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There are divergent views that have been advanced by various historians regarding the African continent when it came into contact with capitalist in Europe. According to Eurocentric scholars, they claimed that before the advent of colonial rule, African societies didn’t have any kind of development; however African scholars argued that the continent had achieved a significant level ofdevelopment in economic, social and political aspects.

Development can be defined as the improvement in economic, social and political aspects.


i. Development in Trade

There are strongevidences of trading activitiesin pre colonial Africa. There were different types of trade i.e. local and long distancetrade.

Local trade was the type of trade that was conducted within a given community.

Long distance trade was the type of trade which took place between one region and another. There was a long distance trade in east Africa which took place between the interior and coastal people of east Africa.

The main participants were the kamba and nyamwezi from the interior and the Arabs and Swahili traders from the coast.

ii. Development in Agriculture

By the fifteen century agriculture had developed in Africa. There were varioustypes of agriculture in pre colonial Africa. These included permanent crop cultivation and shiftingcultivation.

Permanent crop cultivation took placein areas that received a lot of rainfall and fertile land. Mixed farming took place in those areas whose soil lost its fertility easily, thus forcing the farmers to shift from one piece of land to another land looking for fertile land. Mixed farming was widely practiced in the savanna region.

iii. Development in Manufacturing Industries.

By the 15th century Africa had developed a number of manufacturing industries such as salt making and copper mining. Salt making took place at Tagaza and Bilma in West Africa and uvinza in Tanganyika. Salt was not only used as an ingredient but also for preserving perishables.

Copper mining activities found in Africa by the 15 th century. Copper was only used for making ornaments. In central Africa, the Katanga region was famousfor mining and processing copper. Copper mining also took place along the Gwai River in Zimbabwe

iv. Development in Maritime technology.

To a certain extent African societies had developed maritime technology, this was around water bodies. The societies that had acquired this technology are the Ganda and kerewe in east Africa; these were making canoes that facilitated their movement along rivers and lakes.

v Iron technology.

By the 15th century most parts of Africa had developed the art of making iron and using iron. In Africa the knowledge of making iron and use of iron tools developed at different times and at different places. The first places to use iron were Ethiopians and Egyptians. At around 200BC Meroe & Axum became important sector for the production of iron


During the 15th century, there were various political organizations in pre colonial Africa. This included the following

i. Age Set System.

This refers to the allocation of social functions according to sex and age groups. This system was mainly practiced by pastoral societies such as the Maasai of east Africa.

The Maasai assigned social functions according to age groups. Example; from age of 0 – 8 no social functions were given, from 8 – 18 years, the boys were supposed to graze the animals.

ii. Clan Organization.

This refers to control by clan head. This system mainly developed in the savanna region. The main economic activities were mixed farming and shifting cultivation.

Mixed farming involved the cultivation of crops and animal keeping. Shifting cultivation involved the movement from one place to another searching for fertile landbecause the soil easily loses itsfertility.

Shifting cultivation made land very important, therefore societies needed strongleadership that would control and distribute land thus the rise of clanorganization.

iii. State Organization.

The state is a large political unity with a heterogeneous population having a centralized system with powers to collect tributes. Most of the states in Africa were formed in the interlacustrine region which received heavy rainfall throughout the year.

This type of environment supported the increase in production that led to increase in population thus contributing to the formation of states such as Buganda and Karagwe in east Africa.


There was feudal centralized state where the power was in hand feudula lords

i. Changingof Trade organization, (to mechantalism) ii. Organization of security

iii. Encouragement of production within empires for market

iv. Formation of foreign policy (colonial policy) abroad so as to have primitive accumulation through piracy, banditry and looting.



vBoth were ruled by kings or queen or chiefs – Example, Mani Nzinga – Congo.

vFunctions of the king were the same, in protection of citizens and defense for security for development and growth of the state.

vBoth defend or encourage exploitation of serfsby land lords.

vBoth encourage trade. Example in Africa, were engage in long distance trade while In Europe – merchantiletrade.


ØDuration of the modal/centralized state in Africa it was in pre- mature while in Europe of was reached, its mature.

ØEmergence of merchants who challenged the rolling class while inAfrica was not so.

