmost point of the continent and served by multiple air and maritime travel routes. Senegal is bordered by Mauritania in the north, Mali to the east, Guinea to the southeast, and Guinea-Bissau to the southwest. Senegal also borders The Gambia, along the banks of the Gambia River, separating Senegal's southern region of Casamance from the rest of the country. Senegal also shares a maritime border with Cape Verde. Senegal's economic and political capital is Dakar. It is the westernmost country in the mainland and owes its name to the Senegal River, which borders it to the east and north. The name "Senegal" comes from the Wolof "Sunuu Gaal", which means "Our Boat or "our canoe." The country also lies at an ecological boundary where semiarid grassland, oceanfront, and tropical rainforest converge; this diverse environment has endowed Senegal with a wide variety of plant and animal life.

 

The Senegal region was long part of the ancient Ghana and Djolof kingdoms and an important node on trans-Saharan caravan routes. It was also an early point of European contact and was contested by England, France, Portugal, and the Netherlands before ultimately coming under French control in the late 19th century. It remained a colony of France until April 4th 1960, when, under the leadership of the writer and statesman Léopold Senghor, it gained its independence—first as part of the short-lived Mali Federation and then as a wholly sovereign state according to Encyclopedia Britannica.

 

In 1980, President Senghor decided to retire from politics and transferred power in 1981 to his hand-picked successor, Abdou Diouf. Senghor moved to France, where he died at the age of 96. Senegal joined with the Gambia to form the Senegambia Confederation on February 1st. 1982. However, the union was dissolved in 1989. Despite peace talks, a southern separatist group (Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance or MFDC) in the Casamance region has clashed sporadically with government forces since 1982 in the Casamance conflict. In the early 21st century, violence has subsided and the current President Macky Sall held talks with rebels in Rome in December 2012.

 

Senegal has mineral deposits consisting primarily of phosphates of lime and aluminum phosphates.  Some mineral reserves include petroleum deposits discovered off the Casamance coast, high-grade iron-ore reserves, gold reserves and natural gas reserves located both onshore and offshore. The salt works of Kaolack have considerable production potential. Electric energy is produced and distributed by the Senegalese Electric Company (Société Sénégalaise d’Électricité. Prior to 1980s all energy produced in Senegal was generated by thermal plants. Cheaper hydroelectric energy became available with the construction of hydroelectric projects on the Sénégal River undertaken with Mauritania and Mali, with dams at Diama in Senegal (completed in 1985) and Manantali in Mali (completed in 1988) according to Encyclopedia Britannica. Senegal's economy is centered mostly on commodities and natural resources. Major industries are fish processing, phosphate mining, fertilizer production, petroleum refining, construction materials, and ship construction and repair. As in most African nations, agriculture is a major sector, with Senegal producing several important cash crops, including peanuts, sugarcane, cotton, green beans, tomatoes, melons, and mangoes.​

Senegal has about ten ethnic groups. The Wolof are the largest single ethnic group at 43%; the Fula and Toucouleur (also known as Halpulaar'en, literally "Pulaar-speakers") (24%) are the second biggest group, followed by the Serer (14.7%), then others such as Jola (4%), Mandinka (3%), Maures or (Naarkajors), Soninke, Bassari and many smaller communities (9%). French is the only official language in the country, but a backlash in the form of a rising Senegalese linguistic nationalist movement supports the integration of Wolof, the common vernacular language of the country, into the national constitution.

Senegal cuisine according to chef Pierre Thiam's cookbook, Yolele "cooking is a celebration in Senegal; of how we have gloriously melded the old with the new, the native with the global." This is evident in the country's flavorful soups, stews, rice dishes, salads, and fritters both savory and sweet, in which ingredients like seafood, peanuts, hot peppers, and tropical fruits and vegetables abound. Popular dishes are; Thiebou jen (jolof rice) – The national dish, Poulet or Pousson Yassa, Maffe. Popular fresh juices are made from bissap, ginger, buy (pronounced 'buoy', which is the fruit of the baobab tree, also known as "monkey bread fruit"), mango, or other fruit or wild trees (most famously soursop, which is called corossol in French). Desserts are very rich and sweet, combining native ingredients with the extravagance and style characteristic of the French impact on Senegal's culinary methods. They are often served with fresh fruit and are traditionally followed by coffee or tea.

