This west African country was a French colony until it gained independence in 1958. With a population of 10.2 million (July 2005 estimate), it has a female life expectancy of 50.7 years. The country's birth rate is 41.8 per 1,000, with an infant mortality rate of 90 per 1,000 live births.

Traditional rural lifestyles have changed little since the arrival of the French, with many of the population still living in small villages. The area received worldwide attention in Camara Laye's book L'Enfant Noir (1954), translated into English in the following year. It describes the life of a boy growing up in a village, his jeweler father having been a blacksmith, and his mother bringing him up with tribal customs while becoming a mediator in numerous ...

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