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History of The Development of Trade in Africa

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Trade has been labeled as the center of the world due to the many demands for goods. Now as an informational view this will be the bias-free point of view. Now in my world history class, there are many things I’ve learned, so before I run into cited indications I would like to inform in this essay of what I know so far. I know there are many kingdoms that began in Africa and began an empire of trade not only to Africa itself but to the whole wide world. Trade is needed due to goods being produced in many different parts of the world. speaking of goods Africa is known for its gold before 1500 BC.

A gold mine was located near the three empires of 1500 BC called the kingdom of Ghana, the kingdom of Mali as well as kingdom Songhai. It’s a coincidence that the kingdoms are located so close to this marvelous mine. Today this location is labeled as Mali. If you didn’t know Mali is country. The climate in Africa is bizarre; the vegetation near the tropic of cancer is mostly deserted; the Sahara desert takes up the majority of that Africa portion. yet if you just travel a little south near the equator it’s very tropical and has a jungle texture. However, between these two vegetation zones, there’s a strip of grasslands and then this zone of grasslands curves around the tropical forest zone and takes up the rest of the south of Africa. “Ghana Kingdom was the first trade empire in West Africa, emerged as early as A.D. 500; located in the grassland zone of West Africa. In the state of Ghana, many people were farmers living in villages and together were living under the authority of a local ruler; thus making the kingdom beget. Active roles played running the kingdom lead to their vast wealth.” (Spielvogel, 2014)

Not only was there gold but there was also a high demand for salt. salt? what why salt? well because this was so long ago and not as many technologies were created just yet back then. now since there wasn’t a refrigerator to keep their food fresh, salt kept their meat fresh. “It’s like a bag of beef jerky you see at the grocery store, it has a big amount of sodium to keep it preserved for as long as about 2 years.” (Mcdonald, 2018) it was called the salt-gold trade. They traded between the west and the north. Trade, made vast changes to the world it all began from the center of the world. routes to reach locations were located throughout the kingdom grounds. each route led to a different location. So not only did the Ghana empire control the gold and salt but they also controlled the trade routes that went through their land. Many Berber trade routes went through the Sahara desert leading towards the Mediterranean sea and Europe. Other trade routes went towards the Middle Eastern peninsula, which is located just across the Red Sea. Muslim merchants were most likely to be traveling on Berber trade routes considering there from northern part of Africa.

“These Muslim merchants brought Ghana metal goods, textiles, horses, and salt in return for gold. Not only did salt preserve food but it also improved food’s taste. Because the climate was very warm, people often sweated. It’s like a work out being in the sun all day. When the human body is in action or at a high temperature it tends to let out some bodily fluids; also known as sweat. In our sweat there is salt, we also cry salt water. It is bad for us to drink salt water however we do need a little amount of salt intake once in a while. So because these Africans were in the sun all day working or doing their daily tasks, they would sweat and lose a portion of their sodium levels. Now other Ghanaian exports were taken outside of Africa which is near the Mediterranean as well as beyond. These goods included ivory and hides. Now you may be wondering how so long ago they got these bulk items from place to place. Many years ago there was no such thing as a car to take you to places. Well, let me introduce to you the two-humped animal biologically called the Camel. Or as the people of their time call it “fleets of the desert”. This crucial factor was used for the majority of transportation. The camel was the chosen one of the many walking animals. Why? Well, unlike any other four-legged animal, the camel was much more reliable to survive throughout the blazing heat of the Sahara desert. The camel would survive for a long period of time without food and water. It sounds surreal it’s a true fact. Camels can drink a very big amount of water and it would let them through the entire trip; This water was stored in the humps on their backs. As many as a 100 camels would be loaded up with goods and supplies for the journey. The camels were accompanied by guards in case of any attackers along the way” (Spielvogel, 2014)

I will make a brief connection to trade during the time of the Muslim prophet Mohammed, the traveler’s food intake would be dates and water. The date would have your sugar intake and would last you a long time. The date was chosen because if you cook meat it would spoil along the way, so they needed to take foods that would last over a month. Now when they would make a trade through the roads of trade, they would sometimes be invaded by bandits hiding and waiting to attack travelers. They would steal the goods and I guess to make a profit out of it by selling it somewhere else. The life of crime has begun very long ago. These traveled trade routes in Arabia were linked to the Silk Road. “These merchants often became wealthy from the trade business, as well as the King due to the taxes imposed on goods that entered or left the kingdom. The eighth and ninth century has been reached and the trade was carried on by Muslim merchants, these Muslim merchants have made the trade routes reach farther places like Southwest Asia just by buying goods from local traders, using iron, copper, and other items. Selling these items to Berbers led to these goods reaching different destinations across the desert. Due to war and other conflicts, the Ghana kingdom weakened and collapsed during the 1100s. A new trade route rose in its place called the kingdom of Mali. it was established by the Sundiata Keita in the mid-1200s.

