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Ralph, African Economic History, Internal Development and External
Dependency, Currey/Heinemann, 1987
- 16 .
. . African economies were organized mainly to conserve existing sources
of subsistence rather than to exploit opportunities for increased
Paul, Caravans of Kola: Hausa Kola Trade 1700-1900, OUP (Extracts and notes)
Asante . . . relied on relatively few exports to finance economic
development. In the eighteenth century, the products were slaves, gold,
Asante relied on its foreign trade for luxury items and slaves from the
north, including war materials and other goods from the coast. The dual
nature of Asante foreign trade was recognized as early as 1817.
'The King of Assentai ... prohibits his inland neighbours from passing
through his country.' (Sharif Imhammed, c. 1788)
Sharif Imhammed was the commercial representative of the Sultan of
Fezzan, in the northern Sahara, who travelled to Asante to deal in gold
and kola in the 1780s. His report is the earliest evidence of Asante
restrictions on northern commerce.
Sharif Imhammed's high position as agent for a sultan suggests the
importance of this trade to economic interests not only in Asante itself
but far beyond the Central Sudan and the Hausa market. Imhammed's was
not the only example of a commercial cum diplomatic mission between
Asante and other countries, particularly those along the routes to the
Traders have imported kolanuts from the forests of Asante to Hausa
markets for hundreds of years, and the trade had been subject to
diplomatic concern even before Asante was founded in the seventeenth
century. Kola had to be carried in large, expensively operated donkey
caravans over a distance of many hundreds of kilometers from the middle
Volta basin to the Hausa cities, and this limitation placed certain
parameters on the trade. First, it gave an advantage to those who
controlled transport, i.e. the donkey owners of the savanna. Second, the
confinement of kola production to one locale made possible a producer's
cartel to offset the transport disadvantage, but it appears that only
when Asante consolidated the kola forests under its control in the early
eighteenth century was this advantage exploited.
At the time when Hausa settlers established communities in Dagbon, Gonja
and other places, Asante expanded from a small confederation of
matrilineal kin groups centred around Kumase, the Asante capital, to
encompass much of the Akan region and its northern neighbours. The
general northern thrust of the empire, which was completed by the middle
of the eighteenth century, resulted in control of the kola producing
areas. The immediate hinterland of Kumase was not devoted to large scale
kola cultivation, but Asante settlers moved into Mampong, Nkoranza, and
other provinces where its production became or already was a major
the 1780s it abolished through trade between the north and the coast.
Muslim traders could operate as far as Nkoranza in northern Asante but
as Sharif Imhammed reported after his business trip, 'the king of
Assentai . . . prohibits his inland neighbours from passing
through his country.' (Sharif Imhammed, c. 1788)
Many Fantee traders, in return, go to Coomassie but they are not allowed
to advance beyond it . . .
A class of wealthy merchants and estate owners did emerge in Asante
however, but its influence was constantly checked This class (asikafo)
consisted of men who operated extensive trading ventures to the coast
and the northern hinterland. Commercial development within the empire
can therefore be divided into two periods and these coincided with the
major shift in the export economy. The first lasted from the beginning
of the eighteenth century to the first decade of the nineteenth and
arose in relation to the overseas trade in slaves and gold, although the
northern trade was also important. During this period a powerful
aristocracy based on militarism, expansion and the accumulation of
slaves for export gained a secure foothold.
Continuity in domination of the state by an aristocracy founded on
militarism cannot be denied.
The state had rested on the production and export of slaves in the
eighteenth century; the state depended upon production and export of
kola and gold in the nineteenth.
. . . administration after administration, whether or not it came to
power on an anti-Muslim platform, ultimately had to come to terms with
the Muslims and frequently ended up adopting a pro-Muslim position.
The Muslim provinces of Dagbon, Gonja, and Banda, all in the north,
remained on average more loyal to the central authority than Akan
provinces within the heart of the empire. Government officials resided
at Salaga and Yendi.
The preference of the Ashantees for the Dagwumba and Inta [Gonja]
markets, for silk and cloth results not merely from their having been so
long accustomed to them, but because they admit of a barter trade. The
Boossef or Gooroo nut, salt, (which is easily procured, and affords an
extravagant profit) and small quantities of the European commodities,
rum, and iron - yield them those articles of
comfort and luxury, which they can only purchase with gold and ivory
from the settlements on the coast. Gold they are all desirous of
hoarding; even those less covetous than is generally their nature, that
they may be prepared for the purchase of guns and powder to a large
extent, on any sudden war.
Once trade (to the northern entrepots) was well established, Kumase
could afford to limit access to the kola production areas, while
military domination of the region and the effectiveness of the Volta
river as a barrier against smuggling made possible the maintenance of
the single market town. By confining the merchants to one market, Asante
producers and traders received higher prices. The policy erased the
natural advantage that savanna traders possessed through their monopoly
of transport livestock and their knowledge of northern markets. The move
permitted Asante to benefit at the expense of the Muslim merchants.
