West Africa – 10 minute challenge.

Bill again. Chrissie and the kids are roaming around in Paris, leaving me to hold the fort.

Have you ever gone somewhere and realised that you really have a ‘wafer thin’ knowledge about the place? You can politely dabble in a conversation with M’poko  from Basutoland* – perhaps point at it on a map – and then the conversation nose dives into weather and what the kids are doing. But have you ever been somewhere for over a year  and still gained no real insight into what is happening around you (other than university – I still have no idea what that was all about)?

West African awareness is the theme of this post.

As an Australian, West Africa is essentially invisible. Its not in the news (outside of a plane crash yesterday). No-one comes here (other than weird geologists (2.3M hits on Google) and arguably weirder missionaries (2.1M hits on Google)). West Africa should be news! West Africa has a brewing civil war in Mali (exacerbated by all the gun-toting mercenaries that got booted out of Libya). West Africa also has a tragic famine in the Sahel (exacerbated by all the gun-toting mercenaries that got booted out of Libya). Australia is perhaps enjoying the end of its own 10 year drought (cue floods).  Corruption in West Africa is orders of magnitude better (?) than the watered down version served up in Australia. Look at this map of political corruption. Blue means amateur!

Corruption in Australia- global lightweights. (source)

Karma demands that it works both ways. In WA, Australia might as well be Basutoland*  Not a lot of people here know anything about Australia. They know we talk too fast and that we’re way to fond of dairy (weird) . And all the kids proudly demonstrate their firm understanding that Australians are obronis (And don’t think being Asian or South American, or even Martian, gets you off the broni hook – if you don’t look African, you’re a obroni).

My total understanding of West Africa prior to coming here included:
gold in Ghana,
NIGERIAN SCAM EMAILS (block capitals are compulsory),
war in the Ivory Coast/Liberia
Kofi Annan,
malaria,  and
a sorry history of slave trading.
and maybe football… maybe.

I’ve been here -on and off – for over a year and still know embarrassing little about West Africa – particularly outside of Ghana.

So, I asked myself those baseline questions that you just pick up as you go through life – flags, capital city names, sports, culture …  geography questions (which I like to think is my strong suite) and proved that I still know squat. Sure, I live in a box (but its a happy box and I feel safe and loved in my box, which is important). Below are the type of question I pondered… you’re welcome to have a crack at them. If nothing else, the knowledge gained will serve you admirably next time you wander past a West African themed quiz night (yep – me neither). Qn 3 is a bit of a meander – although pleasantly surprising.

* p.s. I know you went and looked up Basutoland…My dad (hi dad) has talked about Basutoland ever since I was a kid. Today was the first time I ever looked it up. It is (was) a real place! I never knew that! (Lesotho – nee Basutoland).

Serious stuff now. No talking. You have 10 minutes. The answers are at the bottom (for when you realise that you too know nothing about West Africa.)

1. Here is a political map of West Africa (ECOWAS). How many capital cities (15 total) can you name?

Name the capital cities. 2 – good, 5 – remarkable, 15 – cheating.

2. Someone from Nigeria is called a Nigerian. What is a person from Niger called?

3. If you type the following into Google Earth, which country does it zoom in on?
a) “arse end of the world”?
b) “arse end of the earth”?
c) “arse end of the planet”?

Mt Cameroun – gets a mention because some people think Cameroon is in West Africa (and it looks pretty cool!)

4. West Africas hightest peak is:
a) located in which country (not Cameroon)?
b) is how tall (nearest 500m)?

5. How many people are estimated to live in West Africa (we’re friends – nearest 50million is fine)?

6. West African Percentages: Here are 4 answers: 55%, 29%, 20%, 42%. Which question do they match (according to the World Bank)?:
a) Percentage of illiterate adults in West Africa?
b) Percentage of the under-5 population that is malnourished?
|c) Percentage of the population earning less than a dollar a day?
d) Percentage of children at secondary school?

7. It takes about 6.5 hours to drive from Accra to Dunkwa-on-Ofin. How far is it by road (nearest 50km)?

8. Which sport has Ghana competed in at the Winter Olympics?

9. Ghana plays good football. What is the national team called?

10. Here are the West African flags. Which one is the flag of Ghana?

West African flags – which one is Ghana’s? And why is the Irish flag tucked in at the centre-top (Oh! I see – Cote D’Ivoire. Thanks google).

In all honesty, I could answer 7 (of 29) of these and had to look the rest up.



1. Nigeria, Abuja. Niger, Niamey. Benin, Porto Novo. Togo, Lome. Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou. Mali, Bamako. Mauritania, Nouakchott. Senegal, Dakar. Gambia, Banjul. Guinea Bissau, Bissau. Guinea, Conakry. Sierra Leone, Freetown. Liberia, Monrovia. Cote d’Ivoire, Abidjan. Ghana, Accra. Cape Verde, Praia. —- 2. Nigerien. —-  3.a. England, 3.b. England, 3.c. England (Although this has nothing to do with West Africa, Australian readers will appreciate it.) —- 4.a. Sierra Leonne, 4.b 2000m (1945m) —- 5. 245 million —- 6.a. 42%, 6.b. 29%, 6.c 55%, 6.d 20% —- 7. 300km (actually 295km of hell) —- 8. mens slalom —- 9 The Black Stars. —- 10. This one:

7 responses to “West Africa – 10 minute challenge.

  1. Hey I am an Australia (Originally from South America, who didnt escape the obruni phase) I been in Ghana for about 7 months now in Accra and I am actually surprised with this post because I am on the same boat!! thanks for the post, very interesting.



    • Hi, Thanks for your comment. Some days we are just so amazed at how different everything is to Australia, but the sights are always interesting, and the people of Ghana are consistently friendly, we are enjoying the adventure. Take care, Chrissie


  2. Thanks. Think we should all learn something new every day. But bloody hell remembering it is a challenge. 55% earn less than a dollar a day has stuck though. Pretty pleased to hear Paris is happening. Can’t wait for their next report, in the mean time it is up to you to provide frequent items, Bill. Rob XX PS Twins are 4 to-day.


  3. Interestingly the only questions I got right were the statistics. Shows what area I work in (development in Asia).


    • Hi Diana, I am finding all the statistics of development so interesting, and also profoundly depressing at times. How do you cope with the overwhelming nature of it all? Take care, Chrissie


  4. Pingback: Photo of the week | six degrees north·

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