Pre-Colonial Africa

Prior to the arrival of Europeans, Africa had rich and fabulous kingdoms.

In ancient times we have the empire of Carthage and Egypt; and in the Middle Ages, the constitution of the Mali Empire and Ethiopia.

Through the cities of North Africa established contact and trade with European countries.


The African continent is considered the cradle of humanity, because there are the first archaeological evidence of the human being.

Before the European occupation there was already intense trade between North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa.

These trade transitions were carried out through caravans promoted by people who inhabited the southern portion of the Sahara desert. Later other expeditions would cross the desert and bring these products to Europe.

African Kingdoms

For study purposes let’s look at just a few kingdoms and empires from each of the African regions:

North Africa

  • Ancient Egypt– North Africa was created one of the most fascinating civilizations in the world: the Egyptian. More than 3,000 years old, they built impressive cities and left a legacy in science, astronomy and architecture.
  • Carthaginian Empire– was constituted in the union of several cities of North Africa that shadowed the Roman Empire. The Punic Wars, as disputes between the two powers are called, is one of the most remarkable events of antiquity.

East Africa

  • Ghana Empire– 19th Century 8 to 11 – was based on the gold trade with the African kingdoms and Mediterranean cities whose merchants led to Europe. Prosperity ends due to the depletion of mines and constant robberies of caravans.
  • Mali Empire– 19th Century 13 to 18 – it was a crossroad of caravans that came from the south and brought salt, gold, spices and leather. The empire was immensely rich and Emperor Mansa Moussa, a devout Muslim, when he made his pilgrimage to Mecca, was accompanied by over six thousand people and countless sums of silver.

Western Africa

Empire of Ethiopia – 1270 -1975 – occupied the territories of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Also known as Abyssinia, it managed to ward off Arab and Turkish invaders and was the only African empire to resist the European colonizer. Even the Italians could never fully dominate it.

South of Africa

  • Kingdom of Congo– 1390 – 1914 – constituted the site of what is now northern Angola, present-day Congo and a part of Gabon. Led by the Macongo , the Kingdom of Congo was independent until the 18th century when it became a vassal of Portugal. .
  • Kilwa Sultanate– 19th Century 10-13 – the territory was inhabited by Bantu that were conquered by Muslims. It dominated the southwest African coast and its main cities included Mogadishu, Mombassa and the islands of Pemba and Zamzibar, among others.
  • Zulus– 1740 – 1879. The Zulu kingdom was located on the lands of South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. They were the first to realize the danger of the white colonist’s permanence and fought against the British, but were defeated.


Muslim expansion has strengthened contact between Africans and Europeans. Supporters of Islam left present-day Saudi Arabia and conquered North Africa until they reached southern Europe.

The Islam has strengthened trade routes and cultural ties, trying to keep the expansion to South Africa, but were stopped due to the resistance of the people who lived there.

At the same time, leaders of the northern conquered countries, such as Egypt and Morocco, were converting to Islam, which came under Muslim rule. From North Africa, Muslims made it to the west in the region known as the Maghreb.

Throughout the second half of the seventh century, they entered the continent, crossed the Mediterranean Sea and conquered southern Europe, such as the Iberian Peninsula, where Spain and Portugal are.

It must be understood that Christians and Muslims alternated periods of peace with that of war. When there were no conflicts, business flowed in both directions.

African tour

It was only in the XV that the Kingdom of Portugal intensified raids across the Atlantic Ocean in search of new lands and trade routes. The Portuguese arrived in India around the African coast of the Atlantic in the set of conquests that became known as African tour .

The first point dominated by the Portuguese was Ceuta in 1415. Next came Cape Bojador (1434), Rio do Ouro (1436), Cape Branco (1441), Cape Verde (1445), Sao Tome (1484), Congo ( 1482), Mozambique (1498) and Mombasa (1498).


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