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The Pre-African Societies refers to the African social information before the coming the intruders especially the colonizers. The history of Pre-African Societies is very complex and with contradictions in the narrations given by historical scholars. Various Historians have got the various views about the African society before the coming of the Whites, the schools of thoughts is twothese were the Afro-centric Historians visa viethe Euro-Centric Historians.


This is an outlook of European historians on they interpret and view the Pre-

Colonial Africa social formation in idealistic way of thinking; it is mostly advocated by conservative bourgeoisie concepts. It approaches African history in a racist way, for example the reason given by the Europeans nations for colonizing Africa was the responsibility of Whites to civilizethe backward people of Africa. Such answer lacks historical support, so they aim at only justifying their act of colonizing Africa but no spelling out the truth. And one among theprominent scholars in this school of thought is George W. F. Hegel.


According the Euro-Centric View, before the establishment of colonialism in Africa all the African societies were classless, with no political, social and cultural development of any kind. What existed was only darkness, and darkness is not a subject of history that implies that nothing can be writtenfrom African history than its darkness.

The life was stagnant and static with no change of any kind, no any level of development, backwardness of all sorts like living naked, eating raw food, stateless, barbaric, chaotic and uncivilized disorder was the order of the day. For example Henry M. Stanley a European explorer reported that he found the Ngonikilling left-right during the Mfecane period, and it was him who saved the society from total collapse by introducing colonialism.

The outlook goes further by asserting that colonialism is a blessing in Africa because it brought social transformation and developlment in Africa. They do argue that if colonialism had not taken place in Africa, Africa was at the verge of total collapse. That Africans were savages and had nothinglike culture and customs in their customs in their societies.


At the level of analysis the Euro-Centric outlook is misleading, the view has no similarity to the truth about the reality of the Pre-Colonial Africa, and it hidesthe reality about the pre-colonial Social formation.

The outlook undermines the concept of motive force i.e. change which is the foundation of human struggle which enabled the Pre-Colonial African Societies to obtain political, social and economic

The explanations offered by Euro-centric scholars are explanations which suit the interest of countries which exploited the rest of the World through trade and investment.

It tries to justify the presence and exploitation of African societies. The Euro-centric outlook is not correct and it cannot be valid in explaining the Pre-colonial social formation in Africa.

It should be made clear that Africans were not static as the Whitemen aretrying to deceive the World so as to justify their barbaric act of colonialism. Ans the fact is that, the level of development of the World towards the 15th century was almost the same.


It is an outlook which interprets the Pre-colonial African social formation in a Marxist way of thinking, and it is advocated by the Marxist historians mainly of African origin such as Walter Rodney, Franz Fanon and Cheikh Anta Diop. The outlook is traced from the 1960’s when many African countries were achievingpolitical independence.

In this period the view was further integrated by nationalistic leaders and historians to counter attack the Euro-centrichistorians who were not giving the Africans a place below the Sun.


At the level of analysis the Afro-centric outlook is correct since it is objective. It is right and useful outlook. The African societies before colonialism weredynamic, changing and some had obtained big political and economicdevelopment.


1. Modes of Production.

This is relationship between production and productive forces. The pre-colonial African societies passed through various mode of production which started with primitive communalism where people lived in small communal groups and slept mainly in rock shelters did not keep domestic animals or cultivated theland, they ate wild roots and vegetable.

Then developed to advanced communalism where man begun domestication and agriculture practicing, and lastly feudalism where private ownership started. All these are signs that show the African societies were changing from thelower stage to the upper stage.

2. Existence of Education.

The pre-colonial African societies had education in their societies both formal and informal but informal was more dominant that largely depended on the environment of a given society.

It was largely for survival for the members of each society, most of the education in the pre-colonial societies was informal that varied from one societyto another. Also formal education was provided at the University of Timbuktu in Mali something shows that pre-colonial African societies were not static or unchanging, they were moving forward.

3. Occurrence of Neolithic Revolution.

The discovery of iron was a significant age whereby man discovered iron and its application. This occurred about 1500 BC, iron provided a better cutting edge than copper or bronze, agriculture increased using iron hoes, domestication of animals, migration, population growth and trade were all as a result of Neolithic Revolution.

The Bantu speaking people were the first of all smelted the iron in the long trenches in the ground then in the land blown clay furnaces using charcoal as fuel. The ironwas then made into arrows head and spears, head axes and small trinket and razors. Thus the pre-colonial African societieswere changing.

4. Existence of Strong Political System.

The pre-colonial African societies had centralized and decentralized political set up whichwere able to expand and build strong empires likeBuganda, Ethiopia, Nyamwezi, Bunyoro, Asante, Ghana, Mali, Songhai, Ethiopia among others that were even able to resist theintrudersbravery.

Such centralized had standind army with outstanding leaders like Kabaka Mutesa of Buganda, Theodore of Ethiopia among others. These were clear vsignsthat the African societieswere organised and moving forward.

5. Existence of Strong and Technology.

The pre-colonial African societies were developing various science and technology which began with the discovery of fire, iron smelting, mining,bark cloth making etc that was enough to shoe that African societies were changingfrom one level to another level.

6. Existence of Agriculture.

The Africans practiced agriculture as their major economic activity, it wasmostly for subsistence such agriculture included permanent agriculture, mixed agriculture, shifting cultivation and pastoralism which acted as the backbone of their livelihood.

7. Existence of Trade.

The African societies conducted trading activities; long distance trade was dominant in the East and Central Africa, Trans-Saharan trade in the Northern and Western Africa. And the medium of exchange wasthrough barter system.

8. Changing of Stone Ages.

The pre-colonial Africansocieties changed from Early Stone Age to Middle Stone Age when hunting and fruit gathering were the common activities up to theModernor New or Late Stone Age then Neolithic Revolution occurred that made agriculture and pastoralism to be the major economic activities. These are indications that African societies were on the move and not stagnated

9. Existence of Various Culture, Norms and Taboos.

The pre-colonial African societies had their various norms, culture, traditions, tabooswhich guided them, and anybody who went against them was punished.

African societies were dynamic before the colonial era; there were well organized political systems including the strong political states of Mali, Ghana, Songhai, Buganda, Bunyoro, Karagwe and Mwanamutapa. Africans had well established political system across the continent.

Economically, several economic activities were practiced including agriculture to the“Do” in Songhai and trade across theSahara Desert.

Socially; Education and religious practice existed. So, to the moment Africans came into contact with the Capitalist nations were well organized in all walks of life, having modes of productions.

With all what existed in Africa in the Pre-colonial era, European scholars dogive fallacious arguments that Africa was static before the arrival of the whitemen in the continent; they had no clear evidence of the static nature of Africans.

On the contrary, Africans have a couple of evidences on the dynamic nature of African societies before the coming of white men in the continent. Such evidences are; existence of the modesof production, economic activities such as agriculture, trade, fishing, hunting and industrial activities.

Politically, Africans had the age-set organizations, clan organizations and political states. Socially, religion, cultural practices and education existed in Africa.

There was also a very advanced technology in Africa by the time including architecture technology, mummification, iron technology and transport technology.


1. Human Labour

Are mental and physical strength in which an individual use in production.Human labour includes personal factors in the production process such as skills, experience, scientific and technological knowledge. Labour is therefore theprimarycondition for human lifebecause for man to survivehe must satisfy his wants.

2. Means of Labour

These are things that people use in production that is the tools of production. These tools include machines, hoes and more. Production is aided by the instruments of labour.

3. Objects of Labour

These are things that are subjected to man’s labour or they are things upon which man’s labour is applied land being the most common object.

4. Relation of Production

Is the situation where by production is determined by ownership of the meansof production such as land, instruments of production like tractors, etc. In this case we are just looking on how the production of a certain society benefited from that particular production? Arethey benefited mutually or only somefew?

The relations of production are determined by the form of ownership of themeans of production and distribution of theproducts of labour. That is to sayis the absence or existence of classes and exploitation in the society.

5. Mode of Production

This is the combination of productive forces and the relations of production. The productive forces include human labour, means of labour and objects of labour. The modes of production are communal, slavery and feudal modes.


Carl Marx commented that, in order to survive man has to satisfy his basic needs such as food, shelter and clothing. To satisfy those needs, man has toproduce or engage himself in the course of production. Then, in order for man to produce, man needs to have some productive forces, for instance, humanlabour, objects of labour, means of labour and the means of production. Respectively, man needs to relate with others in the course of production. So, the combination of all the above explanation forms a mode of production. In short, a mode of production is a combination of productive forces and therelations of production. It is the way production of material wealth takes place.

There are several determinants of a mode of production, for example, the relation of production, the manner of distribution of products, the level of development of productive forces, the organization of society into socio economic level and the manner of ownership of major meansof production.

Carl Marx analyzed about several modes of production through which manpassed including primitive communalism, slavery, feudalism, capitalism, socialism and communism.

It is important to view Marx’s ideas in a deep eye as far as historical materialism is concerned. In this context, three pre-colonial modes of production have been assessed deeply including Primitive Communalism, Slavery and Feudalism, though slavery was not as real a mode of production as theother two modes.

Qn: Examine the key characteristics of pre-capitalist modes of production existed in some African society.

