Trade in Africa: Historical Perspective of a wealthy, Black Continent

Promoted by necessity, scarcity, and/or abundance, trade is one of the most essential cultural behaviors that promoted contact and exchange of ideas, commodities, and services between individuals and communities and variously transformed African societies of different regions and time periods. TAIWO AKINTUNDE profiles the rich culture of trade in medieval Africa.
Research shows the Anthropological, historical (including historical linguistics), and archaeological evidence points to the existence, on the one hand, of intra-African trade and, on the other, of external trade between Africa and those outside the continent.
Image result for Ivory images
The sands of the Sahara Desert could have been a major obstacle to trade between Africa, Europe and the East, but it was more like a sandy sea with ports of trade on either side. In the south were cities such as Timbuktu and Gao; in the north, cities such as Ghadames (in present-day Libya). From there goods traveled onto Europe, Arabia, India, and China.
Traditionally, however, trade and exchange involving perishable and organic commodities such as grain and cattle have until now been very difficult to identify due to a lack of well-resolved documentation techniques. By comparison, that some objects such as metal artifacts, glass beads, ceramics, and porcelain are pyrotechnological products, with a high survival rate that makes their trade and exchange easily visible archaeologically.
History by Regions
Related image
For many centuries, various African communities located in different regions of the continent namely; the Sahara, Nile Valley, East and Southern Africa, participated in trade and exchange relationships on various scales: local, regional, and intercontinental, as well as temporal and spatial.
According to history, from around AD 750 to 1500, lands to the south of Africa’s Sahara Desert were home to many thriving civilizations. Muslim kings ruled in cities like TIMBUKTU, and chiefs called OBAS were powerful in rainforest kingdoms. SWAHILI people became rich through trade.
Traders from North Africa crossed the Sahara together in a group called a caravan. They led as many as 10,000 camels, heavily laden with goods, in a long line known as a camel train.
At the southern edge of the Sahara, the goods were transferred to donkeys or human porters, to be carried farther south.
Gold, Ivory, Ebony, and slaves from West African kingdoms such as Ghana, Mali, and Songhai were sold in North Africa and the Middle East. They were traded for salt and copper, mined in the Sahara. Later, European traders came for gold, ebony, and slaves.
Image result for history of trade in Sahara Africa
From around 1250 to 1800, a number of different kingdoms made up what is now southwest Nigeria, in West Africa. Each of these was ruled by an Oba. The Obas were both religious and political leaders. Their subjects, the Yoruba people, lived as farmers, and built city-states surrounded by massive walls of earth.
People living in the rainforest kingdom of Benin, now in southern Nigeria, were expert metalworkers and cast elaborate portrait heads of their obas, as well as decorative plaques and ceremonial objects. These were made from brass or bronze and were used for ancestor worship, or to decorate the rulers’ palaces.
The power of the Obas and other African rulers was weakened by the arrival of Europeans. Portuguese, Dutch, and British traders took back news to their countries of the riches of Africa. Explorers were encouraged to travel there and, by 1900, almost all of Africa was ruled by European powers.

Show More

Related Articles