Senegal is known across the continent for its musical heritage, due to the popularity of mbalax, which originated from the Serer percussive tradition especially the Njuup. It has been largely popularized globally an internationally by Youssou N'Dour, Omar Pene and Baaba Maal. Other popular international renowned Senegalese musicians are Ismael Lô, Cheikh Lô, Orchestra Baobab, Akon  Thione Seck, Viviane, Titi and Pape Diouf.

Notable landmarks and major tourist sites includes:

  • Lago Rosa (Dakar)

  • Le Monument de la Renaissance Africaine (Dakar)

  • Joal Fadiout (Joal Fadiouth)

  • Cathedrale du Souvenir Africain de Dakar (Dakar)

  • Les Mamelles Lighthouse (Dakar)

  • Village des Arts (Dakar)

  • Mosque of the Divinity (Dakar)

  • Marche HLM (Dakar)

  • Presidential Palace (Dakar)

  • Paroisse Saint Charles Borromee (Goree Island) Gandiol (Saint-Louis)

  • Great Mosque (Touba)

  • Great Mosque (Touba)

  • Dakar Railway Station (Dakar)

  • Touba

  • Niokolo-Koba National Park.

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UNESCO Heritage sites in Niger includes:

1. Air and Ténéré Natural Reserves

It covers both the eastern half of the Aïr Mountains and the western sections of the Ténéré desert. It has been identified by BirdLife International as an Important Bird Area.

The entire reserve covers 77,360 square kilometres (29,870 sq mi), which made it the second largest nature reserve in Africa, and the fourth largest in the world.

UNESCO's Aïr and Ténéré Natural Reserves include two parts:

-Aïr and Ténéré National Nature Reserve

IUCN type

Established 1 January 1988

64,560 km²

-Aïr and Ténéré Addax Sanctuary

Strict Nature Reserve IUCN type Ia. Established 1 January 1988

12,800 km²

2. Historic Centre of Agadez

Agadez, formerly spelled Agades,[1] is the largest city in central Niger, with a population of 118,244 (2012 census). It lies in the Sahara and is the capital of Aïr, one of the traditional TuaregBerber federations. The city is also the capital of the Agadez Region.

3. W-Arly-Pendjari Complex

The parks are in the zone between savanna and forest lands, and are an important ecosystem for the biogeographical area

UNESCO Heritage sites in Senegal include:

 

There are seven UNESCO Heritage sites in Senegal. In fact The first sites from the continent were inscribed in 1978, when the Island of Gorée of Senegal and the Rock-Hewn Churches of Ethiopia were chosen during the list's conception. The seven sites are:

 

1. The Island of Gorée

The island was the largest slave-trading center on the African coast from the 15th to the 19th century.

2. Island of Saint-Louis

The French colonial settlement from the 17th century is on an island in the mouth of the Sénégal River. It played an important role in the culture and economy of West Africa.

3. The Bassari Country and its Bassari, Fula and Bedik Cultural Landscapes

Is a well-preserved multicultural landscape which emerged from the interaction of human activities and the natural environment. It aggregates three geographical areas: the Bassari–Salémata area, the Bedik–Bandafassi area and the Fula–Dindéfello area, each one with its specifics morphological characteristics.

In 2012, the Bassari Country with its Bassari, Fula and Bedik Cultural Landscapes was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

4. Saloum Delta

The area has sustained human life thanks to fishing and shellfish gathering, for which there are 218 shellfish mounds across the site.

5. Stone Circles of Senegambia

The groups of stone circles are among over 1,000 different monuments along the Gambia River. Used as burial grounds, they were erected between the 3rd century BCE and the 16th century CE.

6. Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary

The Senegal River delta wetland area consists of streams, lakes, ponds and backwaters. It is the home to 1.5 million birds, including the great white pelican, the purple heron, the African spoonbill, the great egret, and cormorants. The sanctuary also features crocodiles, African manatees, and other typical Sahelian species.

 

7. Niokolo-Koba National Park

was declared a Senegalese national park on 1 January 1954. Expanded in 1969, it was inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 1981 as a UNESCO In 2007 it was added to the UNESCO List of Endangered World Heritage sites. The forests and savannas bordering the Gambia River have a diverse fauna, including Derby eland, chimpanzees, lions, birds, reptiles, and amphibians.[128] The park was listed as being endangered for low mammal populations, the construction of a dam, and management problems.