In creating conditions favourable to its own economic development, the
Asante government actively engaged in the kola trade. In transporting
the produce to the Salaga market, state traders acted on behalf of the
officials who were in charge of the household and personal affairs of
the Asantehene or lesser omanhene (government administrators).
The central organization in state trading ventures was the Batafekuo,
which 'came increasingly to operate the commercial sector of the economy
in the nineteenth century. This executive department had evolved
from established services, particularly those of the horn-blowers and
drummers. Under Osei Bonsu in the 1810s the Bata assumed a larger
commercial role, initially in relations with the overseas trade but
probably with the northern trade as well. In some cases state traders
were advanced capital which was repaid after a specific period,
sometimes after two or three years. Subordinates purchased kola and then
carried it to the northern market. Although slaves and pawns were
frequently employed in these activities, freemen were hired as well. In
the latter case remuneration consisted of the right to carry additional
kola besides the load for which they were employed. Bata traders had
first access to the Salaga market, which meant that the state profited
from the higher prices which prevailed at the beginning of the buying
season. Profits from these ventures either went into the government
treasury or were used to buy slaves, who were settled on plantations,
produced gold, staffed the army, were used in personal retinues, or
employed to gather kola. Their acquisition was a deliberate policy of
demographic management of the metropolitan region and demonstrates the
extent to which government intervention in the economy followed a well
Gonja: Gbuipe, Kafaba, Salaga
Paul, Caravans of Kola: Hausa Kola Trade 1700-1900, OUP (Extracts and notes)
early as the 1710s pilgrims from the Gonja area travelled to Mecca
through the Hausa country, and probably traded in kola to help offset
the expenses of their journey.
The culmination of Asante restrictive policies was the development of
frontier market towns to which foreign Muslim traders, including Hausa,
were confined. The evolution of this policy occurred over at least a
fifty year period. It required the appointment of officials to oversee
existing tributary settlements in the newly incorporated provinces of
With the expansion of the Hausa market, newer depots were established
between Kumase and the Volta to the north and such towns as Gbuipe and
Kafaba on the Volta also became major caravan stops. These were all
replaced after 1810 by the emergence of Salaga as the paramount buying
point for kola, although Yendi to the north also served some functions
in the expanding trade to the Central Sudan.
Increasingly after 1810 when Salaga became the centre for Muslim
commercial operations in the Volta basin, those who had settled in
metropolitan Asante were forced to emigrate to the north or refrain from
exploiting their commercial undertakings to the fullest. By 1817 when
Salaga was 'the grand emporium of Inta (Gonja),' Asante traders were
responsible for transporting large amounts of kola to Salaga for sale.
The 'departures of Ashantee caravans' from Kumase were frequent in 1817,
and as Muslims were confined in their movements, Asante commercial
operations became more important. The rise of Salaga may in part have
related to the successful Gbuipe campaign of 1804, after which the
government apparently moved the market from central Gonja to the
easterly Gonja division, Kpembe, which was on the direct route to the
Towns had several quarters, each of which catered to the trade system of
which it was a part. Salaga, for example, consisted of an Asante
community which served the needs of the Kumase government and the kola
producers, an indigenous Gonja section which provided landlord and
brokerage services to all parties who traded there, a Mande Juula ward
connected with Bonduku in the west, and a Yarse settlement for the
interests of the Mossi states. The Hausa community, by far the largest
of the foreign groups, was the agency through which traders coming from
the Sokoto Caliphate and Bomo exchanged their goods for kola. Hausa
settlers formed at least one-fifth of Salaga's population in 1888, and
indicative of their commercial importance, Hausa was the most common
language in the town. Juula and Ngbanya (Gonja) were also used, but
'when it comes to addressing an unknown person, [or] bargaining in the
market, it is always in the beautiful Hausa tongue.'
The Sakpare, from whom the imam in Gonja was chosen, were the
descendants of those Muslims who came from Bighu and who arrived with
the founding Gonja dynasty in the sixteenth century. Unlike the Muslims
associated with the foreign trade sector, the Sakpare were assimilated
into the Gonja polity. Nevertheless, they represented the region's
original connection with the Juula trade network to the west. Others who
settled at Sabari, near Yendi in Dagbon trace their ancestry to Shaykh
Sulayman Bagayugu of Timbuktu and arrived in Dagbon around 1680.
Before 1874, the Asantehene stationed several officials at Salaga to
collect taxes for transactions which took place in the market place.
This amounted to two big nuts per hundred sold, and in a single day two
or three hundred kola nuts could be collected at Salaga.
At Salaga and other centres, residents established plantations which
grew produce for the daily markets.
The cooking and sale of food was another important source of income for
the women of resident Muslims and indigenous inhabitants. From early
morning in Kete, visitors could hear `the women shouting their
monotonous “Kaffa-Kaffa,” offering peanut soup and rice and maize
bread for sale.'
