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How Gold trade of 700- 1600AD enriched West Africa

Africa is a continent blessed with several natural resources, such as salt, copper, petroleum, iron, and gold.

Gold bars

Trade of such natural resources to the outside world can be traced as far back as the 1st century AD. But more specifically, West Africa was well known for its trade in gold, and major advancements in the region can be traced to the fact that it had natural deposits of gold.

The Gold trade has always been a part of West African history, as the region was one of the world’s greatest producers of gold in the Middle Ages.

The trade took off when camels began transporting goods through the Sahara desert from West Africa to North Africa and vice versa around 700AD.

Gold was the most demanded commodity in the Trans-Saharan trade. The trade grew as demands for gold in Europe and Asia increased. The precious metal eventually found its way into most of southern Europe’s gold coinage.

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Salt, ivory, and slaves were just a few of the goods traded for this priceless commodity. As a result, a number of great African empires, including Ghana, Mali, and Songhai, rose to power along these major trade routes.

North African Berbers and West African traders would meet up in major trading cities like Timbuktu and Gao to exchange commodities.

At the peak of the trade, two-thirds of the gold moving around the medieval Mediterranean came from West Africa. This gold trade later brought the Portuguese's attention to Africa in the 14th century.

The Gold trade had a lot of positive effects on the region. It enriched and brought fame to West Africa. Many cities that were actively involved in the trade, even northern Nigerian regions like Kano and Zaria, flourished and blossomed into great empires.

Also, the spread of Islam in West Africa resulted from trade, and with Islam came education, intellectual enlightenment, and architectural prowess for many West African empires.

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Although this trade brought about several wars and social instability in many communities of West Africa, it spotlighted the region. It brought unprecedented changes to its people and way of life.

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