The modes of production inpre –colonial Africaincluded:-

1. Communal mode of production 

2. Slave mode of production

3. Feudal mode of production


This is the oldest system of social relations and preside all the other modes of production. It marked the rise of society from sheer animalism to human society. The mainactivities were hunting and gathering.


This is the earliest form mode of production in human history where evolutionof society started, people were powerless before the environment and depended on whatever nature gave them for food; such as insects, roots and toolsinvolved were; stones, arrows etc

Examples of pre colonial African societies practicing communal mode of production were Maasai of East Africa, Fulani of West Africa and Khoikhoi of South Africa.


1. Collective Ownership.

There was collective ownership of major means of production. E.g. Land was owned by the whole society. It led to absence of exploitation because means of production were not owned by few people.

2. Low level of production forces.

It was characterized by low production due to the use of crude tools like bones, stone pebbles, etc.

3. Absence of trading activities.

Absenceof surplus lead to absence of trade because whatever produced was consumed.

4. Low level of production.

This was due to low level of tools of production, that means non surplus and whatever produced was consumed.

5. No exploitation.

There was anyexploitation because of collectiveownership.

6. The main economic activities were hunting and gathering. 

7. Man's life depended on nature.

Due to less experience of a man to control the environment. 

8. Absence of surplus.

Due tothe use of crude tools in production such as stone and bone instruments inproduction


This is the first mode of production in man’s history, it is the mode which existed after the existence of man about two million years ago and was the first socio-economic mode of production since the evolution of the society began.

Primitive communalism was named in such a way due to two reasons; first, it was called primitive due to low technology of that particular time and it was called communalism due to the state of sharing each and everything manproduced. In short, the age witnessed man’s communal life.

It is clear that, human being undergoes changes, as time goes on; man innovates, improves and creates some opportunities for development and particularly by developing new skills to fight against nature.

Some scholars explained that Africans began to move from primitive communalism to theother mode for some years before the arrival of Europeans.

But during the nineteenth century, some African societies were still under theprimitive mode of production. Such communal societies in Africa were theinhabitants of the dry areas of Central Tanzania, the popular being the Hadzabeor Tindiga and Sandawe.

In the Cape Region in South Africa, the Khoisan practiced the communal mode of production. In the Horn of North- Eastern Africa, the Galla and Somali have been cited to be the communal societies. Africa had also the pastoral societies such asthe Maasai, Fulani and Khoikhoi.

Others were the popular hunters in the Congo, the Bumbuti pygmies of the Ituri forest of the north-easternCongo.


1. There was Communal Ownership of the Major Means of Production. All sources of wealth were communally owned. All society members were having access to land, tools of production or means of labour and animals. So, this mode provided equal opportunities all community memberson the ownership of sourcesof wealth.

It was the clan leaders who headed all issues concerned with production process. Ownership of the major means of production depended on the use; women used home facilities, they became the masters of such facilities whilemen who were dominant on the economic activities out of the home place were the masters of weapons and tools used in hunting and cultivation.

2. Primitive Communalism was a Classless Mode.

The communal society was not stratified; society members were having equal status, nobody was above others. The first mode of production never experienced the existence of classes. Due to a small number of people in the communities, it was easy for all society members to have equal status becausethere was no anyone who was above others. Classes were also blocked by the collective ownership which created no distinction among the people.

3. It was featured by Equal Division of Products.

The products produced in the society were equally divided to all society members; no body gained lion’s share under this mode of production. For example, in the hunting societies when it occurred that they killed an animal, the division was on equal basis. Generally this mode experienced a very good social life as far as division of products was concerned.

4. Low Level of Productive Forces.

Generally, production depends much on the productive forces, if the productiveforces are of low level they may impede the production process. It is clear that during primitive communalism man used crude tools; man had a littleknowledge hence the capacity of mastering the environment was low. The situation forced man to produce for consumption.

5. Absence of Specialization.

It was the time when man performed at least each and every thing for his survival, different from the other modes, in this mode man made tools, searched for food, clothes and other things, thus, it is a mode through which man never specialized.

6. Absence of Exploitation of Man by Man.

There was no exploitation of man by man. All people worked, no body worked for others or no body lived for the sweat of others. In farming communities it was a duty of every societymember to participate fully in farming; the condition was the same to all other economic activities. Even for women who frequently became masters of domestic activities they participated fully in working for the community. So, there was no idleness in the primitive societies.


1. The Change in Productive Forces Influenced the Transition. Improvements in the productive forces influenced the transition from primitive communalism. So, human being developed the productive forces in different area such as introduction of new techniques, new tools, new plants and new animals. The above changes influenced man’s development in production hence thetransition took place to the next modetook place.

2. Influence of Mastering of the Environment.

Walter Rodney in his book “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa” portrayed that by the fifteenth century, Africans were aware of the total ecology of soils, climate, animals, and plants.

For example, agriculture as the main activity carried out in Africa, advanced methods had been used, including; crop rotation, mixed farming and regulated swamp arm1ng. So, as man mastered his environment so production becamemore advanced hence the existing mode began to pave the way for the next stage of man’s life.

3. Influence of the Climate.

Generally, favourable climate favoured man in the production process because he began to master the environment. Climate as a factor include soil fertility, rainfall and temperature.

In some areas, the above factors favoured production hence man produced beyond consumption a thing which necessitated exchange with other communities and primitive communalism paved the way for the other mode. The following are some African areas favoured with climate; Buganda, Bunyoro, among the Mandinka and Yorubain the forest and savannaregions.

4. Population Expansion.

The expansion of population caused land to be scarce hence few people took that advantage to own land privately. Due to this, social stratification emerged. Emergence of social stratification caused the stronger members of the society to subdue the weak leading to the emergence of political organizations where the stronger created some laws to defend their status quo.

By having political organizations, feudalism took place leading to the total declineof the primitive communalism modeof production.

5. Emergence of specialization developed the society to another mode.

This forced people to work in different professions as farmers, rain makers, iron workers, hunters and fishers. Specialization intensified production and differences emerged among the people of the same community and different communities.

Specializationbrought classes because some people earned more than others; it also brought private ownership of properties where by rain makers owned their profession items as it was to farmers, iron smelters, hunters and fishermen. That conditionpaved the way for another modeof production.

6. Trade and Exchange Influenced the Transition.

Trade activities within Africa developed rapidly in the pre colonial era. Some African societies performed commercial activities in which stratification emerged among the people hence the newmode emerged.

Popular trade contacts involved the Trans Sahara Trade and the East African Long Distance Trade. Those trade contacts created internal and regional economicdifferences leading to the transition of amode of production.


Neolithic revolution refers to the phase between the Late Stone Age and thebeginning of the Iron Age. The Neolithic Revolution occurred during the Upper Paleolithic Era. For the case of Africa, Neolithic Revolution started firstly in Egypt and later on diffusion occurred and domestication of animals and plants spread to theother parts of the continent.


Generally Neolithic Revolution created some impacts in the history of man asfollows;

1. It Influenced Population Expansion.

As man produced food for his survival, the population expanded. Formerly, before man started to domesticate animals and plants the population was low but availability of food intensified the population.

2. It Influenced Surplus Production.

The moment man started to domesticate animals and plants, he started to produce surplus. It is the time when man started to produce beyond consumptionand that surplus was used for other purposes such as exchange.

3. It Developed Specialization.

Domestication of animals and plants caused the people to start specializing inthe sense that some performed agriculture, others specialized in hunting and iron works. So the Neolithic Revolution was the way towards man’s ability towork in lines of specialization.

4. It led to the Emergence of Exchange.

Exchange between communities emerged as each community produced a certain item or product different from the others and emergence of surplusinfluencedtheemergence of exchange.

5. Regional Differences Emerged.

Production of crops and domestication of animals caused different regions to differ in the course of production. Some people produced more than others, such a situation influenced regional differences and emergenceof classes.

6. Emergence of Complex Societies.

Complex societies emerged in Africa due to population expansion and organization of people into political unitshence atransition emerged.

Note: The transition from primitive communalism paved the way for the rise of the other modes, in Africa few societies had some elements of slavery as discussed in, the next stage and most of the African societies moved tofeudalism.

Conclusion: This mode of production existed during the time of the early Stone Age and normally it changed gradually within time depending of discovery of iron tools which increased production leading to surplus which transformed to exploitative modes to exploitative modes.


“In Africa there were few slaves and certainly no epoch of slavery” (Walter Rodney, 2001:38)

This is the first exploitative mode of production which was pre-dominantly existed in the areas with strong Islamic influences. Here a person became an absolute Property of another man. Slaves dominated/controlled by slave masters. It should be noted that many African societies transformed directly from primitive communalism to feudalism as a result slave mode was not well developed. It was highly practiced in Egypt, Slavesbuilt pyramids.

Slavery was the second mode of production in the history of mankind; slaverywas the first exploitative mode through which man passed. In Africa several societies had some elements of this mode including, the Coast of East Africa, Egypt and Zimbabwe. Most of the scholars including Walter Rodney (2001:38) believed that there was no epoch of slavery iii Africa. Elements of African slavery disqualified it to be the complete mode of production as how it existed in other societies like European and Asian societies.

FACTORS REVEAL THAT THERE WAS NO EPOCH OF SLAVERY IN AFRICA The followingfactors reveal that there was no epoch of slavery in Africa;

1. In Africa There Were Few Slaves Even where Elements of Slavery Existed.

Existence of few slaves disqualified such elements to be called the mode of production. Few slave holding societies involved Egypt, Zimbabwe and the Coast of East Africa.