On every street comer and in the markets sit women who offer ready
cooked foods. There is a large variety. The main dish in the mornings is
the thick red-brown millet soup, made from millet husks and water. It
has a very pleasant slightly sour taste. . . In addition to this
there are cooked yams, raw and roasted ground nuts, honey beer,
unpeppered rice and peppered oil-millet and bean cakes . . .
Local inhabitants also sold firewood and at Salaga, slaves collected the
wood as far as ten to twelve miles from the town.
Water was also a problem at Salaga, and its sale was another source of
income. Finally some indigenous inhabitants acted as landlords and
brokers for the foreign traders. Since most business in the trade towns
occurred in the dry season, these services supplemented the income from
agricultural production. The peak trade months were from December to
March and April, while in the rainy months, when the population was busy
on its farms, the towns resembled deserted summer resorts.
In spite of the advantages trade offered, it remained completely in
foreign hands and was subject to little influence from local authorities
outside Asante. If tolls and taxes were excessive, merchants altered
their routes and the exploitive town or state suffered. If commercial
prospects were greater elsewhere, traders and resident strangers
abandoned their old trade patterns. Merchants were motivated by the
profits they expected to realize, and they acted to protect their
economic prospects. Itinerant trading along the routes to Asante was of
secondary importance. Their main concern was to minimize travelling
so that as much kola as possible could be purchased in the markets.
Their only interests then were in returning to their homes in Central
Sudan as quickly as possible in order to capitalize on their
investments. States along the trade routes profited from this through
traffic, but their citizens did not participate as active traders nor
did individual economies have many products which traders desired. State
policy had to be laissez-faire; efforts were made to maximize
revenue from the trade, but policy could not effect the commerce without
undermining a state's ability to profit from it. In a few cases
indigenous people entered the trade, but they had to learn the
commercial language and adopt the culture and religion of the diaspora.
Only when a person spoke Hausa, dressed and acted like a Muslim, and
dealt with other Muslims in distant centres was he accepted into the
society of the long-distance traders.
The situation in central Gonja is less clear. By the 1780s, `the
extensive kingdom of Caffaba' was known as far away as North Africa, and
its fame rested on the town's position as the main trade centre in
Gonja. Some Hausa claim to have settled at Kafaba before the
Ngbanya conquest in the late sixteenth century, but more probably a
Hausa presence existed only since the period when the town was an
important commercial depot. Kafaba was never a political capital, and
therefore its appearance on European maps beginning in 1722 dates its
rise as a trade town to the early decades of the eighteenth century and
the period when Asante expanded northward. Gbuipe, the other major Gonja
centre, may have preceded Kafaba as a commercial centre, but there is no
solid evidence for the presence of Hausa immigrants before the
The mid-eighteenth century Tadhkira l'il-Mutak'akhirin, which
dealt with the Muslim community and discussed divisional affairs in
eastern Gonja, made no reference to the trade town. Nor was Salaga
included on an itinerary in the 1780s which connected Kafaba with the
Hausa states, although Kpembe may have been a rest stop en route. The
first mention of Salaga in 1804 suggests the town was only a minor
settlement at that time, but within the next decade, it became the
'grand emporium of Inta.
Other Muslims from Kafaba and Gbuipe moved to Salaga when their markets
As early as 1740, at least six Gonja Muslims had been on pilgrimage,
while Kafaba became known to North Africa through pilgrims at Mecca.
Both Jack Goody (The Mande and the Akan Hinterland, in J. Vansina, et
al., The Historian in Tropical Africa, [London, 1964, 203) and Levtzion
(Muslims and Chiefs, 17) subscribe to the thesis that Hausa and Kanuri
settlers were in the area at the time of the sixteenth century conquest.
Levtzion relies on the Qissat Salagha, while Goody's argument is
equally unconvincing. Goody remarks that the proof of the Hausa claim is
in their greetings. Presumably this statement means that the residents
used Hausa greetings, but this is hardly surprising since the Hausa
trade has been so important.
(For Gbuipe's and Kafaba's importance, see D. R Jones, 'Jakpa and the
Foundation of Gonja,' Transactions of the Historical Society of Ghana,
VI 1962, 18, ?7-4; and Jack Goody, 'The Over-Kingdom of Gonja.'in Forde
and Kaberry, West African Kingdoms, 190. )
Imhammed's route from Katsina to Kafaba and Nkoranza was as follows:
Kashna (Katsina), Youn (Yauri), Gangoo (?), Domboo (?), Nykee (Nikki),
Zeggo (Zugu=Kilir-Wangara), Kottokolee (Kotokoli=Dedaure), Kombah (Kpembe),
Kaffaba - see Rennell. 'Map of Africa.' Since Rennell's map underwent
several revisions between 1790 and 1810, the 1810 edition of his work is
unreliable except for information that is directly attributable to
Imhammed in the text. There Imhammed does not mention his itinerary.
