International Trades during the Reigns of African Empires. The Upper Imperial African era (300 to 1500) was a golden age in the history of the Black Continent. Different countries had economic relationships with four other continents. This article gives you an overview of the intensity of these trades.

Trade with the Eastern

Berber and Arab caravans roamed the Sahara to exchange goods between Africa and the Arab world. The hippopotamus whip made in Senegal had an international reputation, according to the Arab chronicler Bekri. Gold, which was unimaginably common in West Africa, was exported. Salt, wheat, raisins, and figs were also imported.


Iranian bowls were found in Mwene Mutapi (Zimbabwe), the Faian of Iran and Iraq in the Swahili civilization (Tanzania-Kenya) and Somali coins in the United Arab Emirates. The Arabs settled on the East African coast – that is. Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique – and dealt intensively with Africans.

18th century painting illustrating past relationships between Africa and the Eastern
An Iranian delegation is received by the King of Ethiopia (Authenticated by Runoko Rashidi)

Trade with East Asia and Oceania

Trade between Africa and Asia was largely rich on the east coast and in the Mwene Mutapa empire. Throughout the east coast, this exchange created a lavish class of black merchants. Africans exported their products to China and India. The discovery of 1,000-year-old coins from the lavish city of Kilwa in Tanzania, Australia, which was updated by a team of Australian anthropologist Ian McIntosh, confirms that trade has also reached Oceania

Chinese porcelain products were found in the graves of Mwene Mutapa. Gold, tin, copper were extracted from the soil of the empire. The products were exported through the port of Solafa in Mozambique. Experts estimated the amount of tin extracted at 30,000 tons. At that time, the seafarers were mainly Arabs and Asians.

Despite the existence of Swahili shipping and the evidence of blacks sailing the Indian Ocean, the wealth of East Africa – where ivory beds were supposed to be accessed via silver ladders – did not make the African sea adventure needed by Africans an economic activity for Mwene Mutapa Leverage the entire east coast.

Money from Vietnam and Sri Lanka was also found in Somalia. This exchange favored the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Swahili / Somali civilization and China, which had ambassadors in these countries.

Swahili Coins in Australia Discovered by Ian McIntosh’s Team in 2013

Trade with Europe

From the time when the Black Maghreb ruled southern Europe, intensive trade allowed rich cities to emerge. During the Black Almoravid Dynasty, gold from West Africa was used to strike coins that circulated the European part of the empire, where they were called Marabotini. A particularly sophisticated customs organization made it possible for the black civilization of imperial Morocco to increase its prosperity. The cities of Spain, Marseille and Genoa were trading centers with North Africa.

Maghreb’s Black dignitaries, also known as Moors or Saracens, playing chess in Spain;
Source: The Golden Age of the Moor, Ivan van Sertima, page 29

One thus found a European fabric, the Montenfès, with which the Mansa Suleyman – Emperor of Mali at the time of the chronicler Ibn Battuta – dressed. Black and White Berbers and Arabs were the intermediaries of this trade.

Trade with America

Trade with America is also documented. African-Guyan historian Ivan Van Sertima, the father of historiography about the presence of Africans in ancient America, gives us some of them after consulting Christopher Columbus’ archives himself. The latter’s crew saw the great Americans in black. Haitian Indians told Columbus that blacks are traded in large boats. The contemporary Columbus sailors informed him that there were ship departures from the West African coast to America.

However, the most important element is that Columbus in Spain analyzed a spear from Haiti that contained exactly the same composition in metals as that from West Africa. In addition to this spear trade, Van Sertima reports on Mandingo’s large presence in the Central American markets.

And here, in contrast to relations with the Arab world and Asia, the Black Sea and the then Songhai Empire, it was the blacks who traveled across the Atlantic.

Mansa Abubakari Keita II, Emperor of Mali, crossing the Atlantic in 1311
It is this journey that would have inaugurated the intense commercial relations between West Africa and America (Illustration by Khephra Burns)

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