2. Only Few Parts of Africa had Elements of Slavery.

Elements of slavery existed in Egypt, Morocco, Zimbabwe and the Coast of East Africa. Most of Africa like South Africa had no slavery.

3. African Slaves Were Used for Domestic Activities.

In a slave mode of production slaves should work in various productive activities, contrary to African slavery where slaves were used for domestic activities.

4. Slavery in Africa did not develop from Within the Societies.

A mode of production should develop from within the society contrary to African slavery where slaves were just war captives from neighboring societies.

5. Elements of Slavery in Africa Existed the Moment when Feudalism was Stronger. So; therewas no any time when slavery became the dominant mode.

6. African Slaves Qualified to become Society Members after Staying for a Long Time. Some of them could be married by their masters and some slaves could marry from their masters’ families.


1. Existence of two Antagonistic Classes.

There was existence of two antagonistic classes, that is slaves and slavemasters. Slaves were producers of their own material requirement’s and surplus products for their masters.

2. Private Ownership.

There was private ownership of the major means of production, whereby meansof production are slaves and are owned by slave masters.

3. Existence of Exploitation.

It was characterized by exploitation of man by man, because Slaves were the ones who were involved in production and whatever they produced was appropriated by the slave masters.

4. Relatively Advanced Tools.

The level of productive forces was still low but relatively advanced than under communal mode of production. Production relatively advanced leading to surplus.

5. Relatively High Level of Political Institution.

This is due to the use of better tools of production which increased productionwhich supported increase in population leading to formation of states or Kingdoms.

NB: – The slave mode of production later declined due to conflicts between the slaves and slave masters over exploitation of the slaves by slave’s masters. The decline of this mode, paved way for the rise of another mode known as feudal modeof production.


The Following are the reasons showing clearly that the pre-colonial Africa did not develop slave as mode of production:-

1. Slavery Existed in Few Parts of Africa as an Institution and not as a Mode of Production.

These areas were In Zanzibar; where by slavery existed after Sultan Seyyid Said shifted his capital from Muscat-Oman to Zanzibar in 1840, so slaves were taken from Central and East Africa to perform various activities or tasks in Zanzibar island like domestic activities such as cooking, mopping, fetchingwater, keeping gates (watch), taking care of elders and children and others offered labour in cloves and coconut plantations.

In Egypt; where by slaves were taken from western Sudan and forest areas toperform various activities during Pharaoh’s regime (Period)(rule), these activities were such as constructingcanals, making calendar, building tombs, performing variousdomestic activities.

Maghreb societies (Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria); slaves were taken from various parts of Western Africa And Northern East Africa to perform various activities in Maghreb societies, for example they were taken to offer their labour in Agriculture like palm dates and domestic activities.

2. Slavery Co-Existed together with Feudalism in Many Parts of Africa. In Africa slave mode of production was not noted as the mode of production simply because the only mode of production in those areas was feudalism for example in Zanzibar the mode of production was feudalism however slavery also existed there.

3. In Pre -Colonial African Societies there was no Slave Masters or Class of Slave Masters.

This was which showed clearly that the mode of production existed in pre -colonial Africansocieties were not slavery and rather it was feudalism.

4. The level of development of productive forces used during the transition from primitive to feudalism.

This also showed that the slavery (Slave mode of production) did not exist in Africa for example some societies which were in transition to feudalism decided to use hoe to cultivate on the land which showed as the mode of production existed was feudalism based on land ownership.

5. The cruel exploitation of slaves and ruthlessness and oppression done by the save masters to slaves.

This led the slaves to revolt against the slave masters hence slaves became free from being controlled by the slave masters this led to the collapse of slavery (slave mode of production).

6. The Slave owners (slave maters) with vast number of slaves were not interested in including the tools of production.

They continued to use the old productive forces which automatically led to the collapseof slave mode of production.

7. The constant military campaigns led to the number of slaves to drop down and the prices to get slaves increased.

This led slave masters to fail to continue with this mode of production (slavery).


It reached a stage when slavery disintegrated and paved the way for the next mode. There were some issues which influenced disintegration of the slavemode of production including the change in productive forces.

Improvement of productive forces influenced the change of a mode ofproduction; slaves were tired of this system and demanded freedom. Another thing was the increase of slave revolts; the slave revolts were expensive to put down, they led to destruction of properties.

Such violence caused the slave masters to provide freedom to slaves hence the changeof relation of production and a modeof production at all.


The Major factors for the decline of slavery and the emergenceof feudal mode of production were as follows:-

1. Improvement of productive forces during the slavery; changed the social and technical relation of production and geared to the decline of slave mode of production and therise of feudalism.

2. Existence of class struggle in slavery. The series of slaves uprising against the masters at the end of the day led to collapse of slave mode of productionand hence emergence of feudalism.

3. The Failure of the productive forces to correspond with social and technical relational production (relation of production). According to Karl Marx (1818-1883) pointed out that if productive forces and social and technical relation of production in a certain mode of production are not going hand in hand with the existing mode of production then such modeof production will collapse and pave a way to another modeof production.

4. Slaves lacked interest in labour; they frequently destroyed the equipment of production owned by slave masters hence slavery collapsed.

5. The cruel exploitation of slaves and ruthlessness and oppression done bythe save masters to slaves led the slaves to revolt against the slave masters hence slaves became free from being controlled by the slavemasters this led to the collapseof slavery(slavemode of production).

6. The Slave owners (slave maters) with vast number of slaves were not interested in including the tools of production; they continued to use the old productive forces which automatically led to the collapse of slavemode of production.

7. The constant military campaigns led to the number of slaves to drop down and the prices to get slaves increased this led slave masters to fail to continue with this modeof production (slavery).


This was the second exploitative mode of production based on privateownership of land. It was common in Africa since 14th to 19th century. Example of African societies practiced feudalism were Haya in Tanganyika and Zulu in SouthAfrica

In this mode, land was a major means of production and agriculture remained to be the principle means of making livelihood, but the land which was necessary for that purpose was in the hands of few and they took the lion’s share of the wealth.

The term feudalism comes from a Latin word, feundum which means a privatepiece of land for renting.

In Africa, feudalism existed in various parts even before the onset of colonialism, for example in Egypt, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Congo, Western Sudan and South Africa.

Various feudal systems existed in Africa, in Buhaya the Nyarubanja system existed, in Buganda Mvunjo system existed and in Buha, Ubugabire existed.


1. Existence of two Dominant Social Antagonistic Classes

There were dominant classes that are the feudal lords and peasants. The feudal lords / land lords controlled/owned land and peasants were employed by them.

2. Private ownership of all Major Means of Production (Land)

It was characterized by private ownership as in the major means of production were controlled by the feudal lords. Example: – Land and cattle were property of the feudal lords. If peasants wanted to use the land, they had to pay.

3. Exploitation of Man by Man

It was characterized by exploitation of man by man because major means of production were controlled by a few people who are the feudal / land lords. Peasantswere exploited through payment of rent.

4. Advanced tools of production

The level of productive forces was advanced which led to high level of production; this led to availability of surplus.


1. Environmental factors determined political development of the society.

The environment determined the development of an area. The areas which received enough rain developed easily to feudalism, different from the less favoured areas.

Tropical regions developed earlier than other areas, for instance the Ghanaians developed Ghana Kingdom becauseof climatic factors.

Several other African societies developed the feudal system because of the geographical location; Buganda offers another best example in Lake Region of East Africa.

2. Considerable Population was Another Determinant.

Population of an area determined the movement of a society to the next stage. As the population increased the political organizations emerged in which fewpeoplegot access to sources of wealth, for instance land, so feudalism emerged.

For example, population expansion in the Buganda Kingdom necessitated development of feudalism than the areas with low population such as Central Tanzania.

3. Availability of Potential Resources.

Presence of natural resources influenced the transition from the previous modeto feudalism, such resources involved iron, gold and copper.

For example iron led to production of weapons, agriculture tools and sometimesiron was used for exchange. Mali Kingdom and Mwanamutapa developed with theinfluence of iron, gold and salt resources.

In Mali, gold was available at Boure and Bambuk and salt was available at Awdaghast and Taghaza; the resources which became the central driving forcesfor the rise of feudalism in those regions.

4. Leadership of an area determined development of the society. Sometimes leaders of some societies developed their societies from primitive communalism to feudalism as they organized well the society’s resources for the betterment of their communities.

For example, popular leaders like Sunni Au and Askia Mohammad Turay influenced development of Songhai Kingdom as a feudal state.

5. Trade and exchange was another factor.

It caused variations in which some people became dominant and they became economically powerful and later on militarily powerful.

The Trans Sahara Trade influenced at a great extent development of feudalism in West Africa inGhana, Mali and Songhai from the fourth Century onwards.

6. Shortage of Land.

The shortage of land and its increasein value contributed to the development of productive forces since the people were conditioned to use small plots of land. Such factors threatened the existence of communal mode of production consequently paved a way to the increase of feudalism.