Fortunately, however, a German translation of the 1790 edition of the
Proceedings of the African Association was published in 1791 and
confirms the above route.
Initially it required the appointment of officials to oversee existing
Muslim settlements in the newly incorporated provinces of the (Asante)
empire. Many of these communities predated the foundation of Asante. The
most important was at Bighu, north-west of Kumase but numerous others
were located in or near the kola production area. With the expansion of
the Hausa market, newer depots were established between Kumase and the
Volta to the north-east, and such towns as Gbuipe and Kafaba on the
Volta also became major caravan stops. These were all replaced after
1810 by the emergence of Salaga as the paramount buying point for kola,
although Yendi to the north also served some functions in the expanding
trade to the Central Sudan.
By the l780s, kola was a common luxury among the aristocracies of the
Hausa states and Borno and was even imported as far north as Fezzan In
the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, before Asante restricted
foreign merchants to Salaga, Muslim traders, including Hausa
merchants, were active in areas contiguous to the forest kola production
region. This pattern only changed in the early nineteenth century as a
result of Asante policy. Before then Muslims lived in Nsawkaw and
Tekyiman, northwest of Kumase `in distinct societies under the
jurisdiction of their own laws, but in subordination to the caboceers
appointed by the King of Ashantee.' Nomassa, the capital of Nsawkaw, was
'said to contain a thousand Moslems.'
The development of the kola trade to the north-east in the eighteenth
century led to the formation of new trade centres between Kumase and the
Volta river. As early as the 1780s Hausa traders travelled as far as the
kola production area near Nkoranza. In the second decade of the
nineteenth century, a number of Muslim settlements existed in this
region. Little is known about their origins, but residents of Asante
probably established the communities in response to commercial
opportunities with the Central Sudan. The settlements did not last long,
and today no traces of them remain.
The distinguishing feature of the Muslim trade communities which
permitted Hausa traders to develop such an extensive exchange in an area
dominated by non-Hausa commercial centres was the international
connections of Islam. When Hausa merchants began trading to Asante, they
moved easily within the Juula and Wangara trade networks. Because of a
common adherence to Islam, the earlier trade communities absorbed the
Hausa settlers with little difficulty. Hausa immigrants stayed in the
existing centres and shared the mosques and imam of other Muslims. With
the establishment of Hausa communities at Salaga, Yendi, and other
places after 1800, the nature of the commercial centres did not change.
Hausa traders and settlers predominated, but each new settlement
included non-Hausa Muslims.
`The education of the young is looked after by Hausa priests in all
their colonies. They learn to read and write in Arabic and their lessons
are all based on the Koran. Even on journeys these exercises are
The earliest Hausa malams known to have travelled as far west as the
Volta were those credited with converting the Na of Mamprussi and Dagbon
in the early eighteenth century.
cultivation and trade
Paul, Caravans of Kola: Hausa Kola Trade 1700-1900, OUP (Extracts and notes)
immediate hinterland of Kumase was not devoted to large scale kola
cultivation, but Asante settlers moved into Mampong, Nkoranza, and other
provinces where its production became or already was a major economic
Kola had to be carried in large, expensively operated donkey caravans
over a distance of many hundreds of kilometers from the middle Volta
basin to the Hausa cities, and this limitation placed certain parameters
on the trade. For a time when transport was confined to donkeys, mules,
and headloading, the volume of the trade was considerable. The annual
movement of merchants and their dependents reached many thousand people
during the height of the overland trade in the nineteenth century, and
comparable numbers of livestock also made the journey. This amounted to
hundreds of tons of kola, an estimate which must be considered
conservative. It does appear, however, that the volume increased
considerably towards the end of the century.
In spite of the importance of the southern trade, the export of kola to
the north was essential to Asante foreign trade for most of its history.
GoId, ivory, and war captives shipped to the coast may have financed
Asante political expansion, but kola production was also important to
The industry experienced continued government intervention to the point
where according to Wilks, it was nationalised by
Producers who did not want to or could not travel to the kola markets
sold their kola to . . . middlemen, who used pawns, slaves and freemen
as porters just as the Bata did.
Official discouragement of the private sector affected both Muslims and
non Muslims and included a ban on kola sales by those outside the
government until official sales were completed, usually a period of
twenty days. Only after that were roads opened to private merchants.
Furthermore, while government trade was not taxed, independent
businessmen paid tolls of twenty five nuts on each load.
It was not necessary to plant additional trees, since the forests
outside the immediate Kumase hinterland abounded with wild trees which
had only to be cleared of underbrush in order to increase yields.
The major constraint on increased production was labour, just as it was
in gold mining and panning.
