The Guinea coast is the part of west Africa that lies south of the Sahara and north of the sea. It is the part of Africa where most black people in North America, the Caribbbbean and Bahia in Brazil come from. In fact, “Guinea” comes from the Berber word for black.
The guinea coin was originally made out of gold from this area.
It lies between 0 and 15 degrees north and goes from 20 west to 15 east. It includes all the countries from Guinea-Bissau to Equatorial Guinea: Guinea, Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso.
With 250 million people most of black Africa lives here.
The Guinea coast was made up of yet smaller coasts: the slave coast, the gold coast, the ivory coast and so on, each named according what it had.
Along the sea are jungles and cities. It always seems like summer and it rains a lot. As you go north inland it rains less often. The trees give way to open grassland. Farther north the rain gives out altogether and the grass gives way to the endless sand of the Sahara.
Religion: Islam came across the Sahara so most who live in the north are Muslims. Christianity came by sea, so most in the south are Christians. Some still worship the old African spirits.
Language: Those with education know French, English or Portuguese. In the north are Hausa and the Songhai tongues. Most other Guinea languages belong to the Niger-Congo family. It was from here from this family that the Bantu languages swept across most of the rest of black Africa.
A bit of history:
From about 1300 to 1600 there were Muslim empires in the north, along the Niger river, like those of Mali and Songhay. These were the glory days of the city of Timbuktu.
In the 1400s Europeans began to establish trading posts along the sea.
From 1600 to 1800 these trading posts were part of the triangular trade:
- Guinea provided slaves, which were sold in Brazil and the Caribbean.
- The slaves cut sugar cane, which was turned into molasses and sent to Europe.
- Europe sold rum and sugar which it made out of the molasses. It also sold finished goods, like cloth, guns, windows and ships.
The whole point was to make Europe rich.
The trading posts grew into colonies in the 1800s. In the late 1900s they all became free countries.
Yet these countries were just lines on a map drawn by men in Europe. They did not follows lines of religion, language or history. So the region has been troubled by civil war ever since.
The governments are weak and corrupt. While they are no longer colonies, most are now banana republics in the orbit of France or America.
There is little industry. Even though it has almost as many people as America, it makes less money than New York City. And much of what little it makes gets wasted by corruption and civil war.
– Abagond, 2006.