A History of Wealth and Poverty: Why a Few Nations are Rich and Many Poor, by John P. Powelson.

Appendixes for Chapter 7

Appendix 7.1: Historical References to Africa as a Trading Continent

1.     "[T]he organization of the more northerly West African peoples was not solely tribal [in the fourteenth century]. They had considerable towns and cities that were supported by a developed agriculture. They had organized networks of markets and trade and a developed system of monarchical government." [74]

2.     West African monarchies discovered by the Arabs of the tenth century were located not in the well-watered Niger Valley or Lake Chad but north of these in less hospitable territory. This observation would "suggest that the evolution of these monarchies was the influence of long-distance trade." [75]

3.     "The Keita clan [later royalty in Mali] seem originally to have been traders from lower down the Niger." [76]

4.     In the Aksumite Empire, second through ninth centuries CE, "the intense maritime traffic in the southern Red Sea . . . brought ships of all origins to Ethiopian ports." [77]

5.     Whereas Iraq and Tunisia had been flourishing centers for trade both within the Muslim world and with European countries, during the Fatimid dynasty (969-1171) Egypt became the commercial hub for the Mediterranean and the East. [78]

6.     "[A]lthough the Latin West closed the Mediterranean to them, the Moslems of North Africa were able to compensate by expanding trade and contacts along Saharan caravan routes." [79]

7.     "African societies to the north of the river had been trading directly with coastal merchants in ivory and other products at various locations along the Zambezi since about AD 1400." [80]

8.     "Takrur, Ghana, and Gao . . . became commercial entrepots and political centres [by the fourteenth century]. Their rulers endeavored to extend their authority in order to achieve an effective control over trade." [81]

9.     "Between the 11th and 15th centuries some 37 new towns were founded along the [Sofala/Kilwa] coast, and there were trade routes between the coast and the gold-producing areas of Penhalonga and Inyanga in present-day Rhodesia [Zimbabwe]." [82]

10.   "Linked by the Niger waterway, Timbuktu and Jenne had developed simultaneously as important centres of trade and Islam [in the seventeenth century]. . . Jenne was the hub of an extensive network of trade routes." [83]

11.   "[S]everal rulers in the central Sudan [in the seventeenth century showed] a concern for the proper organization of trade — weights and measures, regulation of markets, and policing of roads." [84]

12.   "Foreign commerce, particularly across the Sahara, was in every period of great importance. . . . From the Fezzan, corn and dates supplied Ghadames and the mountains beyond on the way to Tripoli; dates from Kawar went south. Raiding supplemented trade." [85] Great pilgrimage caravans from West Africa to Mecca via Egypt were elements of this trade.

13.   "[The Fezzan in the seventeenth century] was a junction of many trade routes across the Sahara. . . . [It] was also a granary for parts of the barren hinterland of the Maghrib al-Adna." [86]

14.   "[T]he Arabs, while they lived on the [eastern] coast [in the seventeenth century] and organized their business in the ports, were yet dependent on caravans which they sent inland for supplies of gold, ivory, and all the other goods which they needed for export." [87]

15.   "Accra policy at this time [about 1600] was directed to creating for themselves a middleman role in trade between the European merchants on the coast and the 'Akanist' traders from the interior, by confining the former to the beaches while preventing the latter crossing the northern border." [88]

16.   "[The orientation of the coastal city states in east Africa in the sixteenth century] was exclusively seaward, dependent equally on Asia and the Near East for their manufactured goods — and for the markets which had called them into being as entrepots on the African coast." [89]

17.   " [T]he trade with Bornu [in the seventeenth century] was so lucrative that the Pasha of Tripoli was anxious to secure a personal monopoly of it." [90]

18.   "The internal circulation and consumption of African mineral products [about 1600] continued to have a wide economic significance, sometimes supporting exchanges over enormous distances." [91]

19.   "[L]ike the Dyula of West Africa, . . . these explorers [Yao, Bisa, Tsonga, Kamba, and Nyamwezi] began to construct great commercial arteries [in the seventeenth century]. In the nineteenth century, these were to be utilized first by Arabs and then by Europeans, but again the vital initiative had come in this earlier period not from outside Africa but from within." [92]