7. Strong and well-disciplined army.

The Strong and well-disciplined army led to the establishment of feudal societies and feudal states because the army was used by their leaders to go and conquer the areas of their neighbouring kingdoms hence increase the land for their societies for example in Buganda, Kabaka used army to conquer Bunyoro-Kitare under Kabalega also in South Africa were Shaka used armywith establish Zulu Kingdom by conquering small kingdoms.

8. Advancement of science and technology.

The development of science and technology which was due to the making and using of iron tools led to drastic changes in agricultural production, this played a crucial role in the rise of feudalism in Africa.


In African society’s feudal mode of production existed in different formsdepending on the place in which it existed. In the interlacustrine area, the power of the ruler depended on the ownership and the control of land. This system of feudal relation was called Nyarubanja in Karagwe, and Buhaya.

a) In Buganda it was known as Nvunjo and Busulu.

The Kabaka was in charge of all productive forces which included women, cattle, land and tools and his subject paid feudal rent to him known as Nvujo or Busulu in case of land.

b) Ubugabire developed between the Tutsi and Hutu in Rwanda, Burundi and Buha.

The feudal relationship in these areas depended on cattle ownership. The Tutsi could transfer some of their cattle to Hutu. The donor thus became the master (SEBUJA) of the recipient (BAGABIRE) the Omugabire and his family wasobliged to perform duties for the master by cultivating and governing the property of the master.

c) Umwinyi, it existed along the Coast of East Africa.

The Wamwinyi controlled land, tenants and serfs, monopolized economic and political power. The tenants and the serfs lived on the land of feudal lords in return for labor services and tribute. The Wamwinyi were political and religiousleaders.

d) In Zanzibar the relationship of Umwinyi based on racism and religion.

The society was divided into Arab, Shiraz and Africans in decreasing order of autonomy. The religion of Islam divided people into different categories;

heathen (Washenzi) the non-African Muslims and civilized (Waungwana) Arabs, Shiraz, and Muslim Africans

e) Ntemiship among the Wanyamwezi and Wasukuma.

The power of the leader was based on the control of the producers themselves .The ability to control and mobilize labor was ideologically based. The Mtemi ledthe people to new land (kutema) wherever it was available .In Ethiopia tenant rented houses and were subjected to land lords.

f) Among the Zulu feudalism developed on agriculture and Pastoralism.People acquired land and cattle in the exchange of agreement that they would remainroyal to the king and work for him for number of days in a year.

g) In Egypt feudalism developed in conjunction with the building of the pyramids and in the serving of Pharaoh.

While in West Africa feudalism was associated with trade and mining activities.


At the time of colonization, most of pre–colonial African societies were in the communal mode of production but in transition to the feudal mode of production. Some societies were in the feudal mode of production. The slavemode of production was not well developed because most of the Africa societies transformed from the communal mode directly to the feudal mode of production.


1. The family was the basic unit of production.

This limited the division of labour and it was a hindrance to the development of science and technology, consequently agricultural production was always low inpre – colonial Africa.

2. The level of productive forces was very low.

This was because the tools used were made of stones. The use of primitive tools led to low levels of production which in turn contributed to the absence of surplus.

3. Land was the commonest object of labour.

Its distribution was on cultural values and traditions. In clan organization land was distributed by the clan head on customary laws.

4. There were some class societies in pre–colonial Africa.

For example under the slave mode of production; there was a class of slave masters and the slaves and in feudal mode of production was characterized by a classof land lords/ feudal lords, and peasants.

5. The major economic activities were agriculture and pastoralism. Agriculture was mainly carried out by feudal societies and it was common in the interlacustrine region. Pastoralism was mainly practiced by societies that level in the rift valley region for example theMaasai of East Africa.

6. The pre–colonial African societies were pre–capitalist.

This was because there are three modes of production. i.e. communal, slavery and Feudal modes of production. The capitalist mode of production wasintroduced during colonialism.

7. Production in pre–colonial Africa was mainly for consumption and not for the market.

Production for the market was introduced during colonialism whereby Africanswereproducing raw materials for the export market.

NOTE: - It should be noted that the pre–colonial African societies were not at the same level of development.

Maasai society was among of the pre colonial Africana Society that developed both in social,economic, politically and culturally with their unique ways of life as the responsibilities among the members of the societies was divided according to age and sex which was age set political organisation:-


This was a political organisation existed during pre colonial African Societies as the responsibilities among the members of the societies was divided accordingto age and sex. This was pre dominantlly practised by Maasai Society.

Above 18 years: The group of youths and matured people; in the Maasai society, these people were called “Moran”.


The Moran performed various activitiesin their communities such as:

vProtection of animals against thieves and wild animals,

vSecondly, raiding animals in other communities to increase the number of animals. To the Maasai, raiding was done with a belief that all cattlewere theirs but the other societies raided from their ancestors in the ancient times.

vThird, searching for pastures, this occurred when the pastures were far found.

vThey used to escort their animals for defense against raiders, fourth, protection/defense of the society against external invaders.

The group of Laibons: Two groups were involved in this group, i.e. the senior and junior elders; they played a great role in the society, for instance, counseling the society members, they controlled all sources of wealth; they

played a religious role as experts in rituals, resolving conflicts and choosing spouses for the youth.


1. Provided a clear division of labour.

2. Reduced internal contradictions dueto the role of laibons. 

3. Produced a well disciplined hard working society.

4. Created a conscious society to defend their interests.

5. Influenced the improvement of living standard as all society members were having something to do in the chain of production.


1. Frequent migration impeded the development of productive forces. 

2. Placed the societyinto jeopardy due to frequent raids.

3. Led to frequent clashes between pastoral and agricultural societies.


A clan is a combination of various blood tiedfamilies who drew their origin from common ancestors. Some African societies organized themselves in clan ships. Clan organization was divided into two categories,

Matrilineal Societies: In the societies of this kind the clan heritage based on the mother, a man moved to the family of his wife and the children belonged tothe wife’s clan.

Sometimes the bridegroom worked for some years for the father of his bride, inZambia the Bemba practiced this and in Dahomey the men did not stay with thefamily but formed a work team to work for wife’s father.

The work team was known as “Dokpwe” in Dahomey. Among the Akan in Ghana clansystem existed and was highly organized. In East Africa, matrilineal societiessuch as Makonde, Yao, Makua, Wamwera, Kamba and Kikuyu existed.

Patrilineal Societies: Under this, the clan heritage based on the father and normally the practice was for the wife to move to the husband’s family in exchange of the bride price. A good example is that of the Sukuma where by a great number of cattle was paid for the wife and she moved to the man’s familyin exchange withthe paid cattle.

Note: Clan heads practiced the following functions, 

1. Allocatingland for agriculture.

2. Providing guidance in production. 

3. Settlingconflicts.

4. Presiding over religious ceremonies. 

5. Choosing spouses for their youths.


1. The family was the basic unit of production.

This limited the division of labour and it was a hindrance to the development of science and technology, consequently agricultural production was always lowin pre– colonial Africa.

2. The level of productive forces was very low.

This was because the tools used were made of stones. The use of primitive tools led to low levels of production which in turn contributed to the absence of surplus.

3. Land was the commonest object of labour.

Its distribution was on cultural values and traditions. In clan organization land wasdistributed by the clan head on customary laws.

4. There were some class societies in pre–colonial Africa.

For example under the slave mode of production; there was a class of slave masters and the slaves and in feudal mode of production was characterized by a classof land lords/ feudal lords, and peasants.

5. The major economic activities were agriculture and pastoralism. Agriculture was mainly carried out by feudal societies and it was common in the interlacustrine region. Pastoralism was mainly practiced by societies that level inthe rift valley region for examplethe Maasai of East Africa.

6. The pre–colonial African societies were pre–capitalist because there are three modes of production.

These were communal, slavery and Feudal modes of production. The capitalist mode of production was introduced during colonialism.

7. Production in pre–colonial Africa was mainly for consumption and not for the market.

Production for the market was introduced during colonialism whereby Africans were producingraw materials forthe export market.

NOTE: – It should be noted that the pre–colonial African societies were not at the same level of development.


The Pre–colonial African societies were not static or unchanging they went through various transformations that were influenced by the nature of the environment, climate and soil fertility.

Some factors enabled some African societies to be able to transform from other modesof production to the feudal mode of production.

FACTORS THAT CONTRIBUTED TO THE RISE OF FEUDALISM IN AFRICA There are various factors that contributed to the riseof feudalism in Africa:-

1. Nature of the Environment.

Those areas in African that had fertile soils and received enough rainfall throughout the year supported agriculture on a large scale thus leading to theincreasein production whichfacilitated the rise of feudalism.

2. Advancement of Science and Technology.

The development of science and technology which was due to the making and using of iron tools led to drastic changes in agricultural production, this played a crucial role in the rise of feudalism in Africa.

3. Increase in Population.

The increase in population was due to increase in food supplies and standard of living. The increase in population resulted into shortage of land that facilitated the rise of feudalism due to privateownership of land.

4. Existence of Strong Political Institutions.

The existence of strong political institutions for example states; played a big role in the rise of feudalism in Africa, these political institutions led to private ownership of land that led to the riseof feudalism.

5. Shortage of Land.

The shortage of land and its increasein value contributed to the development of productive forces since the people were conditioned to use small plots of land. Such factors threatened the existence of communal mode of production consequently paved a wayto the increaseof feudalism.