The founder of this kingdom united the people of Ghana and Mali leading to a stronger government and an expansion from the Atlantic coast to the trading city called Timbuktu. This city also got its wealth from the gold-salt trade. Although many people from Mali were farmers and lived in villages they were authorized by local leaders but were ruled by a Mansa “king” named Musa. Musa was a wealthy king and followed the religion of Islam.” (Spielvogel, 2014) Islam is a religion where one believes in one god and believes his messenger is Mohamed, this was originated in the Middle East and is followed by millions. “Mansa Musa was the wealthiest leader and made his kingdom the greatest trading empire. There were so many golds that when Mansa Musa went to make the pilgrimage, thousands of his servants went along with him; he took tons of gold with him and like offered it to the people of poverty along the way. “Everywhere he went he lavished the people with gold and bought so many items with gold. You would be thinking he is buying a yacht or something but it was as simple as a sock being traded for golf. Because the gold was given away and used in such a small amount of time the value of gold decreased majorly. It didn’t really matter because I was like there currency at the time and as time evolved new currency was made and the value of gold increased frantically. No doubt this pilgrimage left a great image of Musa. since this ruler was Muslim, although earlier rulers had already converted to Islam; Mansa Musa decided to make Timbuktu a center of Islamic teachings and culture.

The kingdom of Songhai was the first to benefit from Muslim trade routes. These routes linked Arabia, North Africa, and West Africa. An era of prosperity ensured with Gao as the chief trade center. “The trading empire was given to the Songhai; however the Songhai leader Sunni Ali son was overthrown by Muhammad true, then overall the Songhai was occupied by the Moroccan sultan near the end of the 1500s. Along the shores of the Indian Ocean near Ethiopia was a mixture of people. These people were based on subsistence farming where they only made food for themselves and not for sale. Farmers grew millet, yams, melons, sorghum and beans; and used iron and stone tools to farm. The basic roles of societal views the women would take care of the infants and would till the fields, while men would do the masculine things like hunting and gathering or locally trading which included salt, copper, and iron ore. Through this trade, others were taught the techniques to smelt iron and about high-yield crops such as yams and bananas across Africa by the Bantus. The Bantus were a family of people that spoke their own dialect and began to move from the Niger River to East Africa. There began a new trade. T

rade reaching past the Middle East as far as Southeast Asia and China. This begets through the new ports opened on the coasts of the Indian Ocean. Now before sea trade began, goods did not reach the very south or as social norms call it the horn of Africa.” (Spielvogel, 2014) The ports near the coast of Africa toward the west were part of the Indian Ocean trade. Meaning not only was gold and salt received but as well as items from China and India. China brought porcelain and India came along with many activities like playing cards, chess, and horse riding. A heavy topic used to define Africa is slavery. It’s happened and recently still happens. You might have heard of the trade triangle. This was a route to where ships traveled from Africa to Europe and to the Americas. Slaves were traded in the center of this triangle. Traveling across the Atlantic ocean was the only route and wasn’t always the best. It would take months to get across and sadly not many survived. Africans would get sick and would not receive help due to whites thinking they are people of different species due to their skin color. Not only were slaves traded to the Americas but as well as to Europe. People near the Mediterranean were often traded there. These African slaves were put into markets as if they were products.

As you may or may not know slaves were treated horribly. They were forced into labor with no pay and were often beat for not doing what they were told by their “masters.” families of these slaves were separated and sold and were often given new names or changed names. They got very little in return for there hard were and were rarely cared about. In conclusion, recently there was an article on the slave trade in Libya, now adults and elders cannot tell us youngsters that we have not lived in a time of slavery. Africa has its ups and downs, as well as its positives and negatives however in all being said it has made a big impact on today’s world.

Wealth was made by trade back then and still is made by trade or as we call it today marketing and stocks or whatever. The level of entrepreneurship in this business has boomed recently in my view. Many new built businesses have taken over and the mind of these youngsters has been put set to make money instead of a change. Without Africa today the world would be a different place.

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History of the Development of Trade in Africa. (2018, July 03). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 1, 2023, from
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