Africa and the External World | History Form Two

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Early contacts with the Middle East and Far East

Contacts with the Middle East and Far East began as early as 200BC. Early foreigners to visit the African coast were people from Asia including countries like Syria, Arabia, India, Burma, Thailand, China and Spice Islands. Availability of goods such as ivory, gold, animal skins and slaves was one of the motives which attracted the traders to visit the East African Coast.

Social and Economic motives of contacts between Africa, the middle east and far east

1. Availability of goods such as ivory, gold, animal skins and slaves which had attracted the traders.

2. The discovery of the power of wind and its patterns i.e. the Monsoon which helped to drive their vessels across the Indian Ocean to East Africa (South West Monsoon, November, to April) and back to their home lands (North East Monsoon, May to October).

3. Development of marine technology. They could contract large dhows which enabled them to carry huge quality of goods.

4. Acceptance by the local people along the coast. They expected to benefit in the trading relationship.

5. Constant warfare in the Middle East especially Persia made Arabs flee to East Africa their survival depended on trade.

6. The desire to spread Islam. Traders desired to spread their Islamic religion that why they made contacts with Africa.

7. Interest to explore the world. People from the Middle and Far East, wanted to travel and learn many things they did not know in the world.

The Major Commodities which were exchanged during the Contact between Africa, Middle East and Far East in early trade

Commodities (export) from Eastern Africa

Ivory, Slaves, Copper, Cum Copal, Rhinoceros horns, tortoise shells and beeswax

Imports to East Africa

From India-Cotton clothes, beads and iron implements

From Maldives Islands-Cowries shells which were used as money and also as ornaments

From China -Silk clothes, porcelain

From Arab and Persia -Swords, daggers (weapons), glassware and Persian rugs.

From East Indies (Malaysia or Spice Islands) - Spices

From Burma and Thailand - Stone ware i.e. pots and jars

Social effects of contacts between Africa, Middle and Far East

1.   Rise of coastal city states

City state established trade as the basic activities. The coastal city states were: Kilwa, Mombasa, Mogadishu, Sofala, Lamu, Malindi, Pate and Zanzibar.

2.   Growth and spread of Kiswahili

Kiswahili language coined many vocabularies from Arabic language. It was spread in the interior by traders.

3.   Development of Arabic Architecture

In construction of larger building, Arabic architecture were applied. The building included palaces such as: The Great Mosque which was built by Al-Hassan ibn Suleiman II at Kilwa about 1320.

4.   Introduction of Arabic culture

Arabic culture such as dressing of Kanzu, bangles and necklaces were introduced and destroyed African culture which existed before the beginning of the external contacts.

Economic effects of contacts between Africa and the Middle and Far East

1.   It exposed the East African Coastal area to the outside World

The outside world then, exploited products and raw materials in Africa.

2.   Unequal exchange

Traders from Asia exchanged less valuable goods with goods of higher value such as slaves, ivory and gold.

3.   Technological stagnation

Imported goods retarded the markets of African products that were produced by African handicrafts and industries.

4.   Introduction of coconuts and cloves

Coconut and cloves were introduced in Zanzibar and other coastal areas.

5.   Land alienation

African land were taken by the Arabs. Africans became landless.

6.   Slave trade

Africans were taken as slaves to Asia as domestic servants and soldiers during slave trade.

Contacts with Europe

The Portuguese

The contact between Africans and Portuguese dates back as far as 15th Century:

The Portuguese led by Vasco da Gama reached the East coast in 1498.They were the first Western Europeans to enter the Coast from the South.

The Portuguese managed to reach this region in their attempt to explore a sea route to India around the continent of Africa.

Their search for a sea route was supported by Prince Henry the navigator, the son of King John of Portugal.

The Commodities which were exchanged during the Contact

The important commodities involved during the contact included, copper, gold, silver, spices and ivory from Africa and invaluable goods from Europe such as wines alcohol, mirrors, glassware etc.

Motives of the Contacts between Africa and the Portuguese

Economic Motives

1. Need to exploit valuable resources believed to exist in Africa such as gold, silver and ivory.

2. To create a Portuguese empire in the African coasts.

3. To find a sea route to India and Far East (famous for Spices) and this was in response the closure of the land routes to Asia by the Ottoman Turks in 1453.