ØIn Europe was Broad rolling class (complex) while in Africa was veryparochial.

ØIn Europe states Formation appeared after the turn of Roman Empire for disintegration of slavery (and of slavery in Europe while in Africa was not produced as a mode of production.

ØIn Europe 15th, there were great changes in Feudalism; it was highest peak and break down to give room to capitalism.

ØEnclosure system in Europe while in Africa wasnot so Ø Highest level of education in Europethan Africa.

i. Education

This refers to the transmission of skills, knowledge and norms from one generation to the other. By the 15th century Africa had its own education system whichwas largely informal in character.

The young people acquired knowledge by imitating the behavior of the elders. However it should be noted that there was literacy in pre colonial Africa especially alongthe Nile River in Egypt and Mali

ii. Religion

There is strong evidence that by the 15th century Africa had its own religion. Religious ceremonies were presided over by community elders, Example the laibon of the Maasai and the clan heads of clan organization.

These elders were responsible for supervising religious ceremonies likeorganizing sacrifices.


1. Both trades found in Africa and Europe led to specialization.

This was where by a group of people emerged and specialized in different economic activities for example in Africa they emerged a group of specialized in agriculture, fishing, iron melting, pastoralism and trade as well as in Europe there was emerged of groups of people who specialized in different economic activities such as traders (merchant kings), people who specialized in farming etc.

2. Both trade found in Africa and Europe during the 15th C led to the development of science and technology in African and European societies.

For Example It led to the development of ship building and, marine technology and compass bearingwhere by traders used advanced to travel in other parts of the world to look for raw materials, market, cheap labour etc. while in Africa there was development of different science and technologies which enabled traders to travel from one areas to another. For Example in West Africa traders across Trans-Saharan desert used camels from (West Africa) to (North Africa) used horse as means of transport.

3. Both trades found in Africa and Europe led to emergence of state (state formation).

for example in Africa Ghana, Songhai, Mali, Oyo, Benin, Mwanamutapa empire, Mirambo empire as well as in Europe there was emergence of states especially inBritainand later onin France due to the trade.

In Addition to that, the trade found in both Africa and Europe led to emergenceof trading centers and growth of towns which later led to urbanization in both Africa and Europe.

Example in Dodoma, Walata, Gao, Jere, but we also had some towns like Bagamoyo, Zanzibar, Mombasa, Kilwa, Pete, Lamu etc. as well as in Europe there ware towns due to trade such as Liverpool, Yorkshire, Manchester, Venice, etc.

4. Both trades in Africa and Europe lead to emergence of goods and strong leaders

These political leaders were normally used later controlled the state for examplein Africa Mansa Kankan Musa (Mali), Askia Mohamed (Songhai), and Mwenemutapa (Mwenemutapa Empire).

5. Both trades found in Africa and Europe led to emergence of strong army.

This which was well disciplined to protect state and its routes for example in Britain there was emergence of navy army.

6. Both trades found in Africa and Europe led to emergence of people who later became rich because of being involving in the system of exchange in the societies.

For Example Kings and individual traders who involved were involved in the trade became rich. For Example in Africa Mansa Musa, Askia, Samouri Toure, Mirambo, Mwenemutapa and In Europe Kings also became rich because they got muchprofit from trade.

7. Both trades found in Africa and Europe led emergence of strong faith because the trade lead to unity among the people in the society.

For example the Trans-Saharan trade in Africa led to emergence of Islamic faith West and North Africa while in some East African societiestherewas emergence of Christianity due long distance trade (LTD) as well as in Europe there were emergence of Christianity due totrade conducted between European societies.

8. Trades especially in Europe during 15th C lead to the growth of industries.

This was where by different industries were built using the wealth accumulated from trade. For Example Textile industries, Agricultural equipment industries.etc

9. Trade especially in Europe led to establishment of financial institutions.

Financial Istitution which were established included, like banks such asBarclays, House Lord in Britain after the merchant Kings and other. Traders had accumulated profit from the trade conducted between European nations and other continents of the world.


1. The Trade Led to Stagnation of African Technology

This was simply because Africans who were skillful and knowledgeable were taken as slaves to offer their labour in big plantations and mining established by European absentee owners in America during the 15th C.

