Long Distance Trade in West Africa

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African History
18 March 2011
History of Trade Influence in West Africa
Trade has played an important role in the history of the West African region. Trade shaped the region in two main ways. Trade worked as a catalyst for the rise of nearly every empire in the region from its’ earliest times to present day. Also, the growth and spread of trade routes brought in an immense amount of culture with it as well.

Trade is and has been a reason for organization in all parts of the world from the days of the barter system all the way to the mass production and retail trade that we see today. It is especially important in West Africa, where control of the trade market means control of the region. By about 3000 B.C, climate change had caused much of the Sahara to dry up. Due to the now lack of resources and harsher climate conditions, trade now took on a more important role in society. With trade comes economic growth, which brings on the need for security and thus the need to form a formal state. No state could rise above the others without the control of the trade. The first state to do so in the region was the empire of Ghana. The empire of Ghana finds its’ origins with the Soninke people in the north and upper waters of the Niger River around the 3rd century A.D. These people rose to power by acting as middlemen for the Berber chiefs and Arab traders north, and the gold and ivory producers in the south. By 800 A.D, Ghana’s influence had vastly spread and it

became a powerful trading-state. As Ghana continued to have control of the Trans-Saharan trade routes, their sphere of influence, power and intimidation spread as well. The power of wealth increases the need for structure, and Ghana required a more centralized government under one ruler. The king or leader had the duty of organizing the trade of gold and other goods. The wealth brought in from trade caused further expansion and by the peak of the empire, Ghana was able to hold domain over many...
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