4. Need to monopolise Indian Ocean trade which for a long period was dominated by Arabs, Chinese, Indonesians and Indians merchants. The trade was profitable.

Social Motives of the Contacts between Africa and the Portuguese

1. Religious

Portuguese wanted to spread Christianity in Africa and prevent further spread of Islam in Africa.

2. The role of Prince Henry the Navigator

The King of Portugal, Prince Henry the Navigator sponsored and encouraged the Pioneer Voyages.

3. Exploration

At the end of 13th Century Western Europe had experienced the period of learning new knowledge and discoveries. This made people start to explore unknown land and sailing unmapped areas.

Social Impacts of the Contacts between the Portuguese and Africa

1. Introduction of new crops in Africa

New crops such as maize and cassava were introduced. Those crops became staple food for many people in Africa.

2. Introduction of Portuguese words in Kiswahili language

Words introduced were such as: meza, leso, gereza and mvinyo.

3. Decline of Coastal City states

Example of Coastal City States declined were: Mombasa, Kilwa and Gedi.

4. Insecurity and loss of properties

This was due to the frequent conquest resistances and wars.

5. Spread of Christianity into parts of Africa

The Portuguese spread Christianity through a large part of Africa.

Economic Impacts of the Contacts between the Portuguese and Africa

1. The decline of Indian Ocean trade

This was because of diversion of major trade routes through the Atlantic Ocean.

2. The exposure of Africa to international trade

Africa became known to Europe and America due to explorations made by the Portuguese.

3. The decline of gold production in Mwenemutapa (Zimbabwe)

The decline occurred after development of the conflict between Africa miners and the Portuguese.

4. Tourist attraction

Building of forts such as Fort Jesus in Mombasa attracts tourists in Kenya and generates income for the country.

Reasons for the fall of the Portuguese Rule in East Africa

  1. Resistances

Coast resistance was conducted by feudal lords and traders who wanted to protect their political and economic interests. Many coastal city states which had been under the Arabs resisted against Portuguese occupation.

  1. Portuguese weakness

Portugal was a small country without enough capital and competent personnel to administer overseas business.

  1. Tropical disease

The Portuguese suffered from tropical diseases like malaria and harsh climatic conditions. This made the area become unfavorable for the Portuguese settlements.

  1. Portuguese were few

The Portuguese were overpowered by Swahili and Arabs.

  1. Attacks by the Zimba and the Segeju

These two ethnic groups moved around in search for a homeland for themselves. The Zimba moved up from the lower Zambezi river and killed the people the met on their way. In 1587 they attacked Kilwa and killed many people including the Portuguese to the extent that Portuguese called them cannibals.

  1. Support from the Turkish Sultanate

Coastal Arabs and Swahili received military supports from the Turkish and Oman Arabs from the Middle East. In 1585 Amir Ali Bey a Turkish sailor and fighter was sent from the Red sea down the coast by the Turkish Sultan to plunder the Portuguese property at the coast.

Finally, the Portuguese rule over East Africa ended in 1698 when Portuguese witnessed the fall of Fort Jesus in Mombasa which was their headquarters and one of the strongest Portuguese garrisons.

Impact of the fall of Portuguese rule in East Africa

1.   Shift in the control of trade

It gave room to Oman Arabs to control the Indian Ocean trade.

2.   The Sultan shifted his capital

Sultan Said Seyyid shifted his capital to Zanzibar.

3.   Consolidation and spread of Islam

With the Christian Portuguese gone, the Arab seized the opportunity to consolidate their religion on the coastal cities by building mosques and teach Islam.

4.   Portuguese building were left in ruins

Over time these ruins have ended up becoming historical sites. An example is the historical site of Fort Jesus Mombasa in Kenya. It is now a tourist attraction point in East Africa.

Dutch settlement at the cap

The Dutch came from Holland (Netherlands) and settled at the Cape in Table Bay in April, 1652 under the leadership of Jan Van Riebeeck.

Sometimes the Dutch are called Boers, a term which refers to Dutch farmers.

When they settled at the Cape, they called themselves by the name of Afrikaners that meant the whites of Africa and over the years developed a language known as Afrikaans.