2. The Trade also led to Exploitation of African Natural Resources. Categories of raw material which were normally exploited were such asminerals, raw materials etc was taken specifically for the development of European nations.

3. The trade conducted between Africa and Europe during 15th century lead to destruction of African culture and introduction of European culture in Africa.

Because it was during this contact African way of living, dressing style, marriage, eating Etc were destroyed by Europeans as Africans began to imitatewhat Europeans brought to African societies.

4. Trade contact between Africa and Europe during the 15thC led to fall and rise of some African states.

African states which existed before the contact between Africa and Europe during the 15thC collapsed like western sudanic states (Ghana, Songhai.etc.) while some other African states like Dahomey emerged due to the fact that their leaders and prosperity of the statedepended on the triangular slave trade.

5. Trade lead to the collapse of African trade that existed before the 15thC.

Hence led to underdevelopment of African continent and development of European nations simply because it was that trade that culminated the situation for European development in all aspects (socially, economically and politically) and Africanunderdevelopment in all aspects.

6. The Contact between Africa and Europe during the 15thC paved way for African colonization.

Simply because this trade is the one which led to the influx of agents of colonialism such as trades, missionaries and explorers started their colonial ambition in Africa to explore the potential areas such as agricultural areas, mineral areas, lakes (water bodies) etc. hence colonialism.



1. Both Africa and Europe had developed in medicine technology to cure various diseases whereby they use roots, herbs and drugs to cure somediseases like malaria, cholera, etc.

2. Both societies had developed in iron technology where by some agricultural tools and many things were made both in Africa and Europe; example in Africa iron technology was found in Mwenemutapa Empire, Engaruka and inBritain, France.etc.

3. Both in Africa and Europe societies engaged in cultivation of crops; for example in Egypt there was a high development of farming activities especially through irrigation system along the river Nile especially during thedry seasons.

In Zambezi basin there was agricultural development in which people practiced intensive terracing farming and in Europe there was use of irrigation system and use of scientific methods of farming during enclosure system

4. Both societies engaged in handcraft activities for example both societies made things like pots, baskets, mats and other vessels for their own development.

5. Both societies developed in navigation technology

For example in Europe there was ship building industries compass direction and compass bearing where by European merchant were used to cut across big seas and ocean while in Africa societies used canoes and dhows as the major means of water transport; for example along Nile river, along the shore of Lake Victoria, Tanganyika, Nyasa.etc. Canoes were used for fishing and ferrying people and goods from one place to another.

6. Both societies (Africa and Europe) had developed in an architecture engineeringtechnology.

For example in the ancient Mwenemutapa Empire around Zimbabwe, Egypt and Sudan there were great architecture technology. for example in Zimbabwe they built 30/20 feet high by using stones and in Egypt at Giza plateau near Cairo the great pyramids consisted of two million of block of stones each weighing more than two tones like in Europe there were big buildings found in big towns of Europe like Paris, London.etc.

7. Both societies made weapons for self defense, security and conqueringweak states.

For example both societies made weapons like swords, arrows, axes, spears, machetes, aves, shields and matchetguns.


1. European societies were highly developed in animal breeding under enclosure system while Africahad not developed animal breeding under enclosure system.

2. Africans were highly advanced in animal husbandry than European societies this might be even up to now.

3. European societies were in transition from domestic (Cottage industries) to factory system (big manufacturing industries) than in Africa where there is no any sign of transition to factory system.

4. European societies were advanced more in navigation technology than in Africa. for example by the 15th C European societies had ship building technology, compass direction and compass bearing which helped European merchant to cut across big oceans and seas to tradewith other societies of the world while Africans used canoes to paddle and dhows in order to navigate in big rivers and along the shores of lakes and oceans.

5. Europeans were more advanced in gun making and bombs than Africans; the gun smiths were better than those of Africa in 15th C. This shows the reason why the Europeans (particularly the Portuguese) managed to defeat African societies easily along the coast of IndianOceanand managed to establish city states along East African coast.


There are various factors that contributed to the riseof mercantilismin Europe;

a) Improvement of Science and Technology.

This played a great role to the rise of mercantilism.Maritime technology made it possible for the European countries to conduct trade overseas. The ships

enabled the transportation of large quantities of goods to various countries inthe world.

b) Development of Internal Trade.

