Portuguese Trade in West Africa
Like other European countries, Portugal was looking for a route to Asia. Instead of heading to Asia, they headed down to Western Africa. As they went down to Africa, they discovered the empires of Ghana, Mali, and Songhai.
Ghana was the smallest out of the three empires, and the empire of Ghana lasted for 1,300 years. In the 1200s, it was sometimes called the land of gold due to its gold mines. These mines were hidden, and usually, the miners were children. The empire of Ghana had become powerful because they controlled the trade of Western Africa. They traded their gold from gold mines and salt from their salt mines for clothing, weapons, and other manufactured materials. Ghana traders traded gold for salt, but the king of Ghana kept the gold nuggets and only let the people of Ghana sell the dust.
Mali, the second empire, conquered most of Ghana in the 1300s. They traded gold, and also spices, ivory, and slaves for metals, cloth, and manufactured goods. Some people in Mali were farmers, who grew beans, squash, melons, and lemons. At times, they traded for fresh water to irrigate/water their crops.
Songhai, the third and last empire we are going to list, captured Mali's capital city: Timbuktu. When the capital city falls, the empire falls, right? Yes. Songhai captured Mali, and Mali weakened. While Mali weakened, Songhai became stronger with their strong military. Songhay, like the other empires, traded gold and ivory for weapons, clothing, and other manufactured goods. Songhai remained powerful until the end of the 1500s.
Portugal and its explorers were important in the Age of Discovery. Due to their interactions with Ghana, Mali, and Songhai, Europeans became more interested in Western resources. As the Portuguese traded cloth, metals, and manufactured goods, they also spread the word about Western Africa and their rich culture.