Dutch owned a trading company known as United Dutch East India Company (UDEIC). The company had been doing trade with India and other parts of Asia. At the Cape they traded with the Khoi Khoi exchanging tobacco and alcohol for cattle after arriving.

Motives of the Dutch settlement at the Cape

1.   Good service station

The Cape had good harbour where the Dutch East Indian Company ships could stop for refueling and servicing on their way to India.

2.   Good weather

The Dutch wanted to settle at the Cape because the area had temperate climatic to support similar to that in Europe.

3.   Fertile soil

The Cape had fertile soil which could produce vegetables and fruit for the ships which sailed to India.

4.   Good resting station for sailors and travelers

The Dutch saw that the Cape was a good resting place for sailors and travelers from Europe on their way to India.

5.   Security

The cape was a good location for the Dutch to station their troops which would be on guard to protect their ships in the Atlantic Ocean.

6.   Gate way to the interior of Africa

The Dutch settled at the Cape because they thought it was a doorway into the interior of Africa which was believed to be rich in minerals and other resources.

Effects of the Dutch settlement at the Cape

1.   Enslavement of Africans

The Dutch East India Company provided slaves from West Africa and West India to provide labour for their plantations and livestock. Boers had established large plantations where they kept animals and grew crops like potatoes, watermelon, pumpkins, pineapple and cucumbers.

2.   Displacement of African people

Africans were forced to move from their normal productive areas to unproductive areas. Hence the Dutch displaced the native Africans from the fertile areas and took their livestock by force.

3.   Social segregation

The Dutch thought themselves superior to Africans, they exploited and mistreated Africans as they were regarded as stupid, uncivilized and faithless thus, laying the foundation of racial segregation.

4.   Expansion of Europeans settlement

Dutch activities led other Europeans like British and French to come to South Africa. However, the Dutch population grew dramatically, for example in 1652 Van Riebeeck arrived at the Cape with a few people, by 1662 the Dutch community had grown to 120 people and in 1685 the population increased to 150 Dutch families.

5.   The increase of warfare

There were frequent wars between the Africans and the Dutch because the Dutch wanted to rule the Africans and take their land while the Africans demanded freedom. 1779 to 1781, 1789 to 1793 and 1799 to 1803 there were Kaffir wars between the Dutch and the Xhosa.

6.   Introduction of a new culture

The Dutch introduced a new culture to the Africans and ignored the indigenous culture. For example the new language known as Afrikaans based on the Dutch language and some words from other languages like Portuguese and Khoikhoi languages was born.

How Africans reacted to the Dutch invasion of their land

Africans did not sit back and watch their land and cattle being taken by the Boers. Africans waged war against the Dutch invasion of their land. Some examples of the Africans war against the Boers were:

1.   The Kaffir wars or war of dispossession

This was the war waged by the Xhosa from 1779 when the Boers extended their settlement to the Great Fish River. In total the Xhosa fought a minimum of seven wars between 1779 and 1846. The wars aimed at preventing the Boers from further occupation of the Xhosa land. The first three such wars were fought in 1779, 1789 and 1803.

The fourth war known as Ndhalambi broke out in 1812, the fifth was known as Makanda and it was fought in 1819 and the sixth was led by Macomo and Tyali in 1834. The seventh war occurred in 1846 due to the plight of locusts and poor harvest in the Xhosa land.

2.   The Battle of Vegkop of 1836

This was a war which was started by the Ndebele under Mzilikazi. They fought against the Boers in the Orange Free State when the Dutch were moving Northwards from the Cape. Unfortunately, the Ndebele were defeated because their weapons were crude and their warriors lacked skills to combat the well trained and equipped Dutch soldiers.

3.   Battle of the Blood of 1837

This war was waged by the Zulu under Dingane against the Boers settlers in Natal. Although they killed Piet Retief, the leader of the Boers in Natal in 1837, in the end they were defeated.

On 1838 Zulu fought against Pretorius, a commandant General in Natal. The Zulu were defeated again and their land was taken by the Dutch.

Slave Trade in the Indian Ocean Sea Board and Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade

Slave trade refers to the selling and buying of human beings as commodities. Africa experienced two types of slave trade.

