Influential People from West Africa

Contributor: Tara Ondra. Lesson ID: 13294

We can learn a lot about the world by studying its people. Meet a football (soccer) player, a revolutionary, and an author from West Africa who have influenced their countries and the world!


World, World Cultures

Social Studies
learning style
personality style
Beaver, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


Think of someone who is or was influential.

  • In your eyes, what makes or made that person influential or important?
  • What are that person's characteristics?

Maybe you came up with some of these traits:

  • creates clear objectives or goals
  • listens
  • takes action
  • is constantly learning
  • is trustworthy and honest
  • makes connections with people around them
  • is passionate
  • values others

There are many influential people around the world who are important for different reasons. Learn about an influential political leader, author, and athlete from West Africa.

Before learning about these important individuals, take a broad look at the continent they call home: Africa.

Read each of the facts below and decide if you think they are true facts about Africa or false.

  • How'd you do?

Africa is a huge continent consisting of 54 countries where people speak over 3,000 different languages.

map of Africa

This lesson will focus on three influential people who come from the region of West Africa, specifically Liberia, Burkina Faso, and Nigeria.

Find and click on Liberia to discover who you will learn about first.

George Weah became an influential person in Liberia for both politics and sports. That's right, he is both a professional football (soccer) player and President.

George played as a striker for over 14 years in football clubs. He started in Liberia and later played in Europe, including Paris Saint-Germain, where he was a top scorer, and Milan, where he played four seasons. At the height of his football career in 1995, he was named African, European, and World Player of the Year.

After retiring from football, George turned to politics. He served first as Senator and is currently the 25th President of Liberia (2020). George has been been President since 2018.

Watch Liberia's President Rejoins National Soccer Team from Wochit Entertainment (CNN) in 2018:

On to Burkina Faso. Click on this country to meet our next individual.

Thomas Sankara was a revolutionary who served many years in the military before leading Burkina Faso as President from 1983 to 1987. He became President at age 33 and changed the country's name from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso.

Thomas fought to transform Burkina Faso from a poor country dependent on foreign aid to an economically independent and socially progressive nation. He believed in self-sufficiency and promoted health care, education, and land reform.

Thomas was assassinated in 1987.

Watch The life, legacy & assassination of an African revolutionary - Lisa Janae Bacon for TED-Ed:

And finally, locate Nigeria on the map.

Chinua Achebe is the author of the most widely read book in African literature, Things Fall Apart. He is often referred to as the father of African literature.

Chinua was born in 1930 in eastern Nigeria. He was a member of the Igbo ethnic group, and many of his novels feature the realities of this group.

In addition to his work as an author, Chinua was a professor at several universities both in Nigeria and the United States. He died in 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts.

Watch Chinua Achebe: 1930-2013 from Brown University:

Now, head over to the Got It? section to review what you've learned.

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