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How did West Africa's geography help the region to develop a strong trans-Saharan Trade system?

Last updated date: 29th Feb 2024
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IVSAT 2024
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Hint: Africa's geography helped the region to develop a strong trans-Saharan trade route that transformed the region by connecting it to the large parts of the world. The root has benefited West Africa in terms of the formation of diasporic communities, the spread of religion, new technologies and other rich resources.

Complete answer: West Africa had the geographical advantage of being closest to the Sahara desert and the Islamic empires of the north. The trans-Saharan trade route began after the fall of Rome when power shifted to the Eastern Roman empire which became the Byzantine Empire. It controlled large parts of North Africa and most of the Middle East and was a prosperous Empire needing gold to create coins and other products. In the end of the 5th century, berbers traveled across the Sahara to trade salt and other goods to African States in Ghana, Mali, Sudan and in exchange received gold. The establishment of a regular trans-Saharan trade system became possible with the active participation of West Africa who understood how to utilise the new opportunities that were offered by the commercial contacts to the Islamic world. This trans Saharan Trade system connected West Africa to the Mediterranean world which benefited Africa's economy and many empires and kings. The Saharan trade extended from the Western African kingdoms across the Sahara desert to Europe and linked the African empowers of Ghana and Mali to the European world. The trade mostly involved gold and slaves going to the north and salt to the south. The regular commercial and cultural exchange between Mediterranean and western Africa started properly in the 8th century, linking the Mediterranean economies that needed gold to the sub-saharan economy that needed salt in the 7th to 11th century. In this way West Africa with geographical proximity strongly developed and benefited from the trans-saharan trade system.

Note: During the trans-Saharan trade merchants transported many valuable commodities such as Islam reached West Africa through Arab merchants on this route. Through the same route Buddhism also released the Chinese Empire through Indian merchants traveling the silk road.
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