AFRICAN EARLY CONTACTS WITH THE MIDDLE AND FAR EAST
Early contact was a period when East Africa began to interact with people from Middle East and Far East.
The Africa contact with Middle East and Far East dated back early in 200BC. The early contacts were initially at the coast but later some of the foreigners moved further into interior of the East Africa.
Those early foreigners who visited Africa were people from Asia including; Lebanese, Syrians, Indonesians, Persians, Arabs, Burma and China.
The visitors managed to travel to the coast of East Africa through the use of Sea Vessels with the help of South- Eastern monsoon winds.
Trade contacts between East African coast and the Far and Middle East intensified between 8th and 10th Century when many traders from China, Indonesia, India, and Arab came to trade to African countries.
The commercial contacts has been evidenced by the archaeologist through observing several remains of beads, porcelain, pottery, coins and tombs. Another evidence is a book titled The Periplus of Erythream Sea written by Greek traders around 1st century AD.
SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC MOTIVES OF THE CONTACTS
A: SOCIAL MOTIVES
1. Spreading of Islamic religion (The need to spread Islamic religion), Islam religion began in the Middle East in 7th AD from there it spread to many parts of Asia. In addition, Arabs wanted to spread their religion to new parts of the world including Africa.
2. Seeking refuge, some visitors who came to Africa experienced religion and political persecution in their countries so they came in Africa to search peacefully place to settle.
3. Establishment of settlement, some visitors decided to live permanently in Africa especially along the coast and they built permanent stone houses in the Arabic style.
B: ECONOMIC MOTIVES
1. Commercial exploration, some of the early visitors came to explore Africa and assess its resources.
They wanted to know the climatic conditions, mineral resources, wildlife and economic activities found on the African continent. They plan to exploit resources available.
2. Trade (Trade activities), Traders wanted to trade and control commercial activities along the African coast as many of the early visitors were interested in products from Africa to take back to their home countries.
3. Exploration of African coast. The visitors from Middle East and Far East were interested to know the accessibility of the coast and the availability of market in the coastal areas.
They were also interested to assess the volume of commodities which were in great demands such as gold, slave and animal skins.
MAJOR COMMODITIES EXCHANGED DURING THE CONTACTS
Origin of Visitors
Goods brought to Africa
Goods taken from Africa
|Beaker, Iron pans, swords, glass ware, daggers, beads, ornaments.||Ivory,
|China||Porcelains, bowl, plates, silk and clothes.|
|Persia||Pots, glass bowls, swords and ornaments.|
|India||Cotton cloth, metal spears, beads, swords and daggers.|
|Syria||Iron pans, bowls beakers and swords.|
|Burma||Stone pots and jars|
SOCIAL, ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL EFFECTS OF THE CONTACTS
A: POSITIVE SOCIAL EFFECTS
1. The rise of coastal city States, these states included Mogadishu, Zanzibar, Mombasa, Kilwa and Sofala
They were once small un-important coastal villages but they grew into cities due to settlement by foreigners.
2. Development of Swahili language, Swahili language and culture developed as a result of intermarriage between the people of East Africa Coast towns.
Swahili language consists of roughly 65% of Bantu words, 30% of Arabic words and other few Indian words. It provided a common language for the African and Arabs on East Africa coast to use in trade.
3. Spread of Islam, Arabs and Persians who settled along the Coast of East Africa spread Islam along the coastal state of East Africa. It also extended into the interior. Arabs built Mosque wherever they settled.
This was alongside with the introduction of Islamic laws in order to maintain justice and order and these laws were taken from the Muslim Holy book (Quran) and they were administered by the Kadhi (Judge).
4. New Architectures designs, the Coastal city-states adopted new style of building. For example, the Persian traders who settled along the coast introduced building using stone style similar to that found in Persia.
Evidence of buildings seen in Historical sites such as ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Zanzibar.
5. Introduction of new style of dressing, the people of Africa adopted new style of dressing from the foreigners. Examples those who converted and adopted the Islamic mode of dressing.
This included the baibui (a long black rib for women), kanzu (a long while rib for men), vails for women and barghashia (a small cap) for men.
6. Intermarriage, the foreigner intermarried with African, creating a new race of half-castes.
B: NEGATIVE SOCIAL EFFECTS
1. Cultural interference, this was experienced through interacting with foreigners and adopted their customs.
Some Africa forgotten their traditional religion, language, mode of dressing and food. This interfered African way of life.
2. Warfare and insecurity, the contacts brought slave trade between African and Arabs. The demand of slaves caused warfare between African communities hence the wars caused insecurity in the society.
3. Depopulation. The war caused the loss of peoples’ lives and other African people were taken as slaves hence caused depopulation to many parts in Africa.
4. Social stratification, through trading with foreigners, some Africans acquired greatly wealth. This led to the emergence of super rids class of people among the Africans.
These people exercised a lot of power and influence in the community. As result there was greatly stratification, with a big difference between the have and have not.
C: POSITIVE ECONOMIC EFFECTS
1. Introduction of new crops, new crops such as rice, wheat, cloves, sugarcane and orange were introduced to the African continent from the Middle East and Far East.
Their crops improved the diet of African. In fact, some grew very well as many people adopted them as their stable foods. For example, rice is a staple food among many people along the Coast of East Africa.
2. Exposing Africa to the world, African contacts with the Middle and Far East exposed this continent to the rest of the World. Visitors who came to Africa also travelled to other parts of the world.
Africa became involved in the world economy, African products such as Ivory, Gold, Leