Trans Sahara trade was the trade conducted across the Sahara desert. It involved the people of Northern Africa and the people of Western Sudan.This trade started long time ago between 3000BC to 2000BC. It became important in the 1st century AD after the people of West Africa to discover the use of camel and led to formation of many trade routes. The Trans Saharan trade was known as dumb trade because there was no common language which was used.
People who involved in the trade.
- West Africa
- North Africa
- Savannah Region
People (traders) organized themselves in groups known as CARAVANS Goods involved in the trade Kola nuts, gold, salt, food stuffs, Ivory, clothes, gold, bee-wax, slaves and ostrich feathers goods from West. And from North Africa salt and animal skin. Goods from Europe and Asia were cotton and silk cloth, swords, guns, metal pans, horses and Arabic books.
- Western route- From Sijilmasa, Fez in Morocco passed through Taghaza, Taodeni, Walata, Audaghost, and Kumbi Saleh to
- Central route- This passed Tunis, Ghat, Ghamese, Kano, Gao and Hausa
- Eastern route- This began in Tripol, Marzul and
The following are some of the factors that contributed to the growth of the Trans Saharan trade:
- Stability of the communities: Both North African and Western Sudan zone were politically For example leaders like Sundiata Keita and Mansa Musa collected taxes and established guides on trade routes. This enabled the people to conduct trade without fear. Up to the end of the 15th century AD many traders were motivated to come to Western Sudan for trade.
- Western Sudan provided goods needed by traders from These goods included gold, ivory and slaves. Through trading Western Sudan exchanged her own commodities with goods from Western Europe and Asia. In turn, she got clothes, guns and other commodities. The surplus production in Western Sudan was adequate to sustain demand for products such as kolanuts and gold, hides, ivory slaves, whereas Taghaza produced enough salt to meet the needs in Western Sudan. The high production capacity in the region enhanced the growth of the Trans Saharan trade.
- Honesty: The Berbers of North Africa and the African traders of Western Africa trusted each Traders brought in commodities without fear of theft and robbery, enabling the trade to flourish.
- The use of camels for transport suited the desert conditions and facilitated the development of the Trans-saharan trade. These animals could not only carry more commodities than horses and human porters, but also endured desert conditions. Camels can survive without water for a This convenient means of transport strengthened the development of the Trans-saharan trade.
- Geographical location of the region: The location and climate favoured the production of kola nuts and other foodstuffs that were needed in the community, especially the forest region to the south. The region of Western Sudan had no impassable forests because many areas were covered by short This enabled traders to cross the desert without fear or any difficulty.
- The invention of a medium of exchange contributed to the growth of the Trans Saharan At the beginning, only the silent barter system of trade was practised. Later on, cowrie shells were introduced as a convenient medium of exchange. This in turn facilitated the development of the Trans-saharan trade.
- From the nothern part, the Berbers provided capital to many traders who used to cross the sahara
- Removal of language barrier: This was attained after Arabic language became the trader’s medium of communication. This in turn facilitated the trade by making communication between the traders easy.
- Absence of competition for trading activities in the region: There were no regular ships that visited the coast of West Africa. As a result, what was produced from the forest zone was peacefully transported to North Africa through the Saharan desert.
- Scarcity of commodities like gold and
(xi )Introduction of horses, which were used in conquest and expansion.
- It led to the growth of empires like Ghana, Mali etc
- It increased development of
- It led to the introduction of Arabic Islamic religion
- Formation of mixed races example half cast
- Growth of town and cities eg Jenne, Timbukutu, Gao and
by the second half of the nineteenth century, the volume of Trans-saharan trade started to decline. A number of obstacles or problems have been identified to explain the decline. These are:-
- Strong desert winds: The traders could not withstand the hazards of sand Many abandoned the trade as a result.
- Traders faced the danger of getting lost in the desert because the routes were not clear. Once traders got lost, they would wander in the desert for a long time and eventually die of thirst and
- Traders were subjected to attacks by desert robbers who made their living by stealing from trade caravans. In the process, traders lost their lives and goods. This discouraged traders from participating effectively in the trade.
- The extreme climatic conditions were unfavourable to The heat and high temperatures during the day and every low temperatures at night due to the absence of cloud cover discouraged traders.
- Traders faced the danger of highly poisonous desert creatures whose bites could result in These included snakes and scorpions.
- Traders faced language This hampered communication during trade. As such “silent trade” had to be used initially.
- The development of the Trans-Atlantic rout across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe: commodities like ivory and slaves were transported quickly to the coast of West Africa from where they wer transported to Europe. Thus the trade routes shifted from the Saharan desert to the Instead of the direct route to the North, they went via the coast of West Africa.
- Commodities obtained from Western Sudan such as salt and gold faced competition from similar goods from other America cheaply. As result, the volume of Trans-saharan trade decreased because Western Sudan could no longer clain a monopoly in production of certain commodities like salt and gold. Also gold from Zimbabwe via Sofala port by the Portuguese ended up in
- The abolition of slave trade contributed to the decline of the Trans-saharan trade. Slaves were the main item of trade. When slave trade was abolished, trade started to
- Shortage of water also led to the decline in trade. The oases in the Saharan desert provided water seasonally but they sometimes dried This made it difficult for the traders to cross the Saharan desert.
- Wars: The war in Morocco and the one between Christians and Muslims disrupted the smooth running of the The Moroccan invasion of western Sudan in 1591 AD disturbed the growth of the trade by taking gold at Wangara.
Finally, the Trans-saharan trade collapsed in the 16th century. From this period onwards, west Africa witnessed the expansion of European occupation on the coast of West Africa.