6. Strong and well Disciplined Army

The Strong and well disciplined army led to the establishment of feudal societies and feudal states because the army was used by their leaders to go and conquer the areas of their neighbouring kingdoms hence increase the land for their societies for example in Buganda, Kabaka used army to conquer

Bunyoro-Kitare under Kabalega also in South Africa were Shaka used army with establish Zulu Kingdom by conquering small kingdoms.

7. Growth and Control of Trade

Trade was one among the reasons which led to emergence of some feudal societies. Societies which engaged in trade acquired iron tools and guns and these were used in agricultural production and expansion and consolidation of feudal societies/states.

For Example the Buganda kingdom which engaged in trade got iron toolswhich helped them to get involved in permanent agricultural production of crops such as Bananathat ensured constant supply of food and led to the establishment of permanent settlement.


This broad concept has been explained by various historians, writers and

philosophers. The following below are ideas of various people on the state; Plato explained the concept of a state by using the classical and medieval conception.

According to Plato, a state is an ethico- religious institution which cares for thematerial good of all the citizens. According to Plato, the state is aristocraticdivided into irascible, the group which could defend the state and concupisciblegroup, the group which should produce for the state. Another view is the Modern Conception of State, under this conception; a state is a pact between the rulers and ruled.

It has been explained by several scholars such as Benedict Spinoza and Thomas Hobbes. There is also the Marxist Conception of State, according tothis view, different propositions have been provided, for instance, the state is a parasitic institutionthat plays no role in the economic production.

On this, the Marxists do believe that the state tends to oppress and exploit the civil society, so it plays no role in the economic development of a society.

Then, a state is a surface reflection or system of property relations and resulting economic class struggling. Lastly, a state is an instrument of classrule.

Generally, pre-colonial African societies had developed political organizations including stronger states before the advent of Europeans. Stronger states had been developed in east Africa such as the Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom which had been stronger since the fifteenth century.

Buganda Kingdom had been another popular state in east Africa, being thedominant state during the nineteenth century.

Karagwe Kingdom in the nineteenth century was among popular kingdoms inthe region, it was led by Mukama Rumanyika, one of its strongest leaders. West Africa had the Ghana Kingdom, Mali Kingdom, Songhai Kingdom and the Forest States such as Oyo, Ife, Dahomey and Wofu Kingdom. Central Africa had the Mwanamutapa (Master of the conquered lands); Zimbabwe Kingdom (Dzimba dza Mabwe), Ndebele state, Shona state and many others. South Africa had the Zulu State.

In North Africa there was the Egyptian Kingdom, one of the ancient states in the world. Ethiopia in the horn of Africa offers the best example of the ancient states being popular since the 4th century. State formation in the world, Africa being a part developed due to a number of reasons, scholars proposed some theoriesfor state formation in Africa and the world at large.

Some scholars proposed spontaneous theory to be one of the theories. This theory explains that some people in the community gave up their sovereign and united with others. This theory refers to the ideas of famous Frenchphilosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau who explained about social contract. So under this theory people formed the states spontaneously by giving their independence to others.

Automatic theory was also proposed. Specialization and division of labour led to emergence of large political entities. Through specialization and division oflabour, people united and formed large political entities.

A good example is that of the people of the Nile Valley who formed some political entities with a concept of specialization and division of labour. So, automatically small communities merged into large due to specialization and divisionof labour.

Another theory is known as hydraulic theory. This theory was proposed by the scholar known as Witfoggel. To him and other scholars with such an idea, portrayed that the people of arid and semi arid areas who carried out small scale irrigation merged their villages into large political units capable of carrying large scale irrigation schemes to maximize production, for instance inMesopotamia, China and Mexico. For the case of Africa, this is still the hypothesis.

War and conquest theory explains emergence of African states. In this theory, it is said that the pastoralists subdued the peaceful cultivators, war and conquest occurred in many African states in their formation starting with Eastern, Central, Southern, Western and Northern part of Africa.

Lastly, there is circumscription theory. This base on resource concentration, when two areas located in a same region the one with many resources whilethe other with few resources, the area with few resources was drawn to the blessed area with many resources. So, circumscription occurred in many African regions during the state formation in those areas.


1.Conducive Environment.

Under this factor, there are some issues to be explained, for instance, more fertile and more hospitable soil asthat of Niger and Senegal.

Secondly, natural resources favoured the state formation; availability of copper, gold, salt favoured the rise of states.

For example, Mali Kingdom owned the Boure and Bambuk gold fields which led to the rise and expansionof Mali Kingdom.

Buganda Kingdom expanded as one of the greatest states in East Africa due to conduciveenvironment which paved the way for agriculture development.

2. Development of Productive Forces.

Productive forces are the elements of an activity of using energy; such elements involve human labour, objects of labour and means of labour.

On this part, productive forces led to formation of political states. It is clear that, within Africa iron technology existed and it wasnot by diffusion.

For example, in West Africa among the Mende speaking, they used iron technology in the development of agriculture. In Ethiopia, rise of the kingdom was a result of iron technology which developed some centuries ago.

Mwanamutapa had also a good base of iron technology since 1000 A.D whichpaved the way to the rise of the kingdom because it was used as an item of trade and for production of weapons and agriculture tools.

3. Advancement of Exchange.

The exchange was on local and regional basis, local exchange was that made between the people of Benin with those of Akan. This trade stimulated the expansion of Benin and Akan states.

Also, inter regional trade existed in Africa and influenced the expansion of some states, specifically in West Africa. Trans-Sahara trade offered a good example.

Generally, exchange influenced the availability of regular source of income tothe states because the traders paid tax for the states. Secondly, exchangeinfluenced the improvement of administration of kingdoms through employing well educated officials.

Third, exchange became the means of undertaking the wars of conquest and expansion through supply of horses and metals suitable for manufacture of arms. So, exchange was an important factor to the expansion of states in Africa.

4. Population Growth.

The environmental factors influenced population expansion because it necessitated permanent settlement. Migration of inhabitants in addition to thelocal population increased the number of people.

Population expansion necessitated formation of political organizations; alsopopulation influenced development of production together with the defense of a kingdom. Population influenced directly formation and expansion of Buganda kingdom in the lake region.

5. Military Conquest.

Some kingdoms expanded because they conquered weaker states. A good example is that of Mwanamutapa kingdom which emerged in 1425 under Mutota. Matope, who became the strongest ruler of all Africa South of Sahara, managed to conquer many parts Matope died in 1480.

In West Africa, Ghana conquered the Takrur, Silla, Diara, Kaniaga, and Susu. The conquered states worked for the metropolitan state and paid tributes hencebenefited the metropolitan state. Through conquest Ghana expanded asMwanamutapa did.

6. Role of Individual Leaders.

The states with good leadership expanded. Songhai kingdom expanded due tothe great contribution made by Askia Mohamed.

This great man managed to unify the people of that kingdom through Islamic religion by introducing Islamic laws, he changed the administration structure, and used his talents in imperial plans in which in 1512 he attacked theDiara.

So many African greater leaders such as Shaka Zulu, Kabaka Mutesa of Buganda, Mansa Kankan Musa of Mali and Matope of Mwanamutapa influenceddevelopment of African political organizations in the pre colonial era.

7. Specialization and Division of Labour.

This influenced the expansion of production as each group in the state concentrated in a certain activity, a good example can be drawn from Songhai where by the people had a good division of labour; for example; the “Gow” were hunters “Do” were farmers and the “Sorko” were fishers. By having specialization, it became easy for the kingdom to expand because so many economic activities were conducted by the people of that kingdom leading to itsgrowth.

8. Religion.

For example, local religions and Islam. In Uganda, within the Buganda kingdom where by the Kabaka was a spiritual leader who presided over religiousfunctions and he was regarded by the Baganda as a semi divine person.

The Baganda believed in many gods such as Musoke who wasin charge of rain, Mukassa who was in charge of lakes, Warumbe who was in charge of death. Other societies such as the people of Mwanamutapa believed in gods, for instance the Shona called their God “Mwari” and they believed that Mwari” taught them the skills of farming and metalworking.

Islam influenced the expansion of states, for instance in Songhai and Mali. Islam commanded respect, and support from the subjects, Islam encouraged education. Generally religion, both local, Christianity and Islam commanded respect, unified thepeople and created safety in the states.


1. Influence of  Slave Trade.

Slave trade was a disaster which strongly hit the sons and daughters of African origin. Mostly, slave trade created insecurity as noted by Mwanamutapa Mvura who wrote the following statement in 1640’s

“Killing some and wounding others, stealing their sons and daughters and cows of their herds so that ‘very day I have complaints at my Zimbabwe”.

Then, slave trade destructed production in most of African states. For example, the Cava people of Wolof kingdom in West Africa relied on cultivation; slave trade caused thecollapse of their state as cultivation stagnated.

Generally, with slave trade Africans lost everything they had in all walks of life. Mwanamutapa Kingdom collapsed due to slave trade; Oyo, a former slave dealer faced the same catastrophe which led to its collapse in the nineteenth century.

2. European Intervention.

Some political states collapsed as the Europeans intervened, for example, Buganda kingdom lost its luster when the British became interested with it because Henry Morton Stanley (Explorer for Belgium) popularized the kingdom by calling it “The Garden of Eden”.

