Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Africa's Heritage

The empires of Ghana, Mali, and Songhai were powerful medieval states in West Africa. Each empire was advanced in matters regarding the administration of government and economic prosperity. During each era of their respective histories, they were powerful nations with vital trading links with the commercial world of North Africa and Europe.
Ghana was the first of the three empires to rise as a regional power in West Africa. The history of Ghana is based largely on the writings of Arab travelers who visited and traded with its people. Before the Roman Empire left North Africa in the 4th century AD, Ghana was already a powerful nation. Various countries in Europe were dependent on imports of gold before the discovery of America. The “civilization” of Ghana was advanced to such a level that a system of taxation was imposed on every load of goods entering or leaving the empire. Trading, therefore, was a highly organized system on which the wealth and importance of Ghana was based. According to El-farzari, an Arab writer of that period, the people of Ghana were also successful in exporting their advanced methods of warfare and their weapons, which were swords and lances.
The Empire of Mali emerged when Ghana’s powers declined. In the 13th century, the Mandingo speaking people began to extend their kingdom and pushed towards the south and southeast regions of West Africa. Ghana’s military forces were eventually defeated. When Sundaiata Keita became ruler of Mali, it became the most powerful of all the kingdoms of the Sudan. The gold trades continue to flourish under his reign. After Sundiata, his grandson, Mansa Musa, became ruler. During his reign, Mali became known throughout the Mediterranean world and in Europe.
During the decline of Mali, the Songhai Empire emerged. In about 1464, Soni Ali became king of Songhai. He was an ambitious young man who led his army to capture Timbuktu, a city known for its learning centers and trade routes, in 1468. Thereafter, he also captured Jenne, another famous city like Timbuktu. After Soni Ali’s death, one of his generals removed his son from the throne and took control of the empire by force. He, thereafter, named himself Mohammed. Mohammed was very organized and instituted a system of disciplined governance. He created a number of central offices, similar to our contemporary government departments to oversee justice, finance, agriculture, and other matters of importance in the affairs of the state. Under his rule, trade in gold from Sudan continued to flow northward into Europe. Askia Mohammed imported manufactured goods, clothes, and salt from Spain and Germany. It was also during his reign that Timbuktu became a greater center of learning. Its university, one the first in Africa, was so famous that scholars came to it from all over the Muslim world, Europe, and Asia. As a Muslim himself, Askia allowed Islamic influence to spread throughout the Sudan.

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