The development of internal trade contributed significantly to the rise of mercantilism because it introduced various items of trade. These goods were exchanged with other goods during the Trans – Atlantic slave trade, the Europeans provided Africans with clothes and spirit in return for goods such as gold and silver.

c) Enclosure System.

The enclosure system involved passing laws by the parliament whereby wealthy land owners bought land from the peasants. The small peasants and commonland in villages of Britain had to be grouped together and out under individual capitalist’s farms. The enclosure system increased agricultural production that facilitatedtrading activities.

d) Development of the Banking System.

There were various banks that were established in Britain e.g. Barclays bank. These banks contributed to the rise of mercantilism by providing loans and grants to the merchants who wanted to trade overseas.

e) Rise of Nation States.

The rise of nation states contributed to the rise of mercantilism in Europe. European monarchies such as the Tudor monarchy played a great role in the rise of mercantilism by giving security to the merchants which encouraged them to engage in mercantile activities.

f) Geographical Discoveries.

This was made by different scholars, contributed to the rise of mercantilism. Christopher Columbus discovered America which was followed by the establishment of capitalist enterprises such as farms and mining which encouraged tradingactivities.

g) Rise of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade.

The Trans Atlantic slave trade was an economic system that involved three continents i.e. Africa, Europe and America. The trading system consolidated mercantilism by making it possible for European countries to trade with Africa and America. Africa provided slaves, America produced raw materials and Europeprovided manufactured goods.


Before the industrial revolution, the dominant form of capital in Western Europe was merchant capital, it was capital obtained from trade. Western Europe came into contact with the rest of the world through trade; this system of trade is known as mercantilism.

The development of mercantilism in England went through two faces namely; a) First phase which took placefrom mid 15thC – mid 17th C.

b) Second phase whichtook place from mid 17th C – mid 18th C.

The first phase was associated with the Tudor monarchy was an English dynasty that descended from King Henry VII to Elizabeth I.

The Tudor monarchy played a significant role in the rise of mercantilism in England.

a) Acquisition of Colonies.

The Tudor monarchy helped the merchants to acquire colonies. Colonies were important in the whole system of mercantilism because they provided markets and raw materials such as gold and silver which were needed by the merchants.

b) Chartered Trading Companies.

The Tudor monarchy charted trading companies had given them exclusiverights to trade all over the world. The most importance of these companies were the royal Africa company charted in 1588 in order to organize slave trade and east India company chartered in 1600 for trading with India and the far east including chinaand Japan.

c) Set up Navigation Acts.

The Tudor monarchy set up navigational acts of the 17 th C which were introduced to monopolize the rights to transport goods into and from the colonies as well as the profits obtained from transportation between the mother land and the colony.

d) Ensured Constant Supply of Wool.

The Tudor monarchy assured the merchants constant supply of wool by stopping the export of wool. Wool was important as a raw material in the textile

industries. The textile industries were very important during the early days of the industrial revolution in Britain.

e) Promoted Organization.

The Tudor monarchy provided organization of merchant groups for the exploitation and settlement in the new world. By the 17 th C, many Britonswereinvesting overseas, these included members of parliament and merchants.

f) Security.

The Tudor monarchy assured the merchants protection on the high seas from pirates. Mercantilism was characterized with primitive accumulation of capital; one of the methods used to acquire capital was piracy, thus the assurance of protection encouraged the merchants to engage in trade.

g) Provided Loans.

The Tudor monarchy provided loans and grants to the merchants, the provisions of loans and grants encouraged the merchants to engage inmercantile activities thus leading to the development of mercantilism in Britain.

h) Developed and Consolidated Maritime Technology.

The Tudor monarchy contributed to the development of mercantilism in Britainby developing and consolidating maritime technology. Maritime technologymade it possible for the merchants to trade overseas with Africa and America thus the rise of mercantilism.

i) Discarded Feudal Elements.

The Tudor monarchy abandoned feudal elements and promoted capitalism, this led to the emergency of the merchant class. The merchant class conducted tradeoverseas which contributed to the rise of mercantilism.


a) Long Distance Trade.