1. The Indian Ocean slave trade which was conducted by Asians.

2. The Trans Atlantic Ocean slave trade conducted by European merchants.

Main peoples involved:

Arab traders, European merchants, African chiefs e.g. Mirambo and Nyungu ya Mawe, The Nyamwezi, The Kamba, The Yao, Baganda, Banyoro and Khartoumers.

Reasons for the Expansion of Slave Trade in the Indian Ocean Seaboard from the 18th Century

1. Great demands for slaves as soldiers and domestic servants in the Muslim nations of Arabia

Thus the slaves had to come from non-Muslim regions like the interior of East Africa. There were major slave markets in Zanzibar, Bagamoyo, Pemba, Kilwa, Mikindani and Mombasa.

2. Slaves were needed as porters

Slave ferried goods such as ivory and gold from the interior of Africa to the coast, especially to the American, Indian and British traders who took part in it.

3. High demand for slave labour in French sugar plantations in Mauritius and Reunion Island

Initially the French depended slaves from Mozambique but by the 1770’s the demand exceeded supply as a result the French came further North to East Africa in search of slaves.

4.   Demand for labour in clove plantation in Zanzibar

Slave were needed to provide cheap labour in the cloves and coconut plantations.

5.   Demand for slave labour in the Portuguese coffee plantations in Brazil

The demand encouraged development of slave trade across the Indian Ocean.

6.   Demand for slaves to work in mines and plantations in North America.

Techniques used to get slaves

1. Selling of domestic slaves

The local chief sold domestic slaves in exchange for goods like beads, guns and glass. For example, Mirambo and Isike of Nyamwezi, Nyungu ya Mawe of the Kimbu, Machemba of the Yao, Kabaka Mutesa of Buganda and Mkwawa of the Hehe.

2. Selling of criminals, debtors, tax offenders and social misfits

Local chiefs were selling criminals for example, to the Arab slave traders.

3. Selling of Prisoners of war

Prisoners of war could be sold off especially after inter-community wars.

4. Kidnapping and ambush

For example, porters were sometimes kidnapped, transported and sold off to the Arab traders. About ambush, Africans were captured through ambushes during hunting, travelling and gardening.

5. Raiding villages

Raiding of villages would begin at night with gun shots and people would scatter consequently leading to their capture.

6. Buying from slave markets

Slaves were acquired from the main slave trade market in Zanzibar.

Social effects of slave trade on Africa

1. Introduction of new foods

The food introduced through trade routes such foods were maize, pawpaw, rice and groundnuts both at the coast and in the interior.

2. Spread of Swahili language

This was spread in land and is now being widely spoken in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Eastern Congo.

3. Spread of Islamic religion

Islam as a religion was introduced by the Arabs and it spread, especially in Yao land and in Buganda land.

4. Growth of towns

There was growth of towns such as Tabora and Ujiji.

5. Depopulation of Africans

The people who would have great leaders and empire builders were killed. It is estimated that over 15 to 30 millions of people were sold into slavery while millions died in the process being transported.

6. Diseases broke out among the slaves

For example the Spaniards introduced syphilis which spread to other traders.

Economic effects of slave trade on Africa

1. The increase of farming plantations

Farming plantations increased in some areas, for example, there was an increase of slave in Zanzibar where they worked in cloves plantations.

2. Disruption of economic activities

This is because the young and able craftsmen, traders and farmers were carried off, causing economic stagnation as the economic workforce depleted.

3. There was a decline in production of traditional goods

Traditional goods such as coffee, beans, bark cloth and iron which greatly hindered the cash economy.

4. The trade routes became permanent routes and inland roads

This led to growth of communication network.

The Psychological Effects of Slavery on Victims

-       Damage of slave's self-worth

-       Sufferings due to difficult work

-       Separation of families and homes

-       Fear due to unsure about their future, survival and food.

Triangular slave trade

Triangular slave trade also known as Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade was trade which was conducted across the Atlantic Ocean and that involved the three continents of Europe, Africa and the Americas. It’s called triangular slave trade because the main destination and the routes of the trade formed a triangle.

The driving commodity of this trade was: slaves, gold, ivory and palm oil.

At the beginning of this trade, West Africa were the victims, but later it spread to other parts of Africa such as Central Africa region.

The trade took place from the 15th up to the 19th Century A.D.

