We have seen how people from North Africa came to West Africa. They left their homes in North Africa to find more fertile land where they can settle and trade.

These north Africans wanted gold. They knew west Africa had plenty of gold. They also wanted to buy slaves to take back to north Africa.

The people of North Africa wanted salt. There was no salt in the lands of West Africa. For many hundreds of years the salt mines of the Sahara were held by the north Africans.

So trade began between the white-skinned peoples of north Africa and the negroes of West Africa. The North Africans brought to West Africa salt, horses, cattle, glass, beads, copper, cloth, dates, figs, cowries, brass vessels and different types of ornaments.

From West Africa they bought gold, slaves and kolanuts to take to north Africa, Portugal and other part of Europe.

The Trade Route Across The Sahara:

The trade was carried on across the Sahara so it was called "Trans-Saharan Trade". The traders went from their cities in north Africa in a caravan of camels. They passed the salt mines and oases in the Sahara Desert.

The most important north African cities on the trade route were Fez and Marrakesh in Morocco, Tunis in Tunisia, Tripoli in Libya, Constantine in Algeria, Alexandria and Cairo in Egypt.

In West Africa, the centres of this trade were old Ghana, old Mali, Jenne and Gao in Songhai, Timbuctu and Kano.

Gradually the Trans-Saharan trade became less important. Why?

1. When an empire fell, trade with the empire slowly came to an end. This happened with Old Ghana, Old Mali and Songhai. When these countries became weak and poor the people of North Africa did not want to trade with them.

2. Wars stopped trade too. When the Sultan of Morocco and the king of Songhai were at war, their countries did not want to trade with each other.

2. In 1434, Prince Henry of Portugal, who is also known as Prince Henry The navigator, sent sailors to explore the west coast of Africa. Now the Portuguese started to trade directly with West Africa. The people of West Africa were able to exchange goods with the people of Europe. So the Trans-Saharan trade became less important.