Then, Portuguese invasion marked the blue print of the collapse of Mwanamutapa by 1700 when the state remained with little power in which thePortuguese controlled it.

Mandinka Kingdom collapsed in the hands of Europeans, the Frenchmen; Asante Kingdom collapsed due to the British invasion and so many other African states whichwere popular by the nineteenth century.

3. Conquest.

The conquest of some societies influenced the collapse of several political states in Africa, for example, Almoravids invasion and the Susu invasion of 1203 marked the collapse of Ghana kingdom.

The conquered states lost the control of resources and other potentials as how Ghanalost the control of the Trans-Sahara Trade.

Mali Kingdom was conquered by the Tuaregs which finally influenced the collapse of the kingdom. Again, the Moroccan invasion of 1590 led to the collapse of Songhai Kingdom.

4. Problems on Succession.

Succession determined the state position; the states with poor succession collapsed totally, for example the death of Sunni Ali in 1492 created some problems in Songhai because Suimi Barn who succeeded was weak.

Most of African states collapsed because the new leaders who became successors failed to maintain unity, political stability, economic development and peoples’faith on their leaders hence finally the states perished.

5. Division within the states created political instability.

Various African states experienced division in terms of tribes, clans and religions. Further concentration will be placed on the clans and religiousdivision.

Starting with the former, for example the struggle for power between Askia’s sons and brothers in Songhai kingdom influenced the collapse of that state.

6. Religious Division

Religious division occurred in some states such as Songhai where the Muslims and the non- believers quarreled. Such a division led to the collapse of an empire and the people of the samekingdom had a brief fight.


The Mfecane

Mfecane is a Ngoni word used to refer to the wars and disturbances which accompanied the rise of the Zulu state under Shaka from 1818. The Mfecane can also be defined as the time of trouble in South Africa. It was a great upheaval which affected areas as far asWestern part of Tanzania.

The Mfecane dominated the first hold of the 19th century in South Africa.


1. Population Pressure

Zulu land is part of the Eastern corridor of South Africa between the Drakensburg Mountains and the Indian Ocean. Due to the favorable climate and absence of diseases such as malaria, its population tended to increase rapidly. As the population increased conflicts between those societies became common and intensified leading to the Mfecane.

2. Land Shortages

The people who occupied Zulu land were farmers, but the existing land was not enough due to population pressure, therefore the search for more land caused conflicts that later contributed to the outbreak of the Mfecane.

3. The Coming of the Boers

During the Boer Trek, the Boers left Cape Town away from British control and moved into the interior of South Africa, the penetration of the Boers into the interior of South Africa intensified the pressure on land which led to conflicts that caused theMfecane.

4. The Role of Shaka

The outbreak of the Mfecane can also be attributed to the role of Shaka. Shaka pursued an aggressive and expansionist policy to expand his Kingdom, Zulu state. He attacked many states in the attempt of expanding his state, this action created conflicts that contributed to the outbreak of the Mfecane.

5. Control of Profitable Trade

The need to control trade along the Delgoa Bay is one of the factors responsible for the outbreak of the Mfecane. Trade contacts with the coast were very important because it was associated with acquisition of guns that can be used for conquest and expansion.

Effectsof the Mfecane in East and Central Africa



The Mfecane had a tremendous impact in East and Central Africa; some of the effects had a far reachingimpact to Africa.

1. Formation of States

The Mfecane led to state formation because the severity of these wars led to formation of strong armies for protection, but these armies were later used for conquest and expansion thus forming states. Examples of these states are the Shangani states in Zimbabwe.

2. Spread of Ngoni Speaking People

The most permanent results of the Mfecane were the spread of the Ngoni speaking people. These people were called various names in different parts of Africa. They were called the Ngoni in Tanzania, the matebele in Zimbabwe and Kololo in Zambia.

3. Introduction of Military Techniques

The Mfecane led to the introduction and spread of new military techniques such as the cow hornstyle which involved surrounding the enemy.

4. Introduced of New Weapons

The Mfecane led to the introduction of new weapons for example the short stabbing spears called the Assegai; these weapons were introduced by the Ngoni from Africa who came to East and central Africa.

5. Depopulation

The Mfecane led to depopulation because many peoplelost their lives due to the frequent wars, the most affected region was veld where by many people lost their lives.

6. Famine

The Mfecane led to widespread of famine in East and central Africa. Thefrequent wars caused insecurity that disrupted agricultural production and finally causing famine/hunger.

NOTE: - The Mfecane was a great upheaval in the history of Southern Africa because it had far reaching effectsin the region.


The Mfecane refers to the wars and disturbances caused by Shaka and the riseof the Zulu state in South Africa. The Mfecane is also referred to as the time of trouble or turbulence in South Africa.

The origin of the Mfecane was Shaka’s expansionist policies that led to the conquering states.

The Mfecane played a great role in state formation in Southern Africa.

1. Political Transformation

The Mfecane led to political transformation in Southern Africa, the former age group communities were transformed into strong centralized states. The Mfecane also forced people to form strong armies to protect themselves from Shaka; these armies were later used for conquest and expansion hence forming states. Zulu is a good example of a state formed dueto the Mfecane.

2. Military Advancement

The Mfecane contributed to the introduction of new military weapons such as the short stabbing spears and the cow horn style. These weapons were used for conquest and expansion thus forming states.

3. Emergency of Strong Leadership

The Mfecane contributed to the rise of strong leadership; this was needed for protection from the Mfecane. Strong leadership had a big role to play in stateformation because the leaders united the people to form states.

4. Migrations

The societies through which they passed were forced to form strong states toprotect themselves from the Mfecane. The movement of the Ngoni from South Africa was not a peaceful process; it involves wars that necessitated unity among the people.

NOTE: – The Mfecane was a great upheaval in history of Southern Africa; it dominated the first half of the19th century in Southern Africa.


The long distance trade in East Africa refers to the type of trade that took place between the people of the interior of East Africa and the ones from the coast. The main participants were the Yao, Kamba, Nyamwezi and Baganda from the interior and the Arabs and Swahili tradersfrom the coast.

The main items traded were guns, beads and glassware that came from the coast and slaves, ivory, tortoise shells and copper from the interior of East Africa.

The main medium of exchange was batter trade system, which is exchange of goodsfor goods.

The long distance trade provided a crucial role in the formation of states in East Africa as follows.

1. Accumulation of Wealth

Those African chiefs who monopolized trade in pre–colonial African accumulated a lot of wealth that was used to build state in East Africa such asBuganda and Bunyoro. Kings such as Mutesa of Buganda, Kabalega of Bunyoro and Nyungu ya Mawe of Ukimbu accumulated a lot of wealth that was used to build strong states.

2. Introduction of Guns

The long distance trade led to the introduction of guns into the interior of East Africa. These guns were used to strengthen armies that were used for conquest and expansion. Most of the states in East Africa were established through conquest and expansion.

3. Active Participation in Agriculture

The long distance trade encouraged people to participate actively in agricultureto produce goods that can be exchanged during the trade. Active participation in agriculture increased agricultural production which accommodated in high population, this contributed to the formation of states. States such as Buganda, Karagwe and Bunyoro were formed in those areas where agriculture was active.

4. Emergency of Strong Leaders

The long distance contributed to the emergence of strong leaders such asMkwawa of the Hehe and Mutesa of Buganda. These leaders played a fundamental role in the emergence of states in East Africaby uniting the people

5. Migrations

The long distance trade encouraged migrations in East Africa. People moved from one place to another to take part in exchange of goods. The migration of people contributed to permanent settlement that had a role to play in state formation.

6. Development of Towns

The long distance trade contributed to the development of towns in East Africa, these include Ujiji, Tabora and Bagamoyo. These areas acted as trading centers therefore theyattracted many people thus contributed to the state formation.

7. Growth of Trade Routes

The long distance trade contributed to the development of trade routes in East Africa. These routes opened the interior of East Africa.


A Jihad is a holy war in Islam. Jihads were one of the most significant eventsthat dominated in West Africa during the 19th century; they were mainly led byOthmanDan Fodio.

Jihads can be traced back as far as the 10th century when young Fulani immigrates with Islamic knowledge in politics influenced other people to start holy wars.

Jihads under the umbrella of Islam played a fundamental role in state formation in West Africa, states such as Sokoto, Mandika and Tokoro were a result of Jihads. How, Jihads as an Islamic war contributed to state formation inPre–colonial Africa


A Jihad is a holy war in Islam. Jihads were one of the most significant eventsthat dominated in West Africa during the 19th century; they were mainly led byOthman Dan Fodio. Jihads can be traced back as far as the 10th century whenyoung Fulani immigrates with Islamic knowledge in politics influenced other peopleto start holy wars.

Jihads under the umbrella of Islam played a fundamental role in state formation in West Africa, states such as Sokoto, Mandika and Tokoro were a result of Jihads.

How, Jihads as an Islamic war contributed to state formation in Pre–colonial Africa

1. Unification

The Jihads acted as a unifying factor that brought people together under one umbrella. Islam became the official ruling ideology of the state. The unity provided by Islam was very crucial in state formation. The Islamic law ‘sheria’ proved the alternative model of government with which to compare and attack their rulers. Conversion of nonbelieverswas an essential duty of all Muslims.