In both cases, slaves who were once exported were redirected into
production, but for this purpose a marked difference distinguished the
gold and kola industries. In the former, the state continued to dominate
production, as large numbers of slaves were organized to mine and pan
gold under government supervision. In the case of kola however, this was
not possible, for control of the trees rested in the lineages and could
not be easily transferred to the government. Instead, lineages
accumulated slaves to assist in harvesting and transport, and one of the
main aims of lineages in this period was the acquisition of more slaves
to increase kola output.
The nature of collection and packaging readily fit into relatively small
scale organization based on lineage segments. The gathering and
processing of the nuts was done by the family, including slaves and
pawns, on lineage land. Men cleared the underbrush away from the trees
in order to facilitate the collection of kola pods. Women were the main
collectors and many pods dropped from the trees when ripe. There were
three main harvests beginning in December and ending in April. Men were
involved in the second, because kola was most plentiful then. The pods
were broken open, and the nuts fermented. The fermentation, which took
place in large uncovered containers lined with plantain leaves, made the
husks easier to remove. The nuts were stored in smaller containers for
about one month or in pits for much longer periods, but had to be
examined regularly to remove those with worms, insects, and other
defects. Since a mature tree produced at least 40-50 pods, producers
needed the harvest from only a few trees to obtain a load of 2,000 nuts.
Individuals often accumulated as many as 10 loads. If the kola was not
sold to a middleman, the head of the family, with assistance from his
slaves, pawns, and sons, transported it to Salaga or other markets for
This pattern of slave ownership and kola production differed from the
plantation system which developed around Kumase to provision the
capital. Slaves had a much greater possibility of being assimilated in
the kola areas away from Kumase. It is significant however, that the
government decision to shift slaves away from the capital territory
after 1810 in order to avoid the dangers of slave uprisings had the
effect of promoting kola production, since trees were not found in the
immediate vicinity of Kumase. Therefore, the state controlled marketing,
but production remained in lineage hands.
It was kola production, firmly rooted in lineage structures, which
provided the opportunity for individuals to amass considerable wealth
In exchange for kola, traders exported such products as textiles,
livestock, leather goods, jewellery, slaves, gabu (dried onion
leaves) and natron from the Sokoto Caliphate and Borno, and there is no
reason to assume that a similar assortment was uncommon for the
eighteenth century as well. Many other items were bought and sold en
route to the middle Volta, and donkeys and other livestock from the
Mossi states, some gold from Asante, and salt from Daboya in western
Gorja also figured prominently in the trade, but kola was almost the
only item exported to the Central Sudan.
Manufactured goods which Asante could not produce, especially Hausa
textiles and leather goods, were acquired with the foreign exchange
earnings of kola as well. These luxuries supplied both the Asante
aristocracy and the multilateral trade patterns which enabled Asante
merchants to purchase slaves or other products they desired. The
manufactures themselves were often re-exported northward towards the
Mossi states or were sold in Gonja or Dagbon, although some silk which
was vital to the Asante manufacture of kente cloth was secured in the
north. Such spices as dried onion leaves (gabu), cooking oil made
from shea butter, and livestock, were also crucial to the Asante
economy, and none of these could be obtained from the coast.
Kwame West African Traders in Ghana in the Nineteenth and Twentieth
Centuries Longman 1979 (Extracts and notes)
2 The openness of the vegetation facilitated the
passage of the beasts of burden of the northern caravans along the
beaten tracks that served as routes and permitted easy diversion of
direction in districts hostile to travellers. It was relatively
free from tsetse flies. Trading was done in the dry period November to
March. The Volta and its tributaries were less swollen so that
crossing by canoe was less hazardous.
3 At close of 19c Freeman wrote of Bonduku and
Salaga that their inhabitants were mostly immigrants from a foreign
district and that their level of civilization and their general
character differed widely from those which obtained in any of the
contiguous towns. Salaga was a town with a population of different
races. Hosts were pagans. Strangers were traders, often
Muslims. Traders included landlords or innkeepers, brokers, master and
apprentice traders. Also goldsmiths, leather makers, cloth
7 Asante had military and political control over
the peoples commanding the trade routes to Salaga and by Asante official
supervisory activities in the localities of the markets. Asante
traders had to travel in groups and stay with friends or landlords along
the route. So some Asante established residence.
Dupuis' description of parties on the Elmina/Kumasi path . . . A large
party of Ashantees armed in the fashion of their country with musquets
and knives and conveying some bulky loads of ivory and a valuable kind
of grease used by the natives for annointing. The party included
women and girls whose employment consisted of attending upon their
husbands or masters. Another party of three men, two of whom were
slaves carrying a few elephants teeth to the coast. Again . . .
12-14 slaves loaded with ivory. 6 Ashantees and two others in
company with many women and slaves among whom was a girl of fourteen.
Slave women and girls would not have been
distinguishable from wives and daughters unless they bore tribal marks
which identified them as nnokofo.
9 There were some mmusua who had more than 20
slaves, who had children and made their master wealthy. Kumasi
kente weavers generally sent a trusty servant to the foreign markets to
purchase the silk cloths from which the threads were taken for making
kente cloths. Chiefs could buy but not sell slaves.
