Role of Trade in Africa

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Why is the role of trade important for one to understand when studying Africa? Be sure to include examples from all over the African continent in addressing your answer.

Olivia Griesmer

The role of trade is very important to understand when studying Africa because it was the major way people gained wealth. Much of Africa is desert and dry and hard to farm on so trading was how much of Africa made its wealth. In the area known as Nubia a large trade and emerged with Egypt. They traded ivory, ebony, frankincense, and leopard skins. The Kush empire kingdom prospered in trade; providing iron goods, ivory, gold ebony and slaves from all over. When the Kush Empire declined Axum arose. They too were based mostly on trade. They exported ivory, frankincense, myrrh and slaves; they imported textiles, metal goods, wine, and olive oil. In Ghana there was an abundance of gold. They traded gold with people in North Africa and Northern Muslims for metal goods, textiles, horses, and salt. Salt was also a major trade item. It was highly desired for use in food and burials. Trade not only built empires but it was a way of life. Trade across the desert was carried out by the Berbers. They were nomadic traders who rode by camel back. The camel caravans became known as the “fleets of the desert”. Although the presses cross the desert could take up to sixty days, the merchants became quite wealthy. Kings also benefited from this trade; they would put taxes on the import and export of goods. The Muslims carried out most of the trade, but the Berbers carried the good through the desert. The Bantu migrated all over southern Africa spreading their iron-smelting techniques and knowledge of the high-yield crops like yams and bananas. They would later settle down in what is now Zimbabwe and dominate trade along the southern coast. Trade was a way of life to some people and how others survived. Without trade Africa would still be undeveloped and the native people would have died off...
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