2. Formation of Strong Armies

The Jihads were characterized with the establishment of strong armies; these armies were later used for conquest and expansion thus forming states. This was responsible for the formation for states such as Sokoto caliphate and Hausa states.

3. Emergency of Strong Leaders

Jihad contributed to the rise of strong leadership; these leaders were seen asMuslim reformers who managed to create strong leadership under their leaders likefuta Djallon in Guinea in 1725 and theSokoto caliphate.

4. Control of Trade Routes

The Jihads led to the control of trade routes by the Jihad leaders. These trade routes attracted many people. The wealth accumulated was used to build strong states. Trade also accumulated guns that were used for conquest and expansion thus forming strong states such asSokoto caliphate.

5. Consolidation of Feudalism

Jihads contributed to the consolidation of Feudalism as a mode of production, land was controlled by the Fulani, and the weapons accumulated were used to build states in West Africa.


Culture refers to the total way of life; it includes education, science and technology, political systems, and traditions. Education refers to thetransformation of norms, skills and knowledge from one generation to another. Under normal circumstances, education must grow out of the nature of the environment; therefore the most outstanding feature of pre–colonial educationwas its relevance to Africa.

Education is one of the pivotal roles in any type of society for the preservation of the uses of the members and maintenance of the social structure.

These aretwo types of education namely 

1. Formal Education

2. Informal Education 

1. Formal Education

Formal education is that type of education that follows specific programs; there is a defined syllabus and curriculum.

2. Informal Education

This refers to that type of education whereby young people acquire knowledge and skills by imitating the elders. It is based on one’s observations. Informal education is characterized with the absence of a syllabus but it involved active participationof the learners in games and plays.

It was progressive as it involved all the stages of the physical emotional and mental development of the child. It should be noted that there was formal education in pre–colonial Africa to a limited extent. Literacy was concentrated along Nile, North Africa and Ethiopia. This type of literacy was connected with religion, it was mainly found in universities such as Al – Azhar in Egypt, Fez in Morocco and Timbuktu in Mali.


ØIt produced a well rounded personality who could fit well in society in all aspect of life. ØIt enabled the young to abide to the culture of the society such as good moral and social conduct, loyalty and respect to all.

ØPre-colonial education moulded the young people to accept, practice and perpetuate the traditions and culture of the society.

ØPre-colonial education prepares graduates to assume the duties and responsibilities of adult, through at low social level, in accordance with their age and merital status.

ØPre-colonial education also brought up children to value the wisdom of their elders, a vital component pre-colonial oral culture, and much of what they absorbed from their elders wasinstilled by role-learning.

ØFurthermore, pre-coloial education helped children to learn the history of their ancestors and the oral traditions and customs of their communityor nation.


1. It was Informal in Nature.

Pre–colonial education in Africa was mainly informal; the young acquired knowledge by imitating the elders. In many African societies elders told stories around the fire places in the evening. These stories and all the information that the youngreceived are what are called informal education.

2. It was  Relevant to the society.

It was relevant to the society because it was born out of the environment of the concerned society. It produced well rounded individuals who could fit in their societies; it targeted self community and survival of the society. These was nothing from the alien community because everything stormed from the traditional and customs of the society in question.

3. It was progressive in Nature.

Pre–colonial education was progressive because it involved all stages of physical, emotional and mental development of the child. The young people were taught various specialist skills which followed a definite pattern startingfrom the simple to the complex ones.

4. It put Emphases on Moral and Social Conduct.

Pre–colonial education aimed at instilling good morals and social conduct to theyoung people. African societies had some accepted core valves and elders used to condemn strongly any action or behavior that tended to undermine the promotion of the accepted valves.

5. Encouraged Specializations.

Pre–colonial African education encouraged specialization in certain fields. It aimed at preparing the young members of the community for specificresponsibilities in future.

People trained in activities such as medicine, iron working basketry and pottery.

6. It Aimed at Procreation

Pre–colonial education aimed at procreation of production. The existing education system in the society shaped and stimulated production within the society. All activities aimed at production as to sustain the society.

7. Lacked uniformity

Pre–colonial African education lacked uniformity. It varied from society to society depending on the economic, social and environmental conditions of a given society. Each society had its own customs and traditions depending on the environment of that givensociety.


1. The programs of teaching were restricted to a certain period in the life of the individual especially at the time of initiation.

The education system did not have specificprogram for older people.

2. It Relied so Much on Memory and Oral Traditions

There was no way newly acquired knowledge, skills could be recorded or preserved for the future. Dependence on memorials led to loss of vital informationthat could be passed on the young people.

3. Pre–Colonial Education did not have a Specific and Organic Syllabus Each society had its own education which was based on the culture of that society. It should be noted that the environment determined the nature of occupations in pre -colonial Africa; this also shaped the content of education givento that particular society.

4. Pre–Colonial Africa Education was Characterized by Parochialism This was because it was centered on a particular tribe and clan units. It readily responded to the needs of that particular tribe or region in question therefore it did not address the issues of the whole nation atlarge.

5. Pre–Colonial African Education Lacked a Social Philosophical base that could have introduced a Sense of Uniformity and Conformity.

There was absence of a common language that could have united all the tribes thus ensuring skills are not confined within one particular tribe.

6. Pre–Colonial African Education was too mythical.

It relied on oral traditions; whereby many of the stories given by the elders cannot be proved scientifically. The elders had a tendency of being bias towardstheir tribe.

NOTE: It should be note that despite its limitations. Pre–colonial African education paved a crucial role in development of African societies.


In these societies the power is centralized to a single person and the system of leadership was hereditary in nature.

The examples of centralized societies are Toro, Buganda, Bunyoro of East Africa, Asante, Dahomey, Benin, Oyo, Tokolo and Sokoto of West Africa.


1. They extended over the Large Unit of area

They extended over larger areas for the reason that territories were annexed and put under the governor who ruled on behalf of the King, example Zulu state and Buganda Kingdom.

2. The Kings Wielded Political Power that Represented State Authority. The centralization of power ensured national unity among the members of the society. As the King had supreme power, then he commanded wealth loyalty from his subjects, respect and prestige.

3. The throne (power) was hereditary in nature that Kings named their successor from among their children or relatives.

It was the custom of the King to nominate his successor from amongst his children (family members) when he was living, if he died without appointing him, the elders and other important official have to take the responsibility of appointingthebest child to take thethrone.

4. The internal stability of the Kingdom and defense from external aggression of neighboring states forced these societies to set up stable military machinery.

This was aimed at maintaining thehomogeneity of the Kingdom.

5. Despite the hierarchy in administration the Kings and their officials exercised authoritarianism rule (Absolutism) towards the subjects or followers.

The council of elders whose role was to adult theking. They assisted him.

6. The King was vested with Juridical Authority.

His courts arbitrated all disputes and misunderstanding within the Kingdom asthe King was the highest court of appeal.

7. The King controlled the Wealth of the Kingdom.

He directed on how land should be used by all members of the society, for example land for agricultural activities and animal husbandry.

He looted property and controlled foreign trade, through these means Kingdom accumulated much wealth in his state and hewas expected to share generouslywith his subjects.

8. The expansionist policy of conquest and raids accumulated much wealth for the Kingdom.

The war captures were distributed to faithful servants and his hard working soldiersto make the harder andbecomebraver.


Songhai kingdom was among the ancient empires in West Africa covering the regions of ancient Ghana and Mali Empire. Songhai kingdom emerged by 500 -700 AD and remained to be a minor state. Its expansion came so late due to theinfluenceof some issues including geographical position.

All important resources were to the Soninke and Malinke where Songhai lacked important resources for its expansion. There was lack of continuity which delayed its expansion. This was caused by the presence of many dynasties. Another problem was disunity.

There was no clear state ideology because Islam was not a state religion. Also, lack of political peace de-stabilized the kingdom. Generally, presence of many dynasties caused the state to lack peace because of frequent conflicts. In short, Songhai Empire expanded replacing Mali kingdom which collapsed paving the way for that new kingdom in the region.


1. Good Division of Labour.

The tribes found in Songhai Empire were “Gow” specialized in hunting; “Do” specialized in agriculture and the “Sorko” specialized in fishing. The division of labour and specialization gave opportunity for the people to concentrate leading to the increase of products in all basic economic sectors; specialization simplified trade among the people of Songhai paving the way for the rise and development of the kingdom.

2. Influence of Trade

Through the Trans - Sahara Trade, the state gained regular source of income. Secondly, it provided the means for under taking the war of conquest and expansion through the supply of horses and metals suitable for manufacture of “arms” for example, spears and arrow heads.

It improved administration of the kingdom through employment of well educated Muslims. So exchange was an important factor in the rise and expansion of Songhai Empire.

3. Influence of Islam.

Islam was introduced by the people of North Africa such as Egypt to some partsof West Africa including Songhai. Generally, Islam influenced the rise of statesbecause it unified the people. Then, Islam influenced military expansion in Songhai purposely for defense.

Then, Islam created the administration or political changes because the former nobility were replaced by Islamic scholars in political offices. Lastly Islam created respect and order; all the above conditions caused the kingdom to grow rapidly being one of the greatest kingdomsof the period.

4. Imperial Plans.

Songhai kingdom was the vastest empire, its leaders applied their talents in imperial plans, and for example in 1512 the Songhai people attacked the Diara. Apart from that, Songhai conquered Mali, Timbuktu, Azawadi and Jenna.