16 Trade languages in Salaga were Asante and
Three media of exchange: cowries (not accepted as a store of value by
the Akan), gold dust (most traders carried their balances (nsania) and
weights (abrammoo for measuring quantities of gold dust) and kola.
26 Salaga and Yendi markets were under Asante supervision
through a temporary and permanent agent. The temporary agent was a
collector of tribute. He stayed November to March. Permanent
agent was head of the Asante community.
M. J., Les Achantis, d'apres les relations de M. Bonnat edited J. Gros,
L'explorateur (Paris 1876) vol. III pp. 1 - 3, translated from the French by
M. Johnson, The Salaga Papers, acc. no. SAL/34/1
trade of Salaga before 1874
Thanks to this fruit (kola), the Ashantis make an immense trade with the
interior. After gathering it and separating it from its coverings, it is
packed into the travelling baskets; large leaves are provided to keep it
fresh as long as possible. Then it is sent to Serime where it is bought
by people who come in caravans from all parts of Africa to buy a fruit
so valuable in their eyes. With this unique product which costs them
nothing, not even the least cultivation, the Ashantis obtain all that
they want from the different people who come to this market. The
main things they ask in exchange for the fruits are:
cloths woven and sewn brought by the people of Bontoucou;
thread with which they weave themselves their rich cloths;
a well as pouches in tanned and coloured leather; these two articles
which are admirably worked, are brought to the market by caravans
coming from Hausa, from Kano, from Marawa, from Sokkatou and from
different countries on the banks of the Niger and even on the shores
of Lake Chad;
the same merchants, they obtain iron implements which they need for
cultivating their fields;
these caravans and from those coming from Timbuktu, they have
brought shawls and girdles of silk of African manufacture also
tobacco in plenty , in ball and plaited leaf;
various other peoples, they get sheep and cattle in great quantity;
finally, all the time they receive slaves in great numbers.
the road to the coast is closed, it is possible to procure from this
market powder and guns, but only at a very high price.
M. Bonnat even saw, from the same place, perfumery and glass trinkets
which definitely were not of European manufacture.
- Fynn J
K Asante and Its Neighbours 1700-1807 Longman 1971
- 5 .
. . trade route ran to the north east through eastern Gonja and Dagomba,
across the river Niger to Hausaland. This route made contact with the
trans-Saharan caravan trade in commercial emporia in Hausaland.
Merchants from such Hausa cities as Kano and Katsina travelled
along this route to Salaga in Eastern Gonja and there exchanged their
cotton cloths, leather goods and slaves for gold, cowries, and other
products . . . kola nuts and salt
the Fanti and the Europeans
Paul, Caravans of Kola: Hausa Kola Trade 1700-1900, OUP (Extracts and notes)
other commercial diasporas, the dispersed Hausa settlements eased
cross-cultural exchange. Their inhabitants bridged the cultural and
economic gap between local societies and the metropolitan Hausa states,
and this culturally marginal position permitted the diaspora residents
to fulfill the two main needs of the trade, brokerage and agency. Common
language and religion unified the network, while kinship and other
relationships served to strengthen commercial associations. Diasporas
filled an ecological niche which straddled a series of ethnic
To be `Hausa' along the trade routes presupposed certain occupations,
particularly merchant, professional, or craftsman. Hence commercial
diasporas acted as one kind of `bridge' across the ethnic labyrinth of
The Hausa settlements afforded passing traders temporary lodging and
allowed access to local markets. They bulked products entering long
distance trade and distributed commodities imported from distant places.
Hausa landlords (mai gida), resident in the trade towns,
furnished accommodation to merchants, served as brokers in local
exchange collected information on market conditions, supplied packing
and storage facilities, offered translating services, extended short
term credit, and provided other assistance to clients. Like the
itinerant traders whom they served, the inhabitants of the Hausa
communities were Muslim. They spoke Hausa as their first language, and
most traced their ancestry to one of the Hausa cities or towns. Although
many individuals were born in the dispersed settlements and lived there
for long periods, they often considered themselves foreigners with few
connections with local societies. They frequently identified more
closely with their place of origin, with their clients and with other
distant trade centres than with their adopted countries. Nevertheless,
members of the dispersed Hausa communities were seldom directly related
to the Hausa merchants from the Sokoto Caliphate. The people of the
diaspora were far more heterogeneous in their origins than the Hausa
traders were and endogamous marriage arrangements maintained this
They had settled in the trade towns to take advantage of expanding
commercial opportunities and had subsequently developed a sense of
community which was based on Islam, the use of the Hausa language,
inter-marriage within the community and with other diaspora settlements,
and common residence. The resulting group identification, based foremost
on similar commercial undertakings, was fundamental to the operation of
Asante-Central Sudan trade.
