Civilization II: West Africa

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Suddenly the time machine stops in 1650, and I find myself in West Africa. From an aerial view, I see some of the greatest nations of the region. I can see Mali and Gambia.  Behold, Ghana. This is one of the most famous kingdoms in the entire Africa. This is where I shall land now. Looking at the historical and geographical sites, I am well satisfied that my tour shall not be in vain. Walking on the vast land of Ghana, I meet a handful of people. They are speaking in a language I do not understand. It must be the ‘kwa’ or ‘twi’ dialect. It is very interesting to hear these people talk. You will wonder how they understand one another through such tongue-twisting words. That aside, I can say that this is the most hospitable communities I have ever come across. Look at how they greet visitors with respect and courtesy.

From the stories I had been told about Africa, I had expected to see the natives of Ghana in skins. However, this is not the case here; they are all in clothes. Yes, cotton clothes. Someone must have imported the clothes into this region. It must be those rich Arabs from the North. They were loose clothes, looking likes gowns. A few of them have footwear. The women have full dresses, with bangles and necklaces.

By the riverbanks, I see a crowd of people. I must find out the activity going on here. Oh, it is Gold. There is gold in Ghana! Men and a few women are busy sifting gold particles from this running river. “How do they use it?” I asked myself. None could answer me, as they could not understand the ‘foreign’ language.

What surprises me most here is the sight of guns. Again, I am wondering how they use them. Besides, I just cannot figure out how the guns reached their hands.  Oh, look. The salves, tied on the neck like some cattle headed for a slaughter. A gigantic man is pointing his gun at one the slaves who seems to be tough-headed. Now I know one of the uses of the guns. It is used to round up potential slaves and command them. I can hear one of the slave merchants mentioning America. It could be that these slaves are headed there. The caravan reaches the seacoast to deliver a consignment of slaves. From the ship come white men, accompanied by a few Arabs. They assess the ‘goods’ before settling their bills with the black merchants. It is slave trade, I now realize.

Prior to this time, many historic events had taken place in Ghana, and West Africa as a whole. The very events shaped the political and economic status of the region of this particular time, 1650. The kingdom of Ghana, which may have been established in the 700’s, had been largely influenced by Islam (Paula, 2003). In fact, the administrators of this kingdom were Muslims. However, the king (Ghana) was practicing his traditional African religion. Even though Ghana had started farming, the kingdom had majorly relied on the revenues from trans-Sahara traders (Miller, 1994).

The trans-Sahara trade in the region was mainly batter trade. The western Africa had flourished in gold. The miners in West Africa were digging gold from shafts as deep as 100 feet (Miller, 1994). This attracted the Berbers from the north. On camels, they came with salt, weaponry and clothes to West Africa. They could also take some slaves in return. This explains the scenes witnessed in the preceding paragraphs. The men were always busy sifting gold from rivers because they wanted the aforementioned goods in exchange Diamond, 1997). It is now evident that the slave merchants had obtained their guns from the Berber traders. The very Berbers supplied the region with clothes. There is, therefore, no need to wonder how the West Africans had acquired these commodities. One interesting fact here is the exchange of salt with gold. This is just incredible. Even though West Africa had plenty of gold deposits, they could not find salt. They had to exchange the most expensive thing in the world with one of the cheapest but essential commodities: salt.

The period of 1650 has a great significance in history, not only of Africa, but of America too. The hallmark of this period is slave trade. During this time, there was a rapid increment in slave trade. More merchants entered into the market of the trade, and more young Africans were being trafficked to the West. There was an increase in demand for workers in the West. This was due to growth in plantation economy. Because of demand in labor, slave trade was taken to higher level. More people were captured and sold to the white traders (Paula, 2003). In fact, the price of slaves rapidly increased in this era. Therefore, this period fully explains how Africans found themselves in America. Today, the African Americans have a rich history of their background in this era. It helps black Americans to understand their origin. They can use this information to trace the roots of their great grandfathers.

This period compares to modern civilization in a number of ways. Firstly, both civilizations have their premises on trade. In the 1650 era, kingdoms such as that of Ghana flourished from trade revenues. Individuals also got rich from exchange of goods. The Berbers obtained gold from trade activities. In today’s civilization, nations still trade with each other to attain development. The World Trade Organization is an outstanding evidence of the modern civilization based on trade. Developing nations export farm produce in exchange of machines and weaponry, just as it was the case in the previous era. Slave trade still exists, though in a hidden form. The third nation citizens are being trafficked to Iraq to offer cheap labor at the US barracks. This is just one example. In terms of place, the West Africa seems to be undeveloped as compared to America. The roads and buildings are as furnished as those in the US.

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  1. Diamond, J. (1997). Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. New York: Beacons.
  2. Miller, D. (1994). Early Metal Working in Sub-Saharan Africa. Journal of African History. 35(1).
  3. Paula, T. (2003). Slave Trade in West Africa. Boston: Elsevier.
  4. Stride, G. (1971). Peoples and Empires of West Africa. Edinburgh: Nelson.
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