20.   "Numerous markets were dotted all over the Aja [Yoruba] region. Some four or five miles outside the town of Ba, there was a daily market which attracted residents from all over Allada, who brought a variety of commodities for exchange. Nearby, a major fair was held every four years for dealers in salt, some of which was transferred to Oyo." [93]

21.   "Iboland was dotted with four-day and eight-day markets. . . . River ports . . . gained their reputations in the period when they served as staging points for a commerce that was externally oriented. However, their first stages of growth pre-dated their massive involvement with European trade." [94]

22.   Loango, in the seventeenth century, "had an important market at its inland capital, and the peoples of the [central Atlantic] coast appear to have been active traders before the Europeans arrived on the scene. Their economy was already partially geared for marketing and export." [95]

23.   "One can reasonably suppose that by the latter half of the seventeenth century the long-distance trade paths [in the Lunda Empire, central Africa] were beginning to carry such foreign merchandise as European hardware, Brazilian alcohol and tobacco, and Asian textiles. Many of these paths were not newly created for the purpose of foreign trade but pre-dated the arrival of European and Indian manufactures from Luanda." [96]

24.   In the seventeenth century, "the annual fair of Berbera [Ethiopia], attended by tens of thousands of Somali tribesmen, attracted caravans from Harar, Shoa and southern Ethiopia and merchants from Arabia and India." [97]

25.   "But by 1616 . . . the Yao were already developing those impressive commercial skills which were to dominate the trade of the southern interior of East Africa until the imposition of colonial rule." [98]

26.   "Trade was an important stabilizing factor in the economy of the pastoral Tuareg, and it mainly involved the exchange of Saharan salt from the agricultural products of the Sudan. The Tuareg also levied tolls on the trans-Saharan caravans in return for abstaining from attacking them." [99]

27.   "Although trans-Saharan trade lost its monopoly with the opening of alternative outlets on the coast, it continued to operate successfully during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries." [100]

28.   "Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the Xhosa had been involved in an extensive trading network, which mounted in importance as the eighteenth century wore on. Even at the end of the sixteenth century, Portuguese sources report copper ornaments worn by chiefs along the coast, and red beads from the Indian Ocean trading network had reached as far south from Delagoa Bay as the Umzimvubu." [101]

29.   "A great deal of the trade oriented towards the Atlantic [in the upper Guinea coast, seventeenth century] had its origins in the deep hinterland, sometimes passing along well-established trade routes and at other times percolating slowly through the many intervening societies." [102]

30.   The Lunda royal messengers "supervised caravans, escorted foreign travellers, safeguarded royal monopolies, and punished subjects who evaded tolls and tariffs. From the court's point of view they formed an efficient administrative cadre. For the people, their activities were often burdensome and even violent." [103]

31.   By the beginning of the seventeenth century, Madagascar "had long participated in the commerce of the Indian Ocean, and Arab traders continued to visit the north-western coast. where they established flourishing settlements on small islands." [104]

32.   "By 1750 at least, an extensive trading network and commercial system had developed around the salt works of Katwe and Kisenyi in the Lake George-Lake Edward region of what is today south-western Uganda . . . a variety of other products was exchanged in a string of markets around the shores of the lakes and at inland market centres." [105]

33.   "From the second century at least, Arabs from the south of Arabia and the Persian Gulf had been trading to East Africa. . . . They transacted their business in the ports and went back with the trade winds to India or beyond. By the eighteenth century, however, Arab settlers were penetrating inland, where they cooperated with Nyamwezi traders to carry ivory to the coastal ports. "With capital borrowed from the Indian commercial houses in Zanzibar, coastal traders led caravans of porters laden with a variety of goods, including cloth of various sizes and qualities, beads, copper wire, hats, guns and gunpowder, into the interior in search of ivory." [106]

34.   "[In the Maghrib in the eighteenth century], marble came from Genoa for sumptuous building, tiles from Malta together with Maltese craftsmen to lay them, wood for graves and coffins from Venice — such supplies came to Tripoli, stricken with plague, even while Venice was at war with neighboring Tunis — and many other commodities." [107]

35.   "Along with the intensification of ivory hunting [in the early nineteenth century] came an expansion both of the areas within which Africans traded and the scale of their commercial organization. This was particularly the case among the Nyamwezi, the Kamba, and the Shambaa. . . . By the 1860s the trade had become such an integral part of their life that porterage had even become one of the tests of manliness." [108]