Hausa malams owed their influence in large part to their skill in making
charms. Methods for supernatural protection were in strong demand in the
Volta region, and Muslims of all nationalities helped supply the market.
For example in 1807 Asante soldiers protected themselves in battle with
the assistance of charms made from 'a little square cloth, enclosing
some sentences of the Alcoran.' Most known correspondence between the
Muslims of Kumase and the northern trade communities in the early
nineteenth century concerned charms and other magical formulae.
Hausa malams who travelled to the Volta region with increasing
frequency after the jihad became especially famous for their ability to
manufacture charms. The only protective magic which was condoned was the
use of charms comprised of holy words and names, attributes of Allah,
and special prayers.
The dispersed settlements catered for the long-distance trade, but they
relied upon the unifying ideology of Islam to buttress economic links.
Islam provided a status system which supplemented the emphasis on wealth
within the communities, since education and religious piety were
respected as much or more than commercial success. Thus religion and its
status orientation furnished a rationalization for the hospitality which
landlords extended to passing traders for economic reasons. Through
their educational and religious instruction, the itinerant malams
supported this dependence upon Islam. In return the trade communities
offered shelter and alms to the travelling clerics, and the commercial
network served as an avenue into non Muslim areas for those malams
interested in propagating their religion.
Non-Muslim rulers wanted their own imam to supplement their other
religious advisors and to encourage long distance trade. Local
governments knew that malams could become hosts and brokers for Muslims
passing through the area and could form the nucleus of a small
commercial centre. The settlement of malams thereby promoted the
expansion of the long-distance trade network whilst the Muslims
attempted to convert people to Islam.
The development of the Hausa diaspora in the eighteenth century was
closely related to the expansion of the Asante state and the curtailment
of Muslim commerce within Asante. As Asante developed its policies
towards state domination of the foreign trade sector, including the
export trade in kola, slaves, and gold, Hausa merchants consolidated
their position as the major kola dealers in the interior. First, the
earliest Hausa communities date to the same time as the early
eighteenth-century expansion of the Asante state. This suggests that
Hausa immigrants were attracted to opportunities made possible by the
disruption of commerce in the kola producing area during the Asante
Tonawa was the Hausa word for the Asante.
One group of traders associated with the trans-Saharan traffic who
assumed an early role in the consolidation of direct links with the
Volta basin were the Sharifai, who claimed a direct genealogical
relationship with the Prophet Muhammad. The Central Sudan community
formed only a small part of a larger West African group of merchants and
Muslim scholars who claimed descent from the Prophet. The Sharifai were
similar to the Agadesawa in that they used their origins to identify
themselves within Hausa society. Their most important communities in the
eighteenth century Central Sudan were at Katsina, Kano, and the Borno
capital of Birni Ngazagarmo.
Sharifai entered the Asante trade before the last decades of the
eighteenth century. The availability of gold in the Volta markets
attracted merchants associated with the trans-Saharan traffic, and in
the eighteenth century some gold reached the Mediterranean via the
Hausa states. Sharif Imhammad, from whom Europeans in North Africa first
learned about the trade to Asante, travelled overland from Katsina to
northern Asante in the 1780s in an apparent exploratory expedition to
examine the possibility of a more permanent relationship with the Volta
basin. During his sojourn Imhammad purchased kola as well as gold on
behalf of his patron, the ruler of Fezzan. Other Sharifai who were
resident in the savanna consolidated similar commercial contacts.
The eighteenth century was a formative period in the development of the
Hausa trade to Asante. The most important item of exchange. . . was
natron (kanwa), an alkaloid substance (a mineral of hydrous sodium
carbonate, Na2CO3.10H20) used extensively in West Africa as salt for
livestock and humans, stomach medicine, thickener in cooking, additive
to flavour chewing tobacco and snuff, and a fastening agent in dyes for
cloth and leather. The natron came from Muniyo, Mangari, and the eastern
shores of Lake Chad, which were directly or indirectly under Bomo
political control for several centuries before 1900, and consequently
its traders assumed an important role in its distribution. Through their
export of Chadic natron, Bomo traders became involved in the trade to
the Volta basin. Many were residents of the Hausa cities and identified
themselves as Beriberi, the Hausa name for Bomo immigrants. The Beriberi
maintained a commercial diaspora for natron distribution and extended
the interests of the Bomo trading system westward to the Volta. Although
the Beriberi retained their connection with Bomo, used Kanuri body and
facial markings, and spoke Kanuri, most were assimilated to Hausa
Many families in the Volta region trace their ancestry to Katsina.
and Adu Boahene, Revolutionary Years West Africa since 1800
- 61 1812
- trade routes Salaga-Kumasi (bullocks/asses) From Timbuctoo and
Hausaland Kumasi-Twifu-Assin-Elmina/Cape Coast
Asante export of kola nuts to Sokoto and Tokolor
- 65 Goods
from N. Africa: shawls, red caps, trousers, carpets, silks from Tripoli,
spices, perfumes, cowries, books (Koranic), horses, calico from Enugu,
cotton prints, silk, muslins, linen, writing papers from Venice, beads,
sword blades, looking glasses, needles, files chisels, snuff boxes,
razors, scissors, trinkets, dates ex Sahara, copper, salt.
