ABSTRACT: Benthic foraminiferal assemblage compositions and sedimentary geochemical parameters were analyzed in two radiocarbon dated sediment cores from the upwelling area off NW Africa at 12°N, to reconstruct productivity changes during the last 31 kyr. High-latitude cold events and variations in low-latitude summer insolation influenced humidity, wind systems, and the position of the tropical rain belt over this time period. This in turn caused changes in intensity and seasonality of primary productivity off the southern Northwest African continental margin.High accumulation rates of benthic foraminifera, carbonate, and organic carbon during times of north Atlantic melt water events Heinrich 2 (25.4 to 24.3 kyr BP) and 1 (16.8 to 15.8 kyr BP) indicate high productivity. Dominance of infaunal benthic foraminiferal species and high numbers of deep infaunal specimens during that time indicate a strong and sustained supply of refractory organic matter reworked from the upper slope and shelf. A more southerly position of the tropical rainbelt and the Northeast trade wind belt during Heinrich 2 and 1 may have enhanced wind intensity and almost permanent upwelling, driving this scenario.A phytodetritus-related benthic fauna indicates seasonally pulsed input of labile organic matter but generally low year-round productivity during the Last Glacial Maximum (23 to 18 kyr BP). The tropical rainbelt is more expanded to the North than during Heinrich events, and relatively weak NE trade winds resulted in seasonal and weak upwelling, thus lower productivity.High productivity characterized by a seasonally high input of labile organic matter, is indicated for times of orbital forced warming, such as the African Humid Period (9.8 to 7 kyr BP). An intensified African monsoon during boreal summer and the northernmost position of the tropical rainbelt within the last 31 kyr resulted in enhanced river discharge from the northward-extended drainage area initiating intense phytoplankton blooms. In the late Holocene (4 to 0 kyr BP) strong carbonate dissolution may have been caused by even more enhanced organic matter fluxes to the sea floor. Increasing aridity on the continent and stronger NE trade winds induced intensive, seasonal coastal upwelling.