The conquered lands paid taxes to the metropolitan state, defended the state and increased the state resources. Those potential areas Songhai Empire conquered influenced development of the empire causing it to be one of the greatest empires in Africa by that time.

5. Role of Individual Leaders.

Some prominent leaders influenced the expansion of Songhai Empire in someways, for example Askia Mohamed and Sunni Ali. Sunni Ali performed several issueswhich led to the expansion of Songhai kingdom.

First of all he used his talents in imperial plans by conquering other societies such as the Diara, Jenne, Azawad and Timbuktu. Surini Ali introduced the Islamic laws which kept peace and securitywithin the state.

Thirdly, he changed the administration structure by placing the Islamic scholars in political offices. So the leaders influenced much the expansion of Songhai Empire.

6. Fertility of the Savanna Land.

Fertile land influenced intensive agricultural production. For instance, the “Do” cultivated in Songhai, so production within the state led to expansion of that state.

Agriculture led to population expansion because people got balanced diet. Then, through agriculture, the surplus was used for exchange within Songhai and with the other people from other kingdoms.


1. Division within the Empire destabilized the kingdom.

It reached a stage when the people of Songhai became divided with the influence of two issues.

Firstly; religious division and clanship; starting with the former, the people of Songhai were divided into two religious groups, the Muslims of west and the non believers of east. On the issue of clanship, there were several events which reveal that; hence Askia’s clan lacked support of the other clans. The twoissues influenced the eruption of the civil war in 1588 and the state collapsed dueto insecurity.

2. Struggle for Power.

Mostly, the people of Songhai struggled for dominance; an example can bedrawn from the side of Askia’s sons and brothers who were fighting for power. This created insecurity within the state.

For example, Askia Mohammed Turay died in 1538 and his son Mussa succeeded but he was assassinated after three months. A trend of misunderstanding among the people of Songhai ruined the empire leading to its total collapse.

3. Poor succession.

As most of the prominent leaders died, for example Sunni Mi in 1492 and Askia Mohamed Turayin 1538, the state began to loseits luster, the successorsfailed to carry the good foundation made by the former rulers, for example, Mussa, Bankouri and Ismail failed to maintain the state stability. Failure to maintainpeace andstability caused the empireto collapse.

4. Emergence of a civil war in Songhai de-stabilized the kingdom.

In 1588 the civil war erupted between the western and eastern provinces. The western provinces won the war. Generally, the civil war influenced the collapse of Songhai Empire in the following ways; first; weakened the army, secondly, it created total division and lastly precipitated thetotal collapse.

5. Influence of the Moroccan Invasion.

By the end of the sixteenth century, specifically in 1590, Songhai faced a catastrophic event of the strong invasion made by the Moroccan people. That difficult moment marked an end of the good history of the kingdom.

The Moroccan invaders succeeded to capture the state hence it collapsed because the state resources became under the invaders and political power was under the invaders. The Moroccans dominated trade and all the resourcesincluding gold and human resources.


The Buganda Kingdom was geographically on the shores of Lake Victoria; that means it is found in the interlacutrine region. It grew to its apex by the mid of the 19thC. This was highly centralized monarchy and was one of the daughter states that came into existence after the collapse of the vastly expanded BunyoroKitara Kingdom.

By the second half of the 19thC Buganda became one of the strongest and largest Kingdoms in the interlacustrine region. They conquest and controlled several Kingdoms. Buganda Kingdom was under the leadership of Kabaka Mutesa.

Buganda kingdom was located on the shores of Lake Victoria. It was among more centralized states in East Africa. Some historians explained that the state emerged in the fourteenth century and the fifteenth century but it remained as a minor state.

The expansion of Buganda came after Bunyoro Kitara had lost its power. When trying to trace the origin of Buganda Kingdom, the Bantu speakers must be referred. It is said that, the Bantu lived in the region as far back as 1000 AD.

Generally, there something good for Buganda when one needs to have plenty of information of the state, the historical records were kept through oral traditions and writing. For example, in 1901 there was a record published about the kingsof Buganda.

So, through such records the origin of a state can be clearly understood. On the origin of Buganda, two myths dominate. One, it is said that Kintu was the founder of the Kingdom and this view dominates among theBaganda.

Second, some believe that Kato Kimera (the brother of Isingoma Mpunga Rukindi who founded the Bunyoro Kitara) founded the state of Buganda. This view is highlyaccepted by the Bunyoro traditions.


1. Presence of Centralization of Power.

The Kabaka governed the political organ and was considered as overall ruler. All political power was concentrated in his hands. He appointed all leaders on merit and dismissed all chiefs. His decision was final and binding.

There was a hierarchy in administration, whereby there were a number of chiefs below the Kabaka. They helped to spread Kabaka’s authority throughout the Kingdom. The Kabaka’s throne was hereditary but there wasno royal family / clan.

2. Talents of Imperial Plans.

This was practiced by conquering the other weaker regions. Buganda popularized itself by conquering the other lands which were regarded asBitongole and the conquered lands were placed under the chiefs “Batongole” who were staunch followers of the Kabaka.

A good example of the Kabaka who used to conquer other areas was Kabaka Junju who conquered the precious provinceof Buddu from Bunyoro.

The merit of conquest was that, the state collected tributes from the conquered and acquired abundant source of labour and natural resources.

3. Industrial Activities.

Locally, Buganda was having a lot of hand craft industries, for example, bark cloth industries. Such industries created the source of income to the state simply because the Baganda used the items in exchange with other societies.

4. Organized Administrative System.

The Kabaka governed the Kingdom with assistance of advisory council (Lukiiko). The council constituted the Prime Minister (Katikiro), the treasure

(Muhanika) and the Chief justice (Mugema) as well as country chiefs; all thesewere Kabaka’s nominees. The legislative council gave advice to the Kabaka and enacted laws.

3. Stable militarymachinery.

Kabaka established strong and well disciplined army for the sake ofmaintaining political stability in the state and defend the kingdom from external aggression. The Kabaka used army to maintain law and order, to pin downthe rivals powers and pursued expansionist policy.

5. Bureaucratic System of Government.

The Bureaucratic system was employed in order to ensure effective administration of the Kingdom; whereby the whole of Buganda was divided into two countries (Gomborola), the sub–countries into parishes (Miluka) and finally perishes into sub–parishes. At all level the chief were Kabaka’s appointees.

6. Kabaka’s Marriage in each Clan.

The Buganda Kingdom had approximately 52 clans, each with its own leadership. These provided the basis for the political unity for the whole administration of the Kingdom. For the sake of political harmony in the Kingdom, Kabaka married almost from every important clan. Hence intermarriages were a political weapon and created the possibility of getting Kabaka from any clan.

7. Development of Agriculture.

Good climate and fertile soil favored crop cultivation. Due to the availability of goods, the population of the Kingdom began in tinkles and becameflooded. Also someof them engaged in livestock keeping (pastoralism).

8. Development of Trade.

The Buganda Kingdom developed trading contacts with he neighbors that were under governance of Kabaka. Because the Buganda were excellent bark clothes manufactures they participated in commercial activities by exchanging bark clothes for items such as iron tools and with the Bunyoro and cow , cattle, groundnuts and simsim with theiteso , langi and Ankelo.


Kintu, Chwa, Kalimera, Kimera, Lumansi, Tembo, Kigala, Kiimba, Wampamba, Kaima, Naki binge, Mulondo, Jemba, Suna I, Sekemanya, Kimbugwe, Katerega, Mutebi, Juko, Kayemba, Tebandeke, Ndawula, Kagulu, Kikuiwe, Mawanda, Musanje, Mwanga I, Namugala, Kyabagu, Junju, Semakokiro, Wasanje, Kamanya, Suna II, Mutesa, Mwanga II and Daud Chwa, Mutesa II

NB: - It is clear stated that the second half of 19thC, Buganda was one of the highly centralized Kingdom in the intercontinental region, Kingdom that had sound organization in the field of politics economic and social set up.


Buganda kingdom witnessed the arrival of whites in the region by the

nineteenth century; among the people with interest in that area were the British and Germans.

Up to their arrival, the state was still stable as H.M. Stanley noted it thatBuganda was the Garden of Eden due to presence of good gardens, plantations, network of roads, peacefully and well organized people going about their business.

The situation attracted the whites hence the state fell under the whites and that marked the end of Buganda Kingdom as a sovereign state.


In decentralized societies, basic unit of political organization was a clan, various clans constituted a tribe. These societies were clan head loyal clan authority. The clan head was chosen from among the elders when they merited the qualities of leadership such ashis influence, wisdom and age, wealth.


1. It characterised with Equal Rights to other Members of the Clan.

The ruler had the responsibility of leading the clan but his position was hereditary. He resigned from power after the election of a new clan head, which took placewhenever the former clan head became unpopular and wastoo old to perform his responsibilities.

2. There were no Outstanding Armies

The defense of the clan was carried out by all able bodied people (men). This was due to the fact that these societies did not involve in expansionistic policy and wars were scarce.

3. The clan elders works to solve internal conflicts but if they become difficult they were transferred to the general Assembly.

Voting made the final decision compared to the centralized societies in which the Kings made the ultimate decision and wasfinal court of appeal.

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