Interactions Among the People of Africa


Grass houses

Interaction can be defined as the way in which people from a given community came into contact with another community. Major interactions between the peoples of Africa begun during the Late Stone Age and the Iron Age up to the middle of 19th century.

Interaction among the people of Africa were caused by social, political and economic factors.

Social factors which gave rise to interactions among the people of Africa

1.   War

Internal conflicts over land, minerals, water, and control of trade or power led to movement of some societies from their original land. A typical example was the movement of the Ngoni from South Africa to other parts of Africa.

2.   Migration

As communities grew in number this lead to a scarcity of resources, which forced others to migrate in search of resources. For example the Bantu migration and the Ngoni migration.

3.   Intermarriage

Some people left their places because of marriage. For example, Nyamwezi and Hehe married each other and caused interaction.

4.   Religion

Religion brought people together from many places. For example, people from different villages came together to pray for a rain during drought.

5.   Music and games

People from different places came together to celebrate traditional dances like Ngoma. These events took place after the agricultural work was completed.

6.   Medicine

Some communities had witchdoctors so people from different communities went to them for treatment. For example, Kinjekitilie Ngwale, was a witchdoctor who was visited by many who needed treatment from him.

Economic factors which give rise to the interaction among the people of Africa

1.   Trade

Different societies had to move in search of commodities which led to interaction. For example, people of Zambia, Mozambique and Rwanda had trade links with people of East Africa and in North Africa people interacted with West Africans through Trans-Saharan trade.

2.   Search for new land

Areas that were not conducive for human settlement and production activities were left behind and those that with conducive conditions like fertile soil and good climate did attract many people. For example, agricultural community did shift from areas that were infertile to those areas with reliable rainfall and fertile soil.

3.   Introduction of means of transport

Means of transport supported the movement of the traders. For example, the use of camels in West Africa since the 4th A.D expanded trade interaction between West Africa Sudanic stated like: Ghana, Mali and Songhai and the Berbers from Northern Africa.

4.   Establishment of routes which were used for interaction

For example, the trading contact which mainly grew from the coast of East Africa made the people in Bagamoyo and Zanzibar interact with the Nyamwezi.

5.   Introduction of iron technology

Iron technology enabled people to engage in economic activities like, farming, pastoralism and commerce hence interaction.

The Impact of the Economic Interactions

Positive economic impacts

1.   Development of technical skills and new ideas 

Interaction led people of Africa from different communities to share their skills and ideas for economic growth. For example, they shared iron making skills.

2.   Growth of new towns and cities

Interaction among African people led to the development of new towns as most of the populated areas grew economically due to the population increase and production activities such as trade and agricultural activities. Cities like Timbuktu developed because of interaction.

3.   Intensification of agricultural production

Agricultural production was intensified to meet the demand on the market because of interaction.

Negative economic impacts

4.   Over exploitation of African resources

Interaction among African people resulted in overexploitation of African resources through trade which was unequal in nature. Africans gold was taken for the exchange of wine.

5.   Emergence of classes among the Africans

Classes emerged dividing poor Africans from rich Africans who accumulated wealth from different economic, social and political activities.

6.   Exposure of Africa to the outside world

African country and its resources came to be exposed to the outside world due to interaction.

7.   Decrease of productive manpower

This was due to slave trade; through interaction the outsiders started to take slaves from Africa to their mother countries as labor power.

Impacts of social interaction

1.   Population increase

Areas that attracted large numbers of people became highly populated, especially productive areas. The increased population resulted into socio-economic development in the given areas which facilitated immigration.

2.   Emergence of new languages

As different people interacted new languages emerged. For example, the Swahili language emerged due to interaction between Arabs, Africans and Europeans.

The coming of the Ngoni

The Ngoni people are an ethnic group living in Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia. The Ngoni trace their origins to the Nguni and Zulu people of Kwazulu-Natal in South Africa. They moved to Tanzania from Natal between 1840’s due to Mfecane war.

The Causes of the Ngoni Migration

1.   The need for land to carry out economic activities

Ngoni were an agricultural society, they needed fertile land on which to carry out production activities like farming and cattle raring. In the 19th century, the Ngoni had shortage of land in Natal. The only alternative to secure was to migrate to occupy land in other regions.

2.   The rise of King Shaka of the Zulu

Shaka needed to expand his Kingdom, he started Mfecane war. As a result, many people fled South Africa to escape Shaka’s army and the war.

3.   Population growth

During the 19th Century, people increased in Natal. This created a demand for areas of settlement and so, many societies decided to move to other areas.

4.   The Boer movement northwards to Natal

This movement contributed to Ngoni movements towards East and Central Africa in 1800’s. Societies which could not resist the Boers decided to flee the region.

5.   The influence of their leaders

Men like Zwangendaba, Maputo and Zulugama provided good leadership. This encouraged them to move onwards.

6.   Increased knowledge of military tactics

Ngoni people believed that, they could have other territories through migration because of their military techniques and weapons. For example, they had bull horn military technique of surrounding their enemies. Also, they had superior weapons like Asegai.

Effects of the Ngoni Migration

1. Small chiefdoms united together

For the fear of being conquered, small chiefdoms formed large political units under strong leaders to fight the Ngoni. For example Sangu and Hehe united together.

2. Spread of Ngoni customs and culture

Ngoni people spread their culture in different societies. For example, initiation ceremonies where girls were taught sex educations and circumcision.

3. Intermarriages

Ngoni people married people from different societies, for example, marriage between Ngoni and Nyamwezi which subsequently led to improved relationships between them and an increased population.

4. Death of people

Ngoni migration caused the loss of lives leading to depopulation in some areas where they were attacked by the Ngoni. This was especially in southern Tanzania.

5. Destruction of economy

The Ngoni were cattle plunderers, they destroyed the economy of the people of southern Tanzania when they grabbed their cattle.

6.   Intensification of slave trade in East Africa

Ngoni invasion displaced people from their homes and so making it easy for slave raiders to catch and sell them.

History Form Two Topic One Revisions Questions

1.   Choose the correct answer and write the letter in the boxes provided.

i. The social factors which led to the Ngoni migration included:

a. Trading ambitions   b. Good leadership

c. Over population       d. Discovery of iron technology

ii. The Chewa and the Yao of Malawi obtained the following goods from the coastal commerce during the 10th A.D.

a. Ivory, animal skins and gold      b. Soft drinks, beads and pots.

c. Beads, silk and spices      d. Porcelain, silk spices and glassware.

iii. The development of town in African societies before the period of colonial rule occurred due to:

a. Settlement by various groups with similar language features.

b. Cultivation of crops and hunting.

c. Trade contacts

d. Handcraft industries

iv. The original land of the East Africa Ngoni was:

a. Meroe in Northern Africa. B. Niger in West Africa

c. Natal in South Africa.        D. Katanga in Central Africa

v. The famous leader who firstly led to movement of the Ngoni to East Africa was:

a. Shaka    b. Mzilikazi

c. Zwangendaba         d. Dingiswayo

2.   Define ‘economic interaction.’

3.   List three major groups which interacted with the Bushmen in East Africa.

4.   Explain in short the impacts of economic interactions in African societies.

5.   List down five outcome of the Ngoni Migration in East Africa.

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