SIERRA LEONE

Sierra Leone, is located in West Africa. It is bordered by Guinea to the north-east, Liberia to the south-east and the Atlantic Ocean to the south-west. Sierra Leone has a tropical climate, with a diverse environment ranging from savannah to rainforests. The country owes its name to the 15th-century Portuguese explorer Pedro de Sintra, the first European to sight and map Freetown harbor. The original Portuguese name, Serra Lyoa (“Lion Mountains”), referred to the range of hills that surrounds the harbor. The capital, Freetown, harbors one of the world’s largest natural resources.

 

Pedro de Sintra began mapping out the hills surrounding Freetown Harbor, and Portuguese traders, as well as the Dutch and French, quickly followed. During the late 18th century a settlement was founded called the "Province of Freedom," where recently freed slaves seek refuge.  Sierra Leone served as the residence of the British governor during the early 20th century. Indigenous peoples, and several unsuccessful revolts against the British were carried out, including the Hut Tax war of 1898 led by Bai Bureh. As a result, Sierra Leone was divided into a Protectorate and a Colony in 1924, with each side having their own political system. However, conflict between both sides in 1947 sparked a move to provide for a single political system, and in 1951 Sir Milton Margai oversaw the drafting of a new constitution. Sierra Leone finally achieved independence from Great Britain on April 27th 1961, and Sir Milton Margai was elected the country's first Prime Minister. After Sir Milton's unexpected death in 1964, the parliament appointed his half-brother, Sir Albert Margai as Prime Minister, who introduced an authoritarian era of ruling. Riots erupted in Freetown against Sir Milton's policies, and in 1967 Siaka Stevens was sworn in as Prime Minister. After an eighteen year reign, Stevens retired from politics in 1985, and Major General Momoh was appointed to the position. In March 1991, after a failed attempt to overthrow Momoh's government, a civil war enveloped the country, lasting a decade and resulting in tens of thousands of deaths and the displacement of more than 2 million people. Rebel leader Foday Sankoh led the RUF rebel movement and was notorious for mass rape and mutilations. According to the BBC, what perpetuated the civil war was the trade in illicit gems, known as "blood diamonds" for their role in funding conflicts. The brutal civil war that ended in 2002 with the help of Britain, the former colonial power, and a large United Nations peacekeeping mission. Ernest Bai Koroma was elected president. President Koroma is considered by his numerous followers all around Sierra Leone and in the Diaspora as The Hope of the Future.

Sierra Leone is one of the 10 top diamond producing countries in the world, and as such, diamonds and other mineral exports are the country's main source of income. Other minerals include bauxite, columbite (a black mineral of iron, manganese, and niobium), gold, platinum, chromite, and reserves of rutile (titanium dioxide) that are among the world’s largest. Most of the population is engaged in subsistence agriculture, primarily for the domestic market but some also for export. Cash crops include millet, peanuts (groundnuts), cassava (manioc), sweet potatoes, and  palm oil.

There are about 18 ethnic groups in the country. The largest groups are the Mende, the Temne, the Limba, Kuranko, Susu, Yalunka, and Loko, the Kono and Kisi,  the Sherbro. Minor groups include the coastal Bullom, Vai, and Krim and the Fulani and Malinke. The Creoles—descendants of liberated blacks who colonized the coast from the late 18th to the mid-19th century—are found mainly in and around Freetown. English is the official language. Creole (derived from English and several indigenous African languages) is the most widely spoken language in virtually all parts of Sierra Leone.

Cuisine in Sierra Leone is quite simple, consisting mainly of rice-based dishes and hearty meaty stews. The staple food is rice. There is a popular saying, "if I haven't had my rice, I haven't eaten today." Popular dishes includes: Agidi, a sweet pounded-corn snack, steamed in a banana leaf and soft and moist in texture; Caurel steaks, is a red-fleshed fish; Local spiny lobster; Banana pancakes; Fry fry is a catchall term for a variety of (usually fried) foods—plus spaghetti; Binch/bean dishes, Black-eyed beans, known as binch; Fufu; Peanut/Groundnut soup.

Landmarks and major tourist sites in Sierra Leone includes:

TOGO

 

Togo is located in West Africa bordered by Ghana to the west, Benin to the east and Burkina Faso to the north. It extends south to the Gulf of Guinea, where its capital Lomé is located and is the largest city and port.

 

Prior to 1884, Togo was an intermediate zone between the states of Asante and Dahomey, and the various ethnic groups lived in general isolation from each other. In 1905, Toga became the German colony of Togoland, but after Germany was defeated during World War I, British and French factions soon administered the land. Togo became an autonomous republic within the French Union in 1959, then a year later, French Togoland achieved independence from France. In 1967, following a successful military coup, Gnassingbe Eyadema was named president, and he served for 38 years until his death in 2005; making Eyadema the longest-serving leader on the continent. Shortly thereafter his death, his son Faure Gnassingbe was elected president. Gnassingbe has won two more elections, in 2010 and 2015.

Togo’s major mineral resource is Phosphate and is one of the world's top five producers of phosphates, which are used in fertilizers. Limestone reserves are utilized primarily for cement production and also have substantial marble deposits, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. Its economy is based primarily on commercial and subsistence agriculture, providing employment for 65% of the work force. Cotton, coffee and cocoa together generate about 40% of export earnings. According to the BBC, "the country has gained notoriety as a transit point for ivory poached elsewhere in the region. Poaching has risen in recent years across the continent, where well-armed criminal gangs kill elephants for tusks and rhino for their horns, before shipping them to Asia for use in ornaments and supposed medicine."

There are about 30 ethnic groups, many of whom are immigrants from other parts of western Africa. The groups indigenous are the; Gur-speaking peoples: the Gurma; the Natimba, Dye, and Konkomba; the Tamberma; the Basari; the Moba; the Losso (Naudem); the Kabre and Logba; and the Lamba (Namba); a small number of Fulani; and the Kebu (Akebu). In the southwest the indigenous Kwa peoples also belonging to the central Togo group are the Kposo (Akposso), the Adele, and the Ahlo. The largest ethnic groups are the Ewe and Kabre and are also the two spoken indigenous languages  designated politically as national languages in 1975.Tthe official language is French.

Togolese cuisine presents many European elements, the staple foods in Togo remained traditional. They include corn/maize, cassava, yam, rice, plantains, beans and millet. Popular  dishes includes: Koklo meme, grilled Chicken with a spicy chili sauce; Pâté, made from millet, plantains, corn or cassava|manioc, riz sauce; D’arachide, rice with Peanut sauce, and other sauces based on Eggplant, tomato, fish or spinach. Fufu made from yam, its preparation is a communal ritual and takes hours to prepare.

Togolese music includes a great variety of percussion-led dance music. All over Togo drums are used, by Christians and Muslims as well, to celebrate all major events of life and for festivals like the Expesoso or Yeke Yeke festival. In the Aneho district alone drums in use include the agbadja, ageche, aziboloe, kple, amedjeame, akpesse, grekon, blekete and adamdom. There are numerous rhythms in Togo, each area having its own special beats. In addition, Togo has produced a number of internationally known popular entertainers including Bella Bellow, Akofah Akussah, Afia Mala, Itadi Bonney, Wellborn, King Mensah and Jimi Hope.

Landmarks and major tourist sites in Togo includes:

  • Lake Togo

  • Tamberma Valley

  • Koutammakou (Kara)

  • Grand Marche (Lome)

  • Marche aux Fetiches (Lome)

  • Monument de l'Independance (Lome)

  • National Museum (Lome)

  • Musee International du Golfe de Guinee (Lome) Mount Agou (Kpalime)

  • Cascade de Kpime (Kpalime)

  • Cascade de Yikpa (Kpalime)

  • Cascade de Wome (Kpalime)

  • Lac Togo (Togoville)

  • Independence Square (Lome)

  • Lome Cathedral (Lome)

  • Grande Mosquee (Lome).

 

UNESCO Heritage site in Togo includes:

 

Koutammakou, the Land of the Batammariba in north-eastern Togo. Batamamariba people live in houses constructed of mud-towers.

Research & Reference:

BBC.com (Africa)

Ghana Embassy

Gambian Embassy

Kenyan Embassy

Senegal Embassy

CIA World Fact book

South African Embassy

Library of Congress

United Nations

World Bank

whc.unesco.org

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