of W. Sudan: ivory, gum, natron (sodium carbonate from Chad basin used
for medicine, dyeing leather and cloth, making snuff, substitute for
salt), ostrich feathers, slaves.
of forest and coast: gold, kola, ivory, slaves
- Fynn J
K, Asante and Its Neighbours 1700-1807 Longman 1971
- 116 After
1770 Asante and Fante traders met freely for trade in markets on N
frontier of Fante. Far greater number of slaves were exported in
1774 than in any one year. 1776: peace in the Gold Coast and
slaves are very plentiful.
brought down by Asante were known as Duncoes, Donce, Dynkos.
Considered industrious and faithful. Asante donko (pl.
Nnonko or nnokofo) applied strictly to a man or woman, other than an
Ashanti, who has been purchased with the express purpose of making him
or her a slave. Main physical attribute of an Odonko in the Asante
mind: bearing tribal marks. Bush or country people of the Dagomba
have three light cuts on each cheekbone and three below with one
horizontal under the eye. Many of the slaves sold by Asante to the
Europeans were from Dagomba.
"Most of the slaves in Kumasi were sent as part of the annual
tribute of Inta, Dagwumba and their neighbours, to Asante, very many
were kidnapped and for the few who were bought, I was assured by several
respectable Ashantee 2000 cowries or one basket of kola nuts was the
greatest price given - so full were the markets of the interior.
trade in gold, ivory kola nuts, slaves was very well organized.
Private individuals were not encouraged to indulge in large scale
trading activities because for the risks involved. The Asante
trade, in general, was a state enterprise under the management of the
Gyasewahene, who was overseer of the King's trade and was at liberty to
send the trade where he pleased. Asokwahene (or Batahene) was
responsible for trading on behalf of the Asantehene. At the
request of the king or Gyasewahene, he would be sent to the coast to
purchase salt, spirits, textiles, guns, powder, pewter, lead, etc.
Asokwahene was assisted by several fekuo (administrative
departments) generally subjects of the Gyasewahene, including
akyeremodefo (drummers) asokuafo (hornblowers) asoafo (hammock carriers)
agwarefo (bathroom attendants)
officials - akwansrafo - road wardens - were established at many points
on all main highways. Ejura, Atebubu (control of traffic on NE
road to Salaga). They detained all traders until enquiries had
been made about them, when they were allowed to pass on payment of 3 to
4 shillings worth of gold dust. Their main concern was to prevent guns
and powder from being sold beyond metropolitan Asante. The purpose of
this embargo was to ensure continued Asante superiority in muskets over
the bow and arrow wielding peoples of N. Ghana.
Paul, Caravans of Kola: Hausa Kola Trade 1700-1900, OUP (Extracts and notes)
the eighteenth century slaves were the principal commodity exported
(from Asante) to the coast They were acquired primarily in imperial wars
and through tribute from subject territories, although some criminals
were probably exported as well after the liberalising reforms of the
late eighteenth century. War captives were sometimes difficult to
incorporate into Asante society since they had often been engaged in
fighting wars of resistance or independence. These exports overseas
served mainly as foreign exchange for the purchase of firearms and
gunpowder, upon which the Asante military depended.
and to a lesser extent ivory, were also sold to the Europeans in return
for war materials, especially after the end of the Atlantic slave trade.
Imported luxuries were, to an unknown extent, re-exported north.
purchased from kola profits were assimilated into the lineages of
central Asante. These slaves of northern origin nnonkofo were
seldom shipped to the coast. Their main function was to augment war
losses, and they helped stabilize population in the central provinces.
slaves worked many of the gold fields, and nuggets discovered in many
provinces legally belonged to the state.
The Hausa Factor in West African History ABUP OUP
A Adu, Kola Trade, Ghana Notes and Queries
K.Y., Trade and Trading patterns of the Akan in the 17th and 18th Centuries (in
Claude Meillassoux (ed).The Development of Trade and Markets in West Africa, Int
Claude (ed), The Development of Trade and Markets in West Africa, Int Afr Inst +
Ivor, Asante policy towards the Hausa trade in the nineteenth century (in Claude
Meillassoux, (ed) The Development of Trade and Markets in West Africa, Int Afr
Inst + OUP 1971)
Adu, Britain, the Sahara, and the western Sudan, 1988
A Adu, The Caravan Trade in the 19c. Jour Af Hist 112 1962 349-359
W., Caravans of the Old Sahara,1968
E. W., The Golden Trade of the Moors, London, 1958
Paul, Caravans of Kola, Hausa Kola Trade 1700-1900, OUP