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Africa, commerce and pre-colonial migration

Migration A–Z


  1. Ali Afani

Published Online: 4 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444351071.wbeghm016

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

How to Cite

Afani, A. 2013. Africa, commerce and pre-colonial migration. The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 4 FEB 2013


If there is anything that has characterized African civilization throughout the ages, it is the culture of buying and selling. Trading in staples (fresh farm produce of all kinds) defined the way members of different communities intermingled. Palm oil, peanuts, and gum, especially Senegalese gum, were some of the key articles exchanged (Eltis & Jennings 1988: 946). Contrary to popular belief, commerce was well developed in Africa prior to the coming of Europeans. According to Quinn 1972, the region of Niumi, on the north bank near the western mouth of the River Gambia, for example, served as a center, commercial enough to link that part of Africa not only to the Saharan region, but also to the Atlantic trade routes. This has been so throughout the ages because Africans are known for their extravagant spending habits. Laying out inordinate sums of money on trinkets and sometimes on expensive precious stones (gold, for example) is common.


  • women;
  • demography and population studies;
  • development;
  • economics;
  • immigration;
  • empire;
  • transnationalism