Africa in the Modern World

Africain the Modern World

TheQuestion:

Compareand contrast the developments in central, eastern, and southernAfrica during the eighteenth century. What was the impact of Europeancontact on the coast on the Central African empires?

Thegeographic strategic location of the North African region played amajor role in its urban development. The region acted as the gatewayto and from Africa, a factor that saw the rise of early towns on thecoast. These acted as the commercial centers linking the continentwith major Mediterranean empires, including the Romans who occupiedthe land in search of luxury commodities including precious stonesand exotic beasts intended for popular animal shows. The Romanssettled, build towns and cities while continuing to extract andimport the commodities they needed. With an increase in profits andsubsequent wealth, the Romans extended further down into thecontinent, further reinforcing military, administrative and religiousoccupation of the Romans. The fall of Rome saw the invasion of theregion, particularly in the cities with a concentration of commercialand political resources. The invasions, destructions, and decline ofthe cities went on until the arrival of Muslims. The Arabs came inwith the illusion that North Africa contained wealth left by theRomans. Outside of Arabia, Africa was the first continent toexperience spread of the Islamic religion in the early 7thcentury after the death of Prophet Muhammad. The 670 CE penetrationsinto Tunisia and subsequently the rest of North Africa saw anoverwhelming and irreversible impact on urban development in theregion.

Whatwas the impact of trade on the development of East Africa? Well, thenineteenth-century caravan trade gave access to the interior, afactor that introduced many Africans into the global economy. Theyplayed the roles of supplying slaves and ivory and producing food andother local products required by the caravans. In return, theyreceived glass, beads, arms and perfumes among others. Some of thecommunities involved included the Tanzanian Nyamwezi and the KenyanKamba community. The caravans consisted of human porters ferryinggoods over very long distances since animals were susceptible todisease. Normally well armed, they raided villages to steal food,take captives and sometimes punish uncooperative chiefs. Sometimesthey sold the captives to interiors who were willing to pay them inivory. As a result, there were massive deaths, burning of homes and arepetitive wave of violence. The elephant population also continuedto deplete as hunters increased with the increased appetite forivory. With time, Arab traders began passing through the heartland ofthe Nyamwezi, diverting ivory that previously passed through thecommunity. Gradually, they meddled in the local politics thusdividing the chiefs into anti-Arab and pro-Arab factions. Evidently,this led to civil wars.

Thearray of activities led to a disruption of lives and livelihoods,displacements of populations and depopulation of several areas. Thespread of diseases such as smallpox was rampant due to the movingcaravans. Political impacts were more widespread and often led to thebreakup of existing policies. The growing trade in arms especiallyexacerbated internal conflicts caused by issues of succession andfactions.

InSouth Africa, colonialism began in 1652 with the entry of the Dutchinto the country, who introduced slavery and forced labor as theoriginal model of colonization. The model caused major changes on theAfrican societies with some out-rightly resisting the force imposedon them. Other communities, particularly the Khoikhoi, disintegratedafter a while.

Atthe onset, the colonial contact was a mutually beneficial encounterwhere even the African leaders gained significantly. They maintainedrelations with the Europeans for a considerable length of time,voluntarily engaging with them on their own terms. One of the mostcrucial benefits of European technology appreciated by the Africanleaders was firearms. Ownership and possession of firearms acted as astatus symbol that saw them gain political power and mileage.

TheDutch were initially concerned with filling their ships with freshproduce en route Indonesia, their spice producing colony. Jan vanRiebeeck, the Cape Town colony founder, made attempts at gettingcattle and labor through negotiations. The negotiations failed andthis gave way to slavery. The slavery soon gave way to Dutchsettlement where they displaced the indigenous communities anddispossessed them despite the great opposition put up by theoccupants, the Khoisan. This forced the community to move inwardstowards the Orange River as slaves and laborers. The colonialistsextended their entry and reached the Fish River region where theyencountered the Xhosa chiefdoms. Unlike the Khoisan, these weredenser in population and more organized, and the invasion led to aseries of wars dubbed ‘Frontier Wars’, lasting for the nextcentury.

Deeperinto the interior, the South- Tswana cattle farmers continued toexpand their chiefdoms in a bid to control much of the high-veld onthe eastern side of the southern Kalahari. In a competitive move, theNguni-speaking communities began forming large states in thesouth-eastern low-veld.

Therole of Africans in the end of slave trade was the resistance putforward to oppose the practice. This was coupled with moralpersuasion in America and Europe plus an array of external economicfactors. However, this soon paved way for full-blown colonizationwhich was as a result of ‘legitimate commerce’ in raw materialssourced from West Africa.