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EUROPEAN TRADERS IN AFRICA

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EUROPEAN TRADERS IN AFRICA- The slave trade where Africans were taken by Arabs and sold to Arab buyers is referred to as, Arab slave trade while European slave trade is where Europeans shipped Africans to European buyers. The European buyers purchased African captives on the coasts of Africa. Some captives would be sold and re-sold on their way from the interior to the port. - The process through which captives were obtained on African soil was through warfare, trickery, banditry, and kidnapping. Therefore the measure of the effect of European slave trade on the continent of Africa is the effect of social violence rather than trade. - It is estimated that over 100 million African slaves were imported but only about ten (10) million Africans landed alive in the Americas, the Atlantic islands and Europe. Several Africans were raped and others died during transshipment. Atlantic crossing accounted for about 15-20% of the number of deaths. Other deaths occurred between the time of capture and time of embarkation especially where captives had to travel hundreds of miles to the coast. The use of warfare to obtain captives led to killingand injuring of several others.- These slaves were picked from among the able-bodied young men and women; between the ages of 15-35 years and preferably in the early twenties. The sex ratio was about two men to one woman. European traders often accepted younger African children, but rarely any older person. They shipped the most healthy whenever possible especially those who had survived smallpox and had developed immunity to the same (one of the world’s killer diseases then).- Slave trading meant migration of labor. This process was brutal and disruptive to the society. It affected food 1production because it is the able bodied men who left their homes as migrant laborers. The captives were shipped outside instead of being utilized within any African community to create wealth from nature. Therefore, slaving prevented the remaining population from effectively engaging in Agriculture and industry. European slave trading was an under-developing factor for the continent of Africa. - The East African slave trade or Arab slave trade also contributed immensely to the European owned plantation economies of Mauritius, Reunion, and Seychelles as well as the Americas through the Cape of Good Hope. - Between 1650 and 1850, Africa’s population stagnated largely due to enormous extraction of African captives, through slave trade, while in Europe and Asia, there was remarkable population growth. African people viewed the population as an important factor of production. For example, among the Shambala of Tanzania, they had a saying, “A king is people” and among the Bemba, numbers of subjects were held to be more important than land. To the Balanta of Guinea-Bissau, the family’s strength is represented by the number of hands there are to cultivate the land.- The opportunity presented by European slave dealers acted as a stimulus for a great deal of social violence between different African communities and within any given community. Communities lived in fear and uncertainty.- European nations needed cheap slave labour to collect palmproduce and rubber and to grow Agricultural produce for export in place of slaves. West Africa exported gum from Senegal, groundnuts from Guinea and palm oil from most ofthe coastal forest zones. Gold from Asante was another important export commodity. - As demand for oil rose, heightened competition for the trade led to a series of wars among the delta states. British 2traders exploited these rivalries and with a mixture of persuasion and force they gradually extended control over the trade of the Delta during the second half of the century.- In return for the African slaves, the Europeans provided consumables majority of which were of the worst quality, cheap gin, cheap gunpowder, pots, kettles full of holes, beads, and other assorted rubbish. (Rodney, 2001) Shillington suggests that European traders brought new crops in Africa, especially maize and cassava from the Americas, but Rodney challenges this position arguing that it did not require enslavement of Africa for the new crops tobe introduced because new crops could spread naturally through diffusion.- In the fifteenth century European technology was not superior to other parts of the world. However their advantage was in shipping and manufacture of guns. European traders in Africa used Asian and African consumer goods. They relied on Indian cloths for resale in Africa, and they also purchased cloths on several parts of the West African coast for resale elsewhere. Technological advance is a result of scientific inquiry closely related to theprocess of production. This leads to inventiveness and innovation. - The connection between Africa and Europe from the fifteenth century onwards served to block this spirit of technological innovation both directly and indirectly. European slave trade blocked this spirit directly by removing millions of young adults who are the human agents from whom inventiveness springs. Those who remained in areas badly hit by slave capturing were preoccupied about their freedom rather than with improvements in production. The African traders were involved in exporting slaves and ivory which did not require the invention of machinery. They were agents for distributing European imports. 3- A society that trails behind others in technology like Africa has the option of either developing independent inventions or to borrow. Indeed very few of man’s major scientific discoveries have been separately discovered in different places by different people. Once a principle or a tool is known, it spreads or diffuses to other peoples. European technology did not move (diffuse) into Africa during the many centuries of contact because the very nature of Afro-European trade was highly unfavorable to the movement of positive ideas and techniques from the European capitalist system to the African pre-capitalist (communal, feudal, and pre-feudal) system of production.- The lines of economic activity attached to foreign trade were either destructive, as slavery was, or at best purely extractive, like ivory hunting and cutting camwood trees.- Europeans deliberately ignored African requests for Europe to place certain skills and techniques at their disposal. For example, the Asantehene, Opoku Ware (1720-50) asked Europeans to set up factories and


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