The capitalists obtained capital from the long distance trade that was conducted among various continents such as Africa, America and Asia. This was the Trans Atlantic slave trade. European countries acquired capital by accumulating precious metals such as gold and silver which was based on unequal exchange.

b) Crusades

These wars were fought between the Muslims and the Christians from the 11th to 12th centuries. The Christians claimed that these were holly wars which aimed at the holly lands from the Arabs. It should be noted that the wars were accompanied with massive looting which formed the basis of primitive accumulation of capital.

c) Confiscation of Church Property.

The church in England controlled large estates of land but between 1535 and 1539 AD. King Henry VIII following the advice of his chief minister ThomasCromwell decided to confiscate church property. The land was grabbed and sold to thecapitalist; this capital was acquired by using primitive means.

d) Feudal Wars.

The feudal wars were very common in Europe especially between 1337 and 1453 AD. There was the hundred year’s war between the French and the British monarchies. These wars were characterized with plundering and looting which help the European powers to accumulate capital that contributed to therise of capitalism.

e) Enclosure System.

This system involved evicting peasants and serfs from their land. The land was sold to the capitalist who organized it into compact forms and enclosed it. The enclosure system contributed to the improvement of the agriculture sector which led to the rise of the industrial revolution, but the eviction of the peasants and serfs was a primitive act.

f) Protectionist Policies.

Mercantilism was associated with protectionism especially in England which was the major power during the mercantile period. The Tudor monarchyintroduced navigational acts that denied other countries from trading freely with England and her colonies. This aimed atprotecting the British interests.


Britain was the most successful nation in Europe in mercantile trade especiallyduring the second phase which took place between the 15th and 18th centuries. Britain was also the first country to industrialize because it was very active during mercantilism. There are many factors that aided Britain to dominate mercantilism in Europe or the world.

i. Role of Tudor Monarchy.

The Tudor monarchy played a great role in the development of mercantilism in Britain and ensuring that the country became the most powerful during the mercantile period. The monarchy acquired colonies that provided raw materials and markets to the merchants and it also promoted political stability that encouraged domestic production.

ii. Development of Maritime Technology.

Maritime technologyfirst developed on a larger scale in Britain then it spread to other countries. Maritime technology facilitated inters–continental trade that greatly contributed to the development of mercantilism in Britain. Ever sincethe 14th C Britain has been enjoying an extra advantage over navy supremacy than other European nations and used this advantage to dominate mercantile trade.

iii. Increase in Internal Production.

There are various changes that took place in the agricultural and industrial sectors in Britain. These changes boosted internal production that stimulated trade with other countries. Britain traded with north and South America, Asia and Africa thus she was able to dominate other countries in mercantile activities.

d) Acquisitionof colonies.

Britain had so many colonies in Africa, America and China. These coloniesguaranteed the merchants sources of raw material and markets thus leading to thedevelopment of mercantilism in Britain.

iv. Imposition of Protective Tariffs.

The establishment of navigation acts of the 17th C provided moral and material support to the merchants by protecting them from competition. By this law, all goods exported to British colonies had to be carried by British ships and all goods from British colonies were supposed to be shipped first to Britain before exporting them to other countries. The navigation acts played a crucial role in helping Britain to dominate mercantilism.

v. Enclosure System.

Britain was the first country to implement the enclosure system in the 16th century. The enclosure system involved grouping all peasants and commonland in the villages in two compact forms, this land was subjected to commercial production. The enclosure system led to increase in production which contributed to the development of mercantilism.

vi. Exploitation of Other Countries.

Britain was able to exploit heavily the weak nations, Portugal depended heavily on the military support from Britain against her rivals such as Spain and inreturn Britain got economic gains. These activities contributed to the development of mercantilism in Britain.


This refers to the type of trade that involved three continents Africa, America and Europe. In this trading system, Africa was the source of cheap labor whichwas in the form slaves. America was the source of raw materials and Europe was the source of manufactured goods, hence the triangle. The mainparticipants were Britain, France, Holland and Portugal.

FACTORS FOR THE RISE OF THE TRANS ATLANTIC SLAVE TRADE There are various factors that contributed to the rise of the Trans Atlantic slavetrade

1. Discovery of the New World.

The discovery of the new world that is America by Christopher Columbus in 1492 contributed to the rise of Trans Atlantic slave trade. The Europeans rushed to America and established plantations and mining centers which demanded for labor, this necessitated the importation of Africans thus the beginning of the Trans Atlantic slave trade.