European participants of this trade were Spain and Portugal during 15th Century. By the 17th Century, those countries were followed by: Britain, Denmark, Holland and France.

Merchants from Europe bought guns, clothes, drinks and beads to be exchanged for slaves, gold, ivory and palm oil in West Africa and some parts of Central Africa.

Many slaves were obtained between the area of modern Ghana and the Cameroon. This place was known as slave cost. Some slaves were also obtained from Angola and Congo.

Origins of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade

Origins of Trans-Atlantic Slave trade in the 15th Century was linked to:

1. The rise of capitalism

This mode of production depended on exploitation of one man by another. Capitalism emerged in Europe after the decline of feudalism in Europe especially the first stage of capitalism mercantilism where slaves became part of the commodities to be traded to accumulate wealth.

2. Discovery of marine technology

The invention of gun powder, ship building, compass direction, and motor engine acted as a pushing force for the rise of slave trade, it facilitated the transportation of the commodities and slave dealers.

3. The discovery of the New world

The discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus in 1492 opened a new chapter as far as slave trade was concerned it brought high demand of cheap labour to work in the new plantations in the Caribbean islands.

4. The inability of indigenous people to provide cheap labour

Diseases such as smallpox eliminated the natives completely. Native Americans were very reluctant to provide labour and most of them had been affected with plagues and war and they were very few in numbers. So Africans were the best alternative, therefore the rise of triangular slave trade.

5. Climatic conditions

Climatic conditions of the New World meant that Africans could easily live there since they were used to tropical climates and had immunity of tropical diseases more than people from Europe and Asia. They were able to withstand diseases and conditions of the New World.

6. The expensiveness of White slaves

Before the mid of 17th century the European mercantilists depended on criminal convicts, contract laborers and refugees from Europe who proved to be expensive and undependable compared to Africans who were not paid anything apart from their basic needs for survival and were slaves for life.

Impact of Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade on Africa

Social impacts of Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade on Africa


Current estimates are that about 12 million to 12.8 million Africans were shipped across the Atlantic over a span of 400 years.

Separation of families

Some abandoned their homes due to insecurity, some died while trying to escape and some were taken away as slaves.


Fear was due to frequent wars, raids and ambushes.


Intermarriage occurred between the foreigners and indigenous people.

Political Impacts of Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade on Africa

Decline of states

Some states declined because they were weakened when their subjects were captured and sold as slaves. For example, slave trade led to the fall of Congo and Ngongo Kingdom in Central Africa.

The rise of states

Some strong states arose due to accumulation of wealth from slave trade. For example, Benin and Oyo developed because they exchanged slave for clothes, guns and beads which were used to protect the state.

Economic impacts of Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade on Africa

- Destruction of African subsistence economy

- Land alienation

- Decline of production

- Decline of handicraft industries

- Accumulation of wealth by local rulers

Revision Questions

1. Choose the most correct answer and write the letter in the space provided:

i. Many slaves from East Africa Interior were taken to:

A. Zanzibar, Mauritius and Reunion Island       B. Zanzibar

C. Saud Arabia    D. Brazil

ii. The following West African regions had kings who participated in the slave trade:

A. Sudanic zone          B. Saharan zone

C. Forest region  D. Niger Delta region

iii. The European countries which participated in Trans-Atlantic trade included:

A. Russia, Austria, Belgium, Italy and Sweden

B. Spain, Portugal, Britain, Holland and France

C. Norway, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Latvia

D. Estonia, Poland, France, Spain and Portugal

iv. The slave who were taken to America and Caribbean Island provided their labour in:

A. Industries which produced commodities

B. Planters government

C. Domestic activities

D. Agricultural plantations and mines

v. The major European commodities which were exchanged for slave along the West African Coast Included:

A. Ivory, gold, iron and rhinoceros horns

B. Blankets, shirts, bedsheets and copper.

C. Animal skins, bark clothes, spices and perfumes

D. Guns, clothes, soft drinks and beads.

2. Answer the following short answer questions:

i. Define slave trade.

ii. List four reasons which led to the development of Triangular slave trade.

iii. Mention four methods used to capture slaves.

iv. Give five effects of slave trade in African societies.

v. Brief explain why was the slave trade along the West African Coast knows as Triangular trade?

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