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The Wangara traders and the Economic Transformation of the Central Sudan, 1500-1800

Written by Tadese Faforiji

Who are the Wangara?

The Wangara (Wangarawa in Hausa; jakhanké) traders were Muslims, traders, clerics, and wanderers from the Songhai Empire. These traders spread across Central Sudan through trans-Saharan trade routes.

The contact between the Wangara traders and the Hausa led to the economic transformation of the whole of Central Sudan. Hausa land before the coming of the Wangara traders was that of a kinship institutional form of governance. It was an agrarian settlement, and their major emphasis was on the Gwari economy.

The Wangarawa introduced Islam, transformed the economy and brought kingship institutions to Hausaland. For an instance, Muhammed Korau, a Wangara, was the first king of Katsina.

This was achieved through continuous trading activities with the Hausa, the Wangara traders acted as middlemen not only between the Hausa/Kanem-Borno and Songhay Empire but also with North Africa.

Evolution of Kingship Institution

Therefore, the first impact of the contact between the Wangara traders and Hausa was the evolution of kingship institution which influenced the course of the evolution of states in Hausaland, as evidenced with the development of walled cities and the spread of states

Common Monetary System

In the inclusion of Borgu and Hausa into the monetary framework of the Songhai Empire, the Wangara played a big role.

The Hausaland did not only get exposed to an advanced form of political arrangement (of Mande origin) but also transformed to the use of gold as a standard means of exchange in the 15th century. Notably, according to Ibn Battuta’s account of 1353, there was copper mines engagement in Takedda, and it was along with gold used as currency.

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Craftsmanship

There was also the development of craftsmanship in Hausaland. These Muslim traders were skilled in craftsmanship and their production influenced the economy of Hausa land. Gobir produced shoes that were being exported to North Africa as of the early 16th century. Including textiles, leader goods like footwear, bags, cushions and fans were manufactured.

Founding of New Settlement

Moreover, there was also the founding of new settlements across Central Sudan. They founded “the Muslim commercial diaspora in the Hausa and Bariba states”, this had immense advancement to the economy of Central Sudan.

Their involvement in the Central Sudan economy brought commercial expansion and diversifications; livestock production, manufacturing and mining operation became commonplace, and also, there were ready markets for the manufactured goods and livestock.   

Sub-cultural Exchanges

Notably, in the course of relations, there was commercial use of surnames in terms of Islamic connection, according to Paul Lovejoy. Some words used nowadays in the Hausa language are of Mande origin, even including a few names. Goro (kola), kudi (money), and a few other words in the Hausa language are rooted in Mande.

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Introduction of Islam

Islam was introduced to the Hausa people by the Wangara. Religious books were brought to Hausaland from North Africa and the Middle East. Many Islamic scholars visited Hausa land, as evidenced in Kano Chronicles, Dirwan, and other works of historians like Ibn Battuta.

Agricultural Revolution

Conclusively, including crops like millets were brought to Hausaland. This period is referred to as Agricultural Revolution in Hausaland, “bulrush millet, rice, pepper, on, pulses, and sorghum spread through the savanna, and new crops- cotton, cocoyam, sour oranges lemon and limes diffused throughout North Africa and the Middle East in the early centuries of Islamic consolidation (700-1100)” (Lovejoy).

Faforiji Tadese. The Wangara traders and the Economic Transformation of Central Sudan, 1500-1800. November 11, 2021. Tadexprof. Available at https://tadexprof.com/2021/11/the-wangara-traders-and-the-economic-transformation-of-central-sudan-1500-1800/

Resources.

  1. Lovejoy, P. (1978). The Role of the Wangara in the Economic Transformation of the Central Sudan in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries. The Journal of African History, 19(2), 173-193. doi:10.1017/S0021853700027584
  2. Soninke Wangara – Wikipedia. Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soninke_Wangara

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About the author

Tadese Faforiji

I am Tadese Faforiji, a history student of the prestigious Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State- 21st-century University, properly called. I am a blogger and an avid writer.

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