2. Discovery of Maritime Technology.

The discovery of the art of making ships and compass direction played a fundamental role in the rise of the Trans Atlantic slave trade, this technologymade it possible for Europeans to trade with various countries across the Atlantic Ocean.

3. The Inability of the Indigenous People.

At first the Europeans were using Native Americans, red Indians to provide cheap labor on the plantations and mining centers; but these later died in huge numbers due to plague. This called for the importation of African slaves which contributed to the rise of the Trans Atlantic slavetrade.

4. The Establishment of Plantations.

After the discovery of the new world, many Europeans flocked to America; theseincluded the British, French, Portuguese and the Dutch. Many of these immigrants established plantations that caused more demand for slave labor. The increased demand contributed to the development of Trans–Atlantic slavetrade.

5. Accessibility.

The accessibility between the new world and the West African coast facilitated the rise of the Trans Atlantic slave trade. The distance from West Africa to the new world is very narrow thus it made it possible for the transportation ofgoods between thetwo regions.


The Trans Atlantic slave trade was a disaster to Africa. It is one of the factors which contributed to under development in Africa.


i. Removal of African Labor.

The Trans Atlantic slave trade was associated with the uprooting of many Africans who were taken to provide cheap labor on European plantations in America. The ones who were taken were between the ages of 15 and 35 whomadeup the productive force in Africa.

ii. Stagnation of African Technology.

The Trans Atlantic slave trade contributed to the stagnation of African technology. It led to the flooding of European manufactured goods which were exchanged for slaves. Due to these goods, the Africans found it easier to sell their fellow Africans in exchange for manufactured goods hence they neglected production which led to the stagnation of African technology.

iii. Decline of African Agricultural Production.

There was decline in agricultural production due to the loss of labor. Those who were taken as slaves were the ones who were very active in farms, thus their removal led to shortage of labor consequently causing the decline in agricultural production.

iv. Decline of African Traditional Industries.

It contributed to the decline of African traditional industries due to the flooding of European manufactured goods. Due to these goods Africans abandoned

production and exchanged their fellow Africans with the Europeans goods. The manufactured goods from Europe also destroyed African traditional industriesby killing the market for African local goods.

v. Insecurity.

The major item of trade during the Trans–Atlantic slave trade was slaves. The slaveswere acquired through release of ambushing and raiding various villages, these activities contributed to insecurity which disrupted trade and agriculture.

SOCIAL EFFECTS i. Depopulation.

It led to depopulation because millions of Africans were uprooted and exported to America as cheap labor. It is believed that during the 400 years of slave trade, around 100,000,000 Africans were taken as slaves.

ii. Famine.

The Trans Atlantic slave trade contributed to famine in Africa. The trade was characterized with insecurity because of slave trading activities, the insecurity made it difficult for people to engage in agricultural production.

iii. Erosion of African Culture.

The Trans Atlantic slave trade was associated with an influx of foreigners especially Europeans. This led to a destruction of African traditional valuesbecauseAfricans were coping European culture.

iv. Break Down Families.

There was break down of families because various members were taken as slaves.


i. Fall of States

The Trans Atlantic slave trade contributed to the collapse of some states in West Africa, these included Oyo and Benin. These states collapsed because of slave trading activities which led to famine and depopulation consequently leading their decline.


Mercantilism had great impact in the development of industrial revolution and the eventual transformation of European countries into big powers. The European countries accumulated capital for around 300 years. It should be noted that mercantilism was a blessing to Europe, but a tragedy to Africa. The contribution of mercantile trade to the developing of European industrial capitalism included the following;

1. Accumulation Capital.

The European countries acquired a lot of capital from mercantilism. The countries were able to accumulate a lot of capital throughout the 300 years of mercantilism through unequal exchange, the obtained precious metals such as gold, silver and diamond which they used to finance theindustrial revolution.

2. Source of Cheap Labour.

Mercantilism was associated with slave trade, during this period millions of Africans were uprooted and exported to America, where they provided.

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