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The Effects of the Slave Trade on Africa

How did the slave trade effect native Africans and their governments?

The effect that the African slave trade had on American society and the slaves themselves has been long documented. What is often overlooked is the effect that the slave trade had on Africa itself. How did the slave trade effect native Africans and their governments?

Before the Europeans showed up and began exporting slaves, Africa was largely made up of many small tribes who often warred with each other. No one tribe could become too big because it might have many enemies, several of which might gang up on the powerful tribe if it threatened to become too powerful. There were a few exceptions in which tribes built powerful trading empires, but these were usually far inland near the center of African trade and their influence was restricted mainly to commercial interests.

That changed with the Europeans showed up, however. Suddenly, the center of trade in Africa moved to the Western coast of the continent were Europeans traded with the villages along the coast. Being in the new center of trade in Africa, these villages became the most important in Africa. Those coastal tribes which were the most skilled at capturing slaves soon became the most powerful tribes on the continent.

Tribes that had access to revenue from the slave trade now had an advantage over their neighbors who did not. With this revenue, they could purchase European weapons and other tools of conquest. As they gained power over their neighbors, they kidnapped members of those tribes to sell as slaves and incorporated those tribes into ever growing empires. This process was fueled by slavery and required that the new empires obtain a steady supply of slaves in order to maximize their revenues. The more slaves these empires could kidnap and sell to Europe, the bigger their profits and the more their influence grew. With greater influence, came greater opportunity to kidnap neighbors as slaves. Therefore, the whole process fueled itself so long as the Europeans continued to buy slaves.

Thus, these empires relied heavily on slavery, which made them dependent on trade with Europeans for their power. If the Europeans stopped trading with a particular tribe or if they had outlawed the slave trade earlier than the 19th century, these empires could not have sustained themselves. By the time the Europeans stopped participating in the slave trade, these empires were largely established. Many of them collapsed without the steady income that slavery had afforded them. Others remained more or less intact until the British returned to set up colonies in Africa.

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User Comments
  1. etrace

    On September 28, 2008 at 11:54 am

    that was not the effects that the slave trade had on africaok.but thanks anyway.

  2. Shelby

    On October 28, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    Thats not all of it they took africas future leaders therefore they had no way of defending their own. But yes i agree with the writer but thats not the main effect.

  3. twinkle toes

    On May 27, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    good info but nothin on the effects

  4. badoss

    On December 12, 2009 at 1:48 am

    I think it will be good for one to present logic argument as taking to intellectuals. Readers’ feelings are very essential to evaluate what you say. Moreover, it’s weird to just say that important feature or impact of slave trade is sustainability of societies’ in come. How much a slave cost in the market place, most certainly price of domestic hen. What would you have to say about relationship between slave trade and colonization? What about labor? Do you know the approximate number of the slaves traded? Do you know that their ages were between 24 to 35? What does that means to you?
    It is not compulsory for everybody to write in internet, if you know nothing, you better learn!!

  5. Richard

    On December 26, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    I think we Africans must blame ourselves for selling our own brothers and sisters for war arms. This same spirit of killing one another is still with us so we must change if we want to catch up with the rest of the world in terms of development. The African is still too selfish and ready to betray his/her brother for petty gains. The slave trade is a sad history. WE MUST REFORM !!!

  6. shaisha

    On February 22, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    its okay but i need the affects

  7. toni-D

    On March 2, 2010 at 10:38 am


  8. Lauren

    On March 29, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    where are the effects??!?!?

  9. jenny

    On August 25, 2010 at 2:31 am

    OH MY GOSH!!! thanks….for NOTHING!!

  10. Sisah

    On February 3, 2011 at 2:44 am

    jenny i absolutely agree this was utter RUBBISH

  11. gerrie

    On February 3, 2011 at 2:47 am


  12. nikkita

    On March 8, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    What’s this about? This is utter rubbish. I just wasted my time reading hoping that i could find soething to help me with my coursework. Guess i should look again…….

  13. khanyi-caey

    On October 9, 2011 at 11:30 am

    WHAT THE F……! Guys where are the effects?…i nd the effects…Not this lame text even 4gt on whtat it was based on because it was so zzzzzz…

  14. ignatius

    On March 15, 2012 at 8:01 am

    infact both slavetrade and colonization were the tools the western countries used to supprese and underdevelop africa.Even today the same western countries are still using some other subtle means to perpetuate their hold on africa.It all means that without africa, the so called developed countries would not have been where they are today.The continent of africa should be in a position to understand who the real enemies of africa are.
    The present donation of a building to africa by the Republic of China is another way of trying to hook africa by the throat. The effect of this donation, will be seen later.

  15. diouf

    On October 7, 2012 at 8:16 am

    i think europeans have did so bad to africans and have to compensate them for all the bad they did.if today this countries are highly develpoed it’s beacause they took this young africans who were strong and were of the working age to work in thiere own countries if not they would have been on the same stage as africans or africans could be more than them.

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