The Great West African
Trading Kingdoms
The Kingdom of Ghana
Began 700 A.D. by the Soninke people
This was the first trading empire.
Called the “land of gold” because it
had so much of it.
The gold trade was largely
responsible for the development of
Ghana into a powerful, centralized
This gold was traded for salt that
came down from the Sahara
Today gold is still being mined in West
The use of iron to make tools and
weapons was important because these
helped Ghana expand its control over
neighboring people.
The use of the horse and camel were
also important factors in how rulers
were able to incorporate small farmers
and herders into the empire.
900s-Muslims came south to conquer
Ghana and convert the people to Islam.
Islam brought literacy, learning, a strict
code of laws, currency, use of credit,
and a common religion.
The kings authority diminished which
opened the door for the Kingdom of
Mali to gain power.
The Kingdom of Mali
Mali stretched from the Atlantic Ocean
to modern Nigeria, Ghana included.
From 1350 on replaced Ghana as the
primary trading kingdom.
Controlled the gold and salt trade.
Profited greatly from the slave trade.
Traded with Egypt and the copper
mines to the east.
The founder and first leader
of Mali was Sundiata Keita.
He was the one who took
over Ghana and the West
African gold fields.
Mansa Musa-greatly
extended Mali’s territory
and power.
In 1324, made pilgrimage
(hajj) to Mecca with 60,000
people and 80 camels
carrying 300 lbs of gold each.
Several centers of Islamic learning were
established in Mali.
One was Timbuktu:
Muslim scholars came
from all over the world
to study religion, math,
music, law, & literature.
The Kingdom of Songhai
Established in 1492 by the warrior king
Ali who defeated the rulers of Mali.
It included all of the land that the
Kingdom of Mali once owned.
Songhai was a Muslim kingdom, Islam
was a unifying force for the people and
an important factor for maintaining
state power.
Kingdom reached its peak under Askia
the Great, stretching from western
Sudan to Mali.
1591- Moroccans raided Taghaza’s salt
mine and the Songhai were defeated at
the Battle of Tongdibi.
The empire never recovered.
Settled the southern coast of West
1600s- Osei Tutu became the king and
raised a powerful army which
conquered neighboring states.
The Ashanti challenged Britain for
control of West African trade.
The British were stronger and defeated
the Ashanti in 1901.
Edo (Bini) tribe founded
Benin between 1000
and 1100 A.D. in the
forest region of western
Became rich by trading
cotton for copper, figs,
ivory, slaves, and salt.
Town of Gwato became a slave export
Benin is best known for its art in brass,
bronze, and ivory.
Kingdom declined because of revolts
among conquered states and warfare
with other slave-trading empires.
The British conquered it in 1897.
Islam in the Maghrib
The region of the Maghrib lies in North
Africa in modern day Morocco, Algeria,
and Tunisia.
This area is very close to the three
important West African kingdoms.
Before the 7th century, the Maghrib’s
population consisted of a mix of
Christians, Jews, and traditional African
Arabs gained more and more power in
the region, so Islam became the
dominant religion in the area.
The people living here were called
Berbers, their descendants still live here
and follow the Islamic religion.
The Arabs that brought Islam to the
region began being involved in the
trans-Saharan gold trade with the Great
Kingdoms of West Africa.
What you should have learned:
Trading empire: a kingdom that rose to
prominence because of its ability to trade
goods throughout Africa.
These included Ghana, Mali, Songhai, as well
as the Ashanti and Benin people.
Gold, salt, and slaves were the major items
Eventually the British took over and the
empires declined and fell.

The Great West African Trading Kingdoms