36.   "The Kano [Nigeria] market, in the mid-nineteenth century, was partly supplied by copper from mines south of Darfur [Sudan], carried west by traders from Wadai [Sudan]." [109]

37.   "Down to the nineteenth century the distribution of incomes from foreign trade had been very uneven [in the West African states], and purchasing power had been concentrated in a relatively few, large units. With the development of exports of vegetable oils, earnings from overseas commerce began to be spread over many small units of consumption, and incomes achieved greater equality." [110]

38.   "There was . . . a great deal of commercial activity [in Algiers before the French occupation of 1830]. The variety of agricultural production gave rise to extensive exchanges, organized in a complicated manner. . . . Particular regions had their specialties, and the production of certain textile goods was often the result of an extensive division of labour, which has sometimes been compared to a form of industrial capitalism." [111]

39.   "Traders, chiefs, and lineage heads were the main beneficiaries of the growing international trade in the central Zaire basin [in the early nineteenth century]." [112]

Appendix 7.2: Historical Reference to African State Domination over Trade, Land, and other Resources

1.     According to Horton, [113] African states formed through "common residence on a defined tract of land and common submission to the laws sanctioned by the spirit of the land." Thus the principles of political and of economic integration were the same, and there was no clear distinction between sovereignty over land and the right to use it as a factor of production.

2.     Also according to Horton, [114] in stateless societies the "hiring of labour for large-scale agricultural operations is an option that does not arise." Nor may land be owned except by the group. Instead, economic resources are mustered by the settlement with closely-related kin. The authors term this the "segmentary lineage system," which occurs "where a society is organized from top to bottom in terms of a single, embracing genealogical scheme, and where this scheme provides the sole or the dominant principle of social organization." Given a slight change in the balance of power, the stateless society may turn into the ministate, [115] in which kinship, economic, and political organization are bound into a single entity.

3.     Gold mining in West Africa began in the fifteenth century, with rulers either controlling the mines directly or taxing the independent producers heavily. [116]

4.     In the Mossi states of West Africa, 1500-1800, agricultural "surpluses passed, by various forms of taxation, to the local chiefs, who were able to maintain courts, often small-scale replicas of that of the king, and to equip and train a number of their kin as cavalrymen who could be mobilized in time of war." [117] While these surpluses covered the ordinary expenses of government, they also enabled the court both to live luxuriously and to become the principal traders.

5.     "In 1750 a well-informed governor of Sena reported that the changamire's subjects were forbidden on pain of death to mine gold on their own account, and the 1769 [Portuguese] embassy recounted how three detachments of his troops had been sent to punish some miners for not having reported the discovery of new mines." [118] (The changamire was ruler of Butua, an empire in southern Africa in the hinterland of Mozambique.) Apparently in Butua, once the royal court's needs were satisfied, no one was allowed to industrialize further, possibly to reduce any threat to the ruler.

6.     "The Lozi kings [southern Africa, seventeenth century], like the Kongo kings, maintained an economic balance between the various parts of their empire. The woodland peoples surrounding the valley supplied game, hides, iron, woodwork, cloth and honey as their tribute. The valley people supplied fish, grain, baskets, and pastoral produce. The court, after consuming many of these goods, acted as the centre of exchange for the remainder. This economic role of the king was further enhanced by the distribution among his followers of captured cattle and slaves. The cattle were held on trust from him. The slaves attached to the land as serfs and were rarely, if ever, sold outside." [119]

7.     "The Rozvi expeditions to Zumbo [trading center on the Zambezi, frequented by Portuguese] were embassies not trading caravans [italics mine], and the only permitted intermediaries in the gold trade were the va-shambadzi, the influential indigenous agents, even if technically armed slaves, of the traders and Dominicans at Zumbo." [120]

8.     Rwanda's emergence as a kingdom at the end of the eighteenth century was accompanied by a concentration of wealth in the ruling class, "a rigid class difference, with all political power and social worth belonging to Tutsi, and the Hutu becoming little more than serfs." [121]

9.     Trade was an important part of the superiority gained by Buganda over Bunyoro at the turn of the nineteenth century. "Already by the third quarter of the eighteenth century, plates, cups, saucers and glass imports were reaching the court of the Ganda king of that period, Kyabaggu; and his second son to rule after him, Semakokiro, seems to have moved wholeheartedly to exploit and expand this trade. The trade was a royal monopoly, and Semakokiro himself employed hunters . . . and then had the ivory transported to the south of Lake Victoria to be exchanged for imported manufactures, among which cotton cloth gained increasing favour." [122]

10.   The northern Nguni chiefs monopolized the cattle and ivory trade in the nineteenth century, selling primarily in ports such as Durban. Because the ivory trade required social organization, the Xhosa chiefs were able to control it in their region. But the cattle trade escaped them, because its individual nature lent itself to smaller units of production, and the land frontier with the whites facilitated smuggling. [123]

11.   "The transformation of small local chiefs, constantly fighting and robbing one another, into Muslim heads of state [at the end of the eighteenth century] seems to have been encouraged by the commercial role of Bundu [on the west African coast], which lay on the route which led from gold-producing Bambuk to the European trading posts of the Gambia." [124]

12.   "[I]n the later eighteenth century and early nineteenth, when Asante was at the height of its power, [the government] brought into being an appointive bureaucracy directly responsible to the king, and charged with the running of all agencies of central government: taxation and general finance, the management of state enterprises, the administration of the provinces, the conduct of foreign affairs, and the maintenance of internal security." [125] (Italics are mine, to emphasize that the administration of enterprises was part of a major bureaucracy.)

13.   In the Lunda Empire of Central Africa in the eighteenth century, "control of the country's external economy became a central function of royal authority." [126]

14.   Among the Ngonde (south of Lake Tanganyika), in the eighteenth century the ruler of the Kyungu dynasty "served as the representative of his people in the initial dealings with the traders . . . Steadily he increased his economic power through the control of the export trade in ivory and his resultant ability to distribute its proceeds among his followers." [127]

15.   Hopkins writes of professional and long-distance traders, presumably nongovernment, among the Dioula and the Hausa in the early nineteenth century. But there were also "official traders, who transacted business on the part of the state. . . . [I]n Dahomey royal rights over trade were delegated to a group of quasi-official merchants in return for a share of the profits; and in the Mossi states large caravans were organized by senior officials. Public enterprise had access to the capital needed for long distance trade, and it was also in a position to secure privileges which . . . gave official traders a competitive advantage over private merchants." [128]

16.   Mohammed Ali, Ottoman viceroy of Egypt in the early nineteenth century, "tried to organize the commercial exploitation of Egyptian agriculture and to concentrate it in the hands of the government. . . . His general policy was to prohibit sales to merchants and to require the delivery of all crops to government at prices fixed by government. By this means he was able to make considerable profits selling Egyptian wheat to the armies engaged in the Peninsular and other Napoleonic wars." [129]

17.   For the caravans between the east coast and the interior, traders needed protection from constant banditry and slave raiding. "They had therefore [in the early nineteenth century] to reach some sort of understanding with the rulers of the African communities considered powerful enough to offer them protection. Sayyid Sai'd of Zanzibar is known to have entered into agreements with a number of interior rulers and to have exchanged gifts with them in the attempt to secure the safety of coastal caravans." [130] Surely these agreements left the African rulers with considerable power over trading movements, or the profits from them.

18.   "The more slaves a chief owned [Loango, nineteenth century], the more land it was possible to cultivate and the higher his economic and social standing became. [But] the development of trade had meant that officers such as the Mafouk, who were responsible for trade negotiations, had become enormously powerful, usually at the expense of the monarchy. . . . [P]ower shifted in fact, if not in theory, to the commercial officials and slave-owning aristocrats." [131]

19.   For the Tswana of the early nineteenth century: "As elsewhere in southern Africa, the chief held supreme religious, judicial, legislative and executive power over his people, and controlled trade. In carrying out these functions, he was aided by a small council of his close relations and trusted advisers, which was enlarged when necessary into a council or pitso of the whole nation, a feature shared also by other Sotho groups." [132]


Copyright © 1994 by the University of Michigan. First published in the USA by the University of Michigan Press, 1994.

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