West Africa

WA figura



NOTE 09/08/2019

This page was first published on 18 February 2015. Please keep in mind that 23andme’s Ancestry Composition has been updated several times now! On this page I am dealing exclusively with results being reported in the period 2013-2018. All matters being discussed on this page are therefore not pertaining to updated results (2018 up till now). For more details see:


Knowing which African populations score the highest for each of the 23andme “Sub-Saharan African” (SSA) categories can be a good guideline for their predictive ability. Below screenshots are all taken from people who have kindly agreed to share their results with me. For which i am very grateful! They were either born in the African country highlighted or have both parents from that country. These are obviously first of all individual results and very limited in number because there’s only very few Africans yet who have tested with 23andme. I’m posting them for illustrative purposes, mainly to get a very rough idea what to expect. Undoubtedly with more African 23andme test results you might see different or additional patterns. Still i think in most cases these screenshots below would be representative to some degree for how other people from their nationality or ethnic group would score hypothetically speaking.  I will provide a brief overview of the main patterns i’m able to pick up on. Of course it merely shows my personal opinions & thoughts and is not meant to be conclusive in any way 😉

p.s. I’m only showing screenshots of the African breakdown. You’ll notice it will often not add up to 100%. In most cases this is because of a well known “bug” in the current version of Ancestry Composition causing people of 100% “Sub-Saharan African” (SSA) descent to show trace levels of non-SSA admixture or “unassigned” ancestry, this can generally be considered “noise”, i.e. reflecting an artefact of the DNA test. Hopefully it will be fixed with the next update. In some other cases though the individuals will have genuine additional non-SSA ancestry, which might however be “native” to Africa still if it’s labeled as “North African”, otherwise it might reflect historical geneflow from outside of Africa within the last 500 years or even earlier.


  • Despite the name this socalled “West African” category is really measuring ancestry from “Niger-Congo” speaking populations, not only from West Africa, but also including Bantu speaking parts of Central, East and Southern Africa. Aside from any genuine shared ancient ancestry within this huge language group this is also the result of 23andme choosing to include Luhya (from Kenya) and Bantu samples for this category.
  • Afro-descendants will therefore be shown as overwhelmingly or even almost exclusively “West African” even when in reality they might have more Central African or Southeast African origins instead. Only a future update by 23andme providing sub-regional resolution within West Africa and separating Central and Southeast African ancestry will resolve this highly unsatisfying and confusing issue.
  • Also Bantu speaking people from Central/Southern African countries will generally score over 90% “West African”. For Bantu speaking East Africans it seems to be a more varied picture (their screenshots can be seen over here). Among the results of actual West Africans i’ve seen personally, the ones from Ghana and Nigeria are showing the highest, nearly 100% “West African” scores. This could however be a side effect caused by the inclusion of several 23andme customers from Ghana & Nigeria into the reference samples used for the category. Similar to the Somali and Ethiopian samples this might have resulted in “overfitting” or a “calculator effect“.
  • Although seemingly designed to be a “fit-all” category the “West African” percentages can still be somewhat useful if you pay close attention to the relative differences with the other African (SSA + North Africa) categories, even if they are showing up only marginally. Some of the results from Upper Guinea i’ve seen and also 1 from possibly northern Nigeria are suggestive of these persons having ethnic backgrounds which are characterized by having partial ancestral connections with populations who originally weren’t “Niger-Congo” speakers. In absence of such non-“West-African” or rather non-“Niger-Congo” markers i suppose it’s reasonably safe to assume you can rule out any substantial ancestry hailing from Sahellian Africa.      


**Highest scores among West Africans**


Ghana 1

GHA (2)

Ghana 2

GHA (1)

Nigeria 1 (Igbo)

Igbo (1)

Nigeria 2 (Igbo)

Igbo (2)

Nigeria 3 (Yoruba)



Nigeria 4 (possibly Hausa/Northern)




Guiné Conakry (Fula)


Guiné Bissau (Mandinga)


Gambia 1


Gambia 2

GAM (1)

Gambia 3

GAM (2)

Senegal 1


Senegal 2

SEN (2)


**Highest scores among Afro-Diaspora**

  • Even though all Afro-descended results i’ve seen show up as overwhelmingly “West African” for reasons already discussed, the very subtle variation in relative dominance of “West African” percentages as well as the appearance of non-“West African” percentages are most likely indicative of differentiated origins within Africa. A future update with more sub-regional resolution will undoubtedly show this in greater detail.
  • I’ve really only seen sufficient results for African Americans and Cape Verdeans to make any assumptions but it’s striking that especially Jamaicans seem to score the highest “West African” scores relative to total SSA. See also this spreadsheet i made based on results that were shared on the 23andme forum. It might be in line with their documented African origins being mostly from the area in between Ghana and Nigeria, and less varied (proportionally speaking) than those for African Americans. The same goes for Barbados btw, perhaps confirmed by the screenshot below.
  • For Cape Verdeans it’s intriguing how relatively varied their SSA breakdown is being shown (given the limitations of the current Ancestry Compostion). Even though they could arguably be the most narrowly West African descended Afro-Diasporans it seems that really this “West African” category on 23andme is more so geared to capturing ancestry from Lower Guinea than Upper Guinea.  The SSA breakdown for Cape Verdeans is not shown as exclusively “West African” but including “broadly Sub-Saharan African”, some detectable “Central & South African” at times (but not consistently) and especially “North African”.
  • I haven’t devoted a separate subpage to the “North African” category because it’s known historically speaking that many Latin Americans could have inherited partial North African ancestry via the Canary islands or converted “Morisco’s” from Iberia. So in that sense it wouldn’t be clarifying their African ethnic origins resulting from the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade. This could also be the case for Cape Verde to some degree however in addition and perhaps with a higher probability “North Africa” might also suggest direct ancestral connections from Northwest Africa, incl. the Fula who can also show significant North African ancestry (see the previous screenshot of Guinea Conakry and this article).







AA (sp)

Cape Verde 1


Cape Verde 2

CV (jA)

Cape Verde 3

CV (ls)


9 thoughts on “West Africa

  1. Hello Fonte! im back again..lol. I have just recieved my estimates for 23andme. My Results came out as

    Total African 81%

    west african 76%
    central&southern Africa 2.2%
    Broadly sub Saharan 2.7

    European 17.5%

    british and irish 5.5%
    broadly northwestern european 7.8%

    Southern European
    Iberian 0.5%
    Broadly southern European 1.4%

    East Asian&Native American 0.4%
    Native American 0.2%
    Southeast Asian 0.1%
    Broadly east Asian < 0.1%
    Broadly east Asian& Native American <0.1%

    I notice you didn't Mention anything about Haplogroups , 23&me Claimed that i was put in a very rare Haplogroup for 23&me customers. L0a which it says is supposed to be common in people from South Africa, and South East Africa Mozambique . I would very much like to get your thoughts on these results. Thank You ,Much appreciated.


    • Hey Vanessa,

      Did you get a chance yet to look into your DNA matches at Ancestry 😉

      About your 23andme results, the African regional breakdown is obviously less informative but the total amount of African admixture is more or less in line with Ancestry. On the other hand the European breakdown on 23andme is more reliable than Ancestry’s imo. Some people don’t like the “broadly this or that” designations. But i find it a more honest approach when based on the data nothing more can be said with any degree of accuracy as well as the reality that most neighbouring populations are simply overlapping in genetics because of ancient shared origins, migrations and intermarriage.

      Your haplogroup is very interesting indeed but keep in mind that it only represents one family line out of potentially dozens or even hundreds. It might be connected to your minor Southeastern Bantu score. I do have a section on haplogroups actually:

      Haplogroups (AA)
      Locating African American haplogroups within Africa


      • Yo, I’M so happy right now 😁😁😁😁

        I just got my Updated DNA results

        From 35% Benin/Togo now I have

        27%Nigeria & my color is yellow what does it mean for me ????


        Liked by 1 person

  2. MY DNA Matches are still growing..Lol and the full blooded 100% African results that you have pulled up for me i havent been able to get in contact with. I definitely noticed a much better accuracy rate with the European and other non african groups. West European and British Always seemed the most likely candidate where as other places not so much. Specially with all the british names/surnames that run in our family.Out off all the dna predictions ive taken being told ridiculous things like over half of my European DNA is Italian or Hungarian has me doing the biggest eye roll. and questioning the legitimacy of the prediction on everything. DnaLand seems to be in the middle, The African seems to line up. The percentage of African seems to vary. It gives me a lower, but not too low score of 77% African with mostly lower niger valley being first #1 mende Akan regions at #2 Senegal valley at #3 and East africa coming in last. I also do realize that the haplogroup in 23andme only shows a lineage in one Maternal family line. But It at leasts helps with the greater lists of possibly more accurate origins. Trying to find all of my origins(Specifically african) is gonna be proven to be a task in itself. Cause i honestly Don’t know what im going to do with all of these origins and Ethnic mixes lol.I am guessing you have heard about 23andme’s African Origins project? It seems very interesting and exciting, I hope this will add to the future of 23andme finally adding countries to their Database Like ancestry. Their African section seems to need some help.All it seems to do is tell you “You’re African” The same way Ancestry tells Asians “You’re East Asian”. 23and me seems to have a much larger Asian Database. But Ancestry African Database looks as if it might be smaller than 23andme,Im not sure if it is though. I guess i dont fully understand how this stuff works yet.


    • I do know about 23andme African Genetics project… i also know they had a similar one way back in 2013… and yet for several years already now they have not updated their reference populations nor created additional finergrained African categories for their ancestry composition. So yeah… eventually when they will do a long overdue update hopefully it will be a big improvement but i’m not holding my breath for it…


    • Hello Kianna,

      You mean the picture showing a result with 99,9% West African right? This is a screenshot i took from a Ghanaian profile i’m sharing with. It’s also shown further below (“Ghana 1”).


  3. Hello Fonte,

    I read over your article and it’s very informative. I recently received my results from 23andme and still a bit confused. What I’m getting out of the report is where my ancestors may have came from and not a definite place or tribe. Below are my results.

    Sub-Saharan African
    West African
    African Hunter-Gatherer
    East African
    Broadly Sub-Saharan African

    British & Irish
    Broadly Northwestern European
    Broadly European

    East Asian & Native American
    Southeast Asian
    Native American
    South Asian
    Broadly South Asian

    Western Asian & North African


    Just like Vanessa, 23andme claimed I was in a rare haplogroup L2c2.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Mary! The latest update of 23andme’s Ancestry Composition has been very disappointing sofar. In particular for Afro-Diasporans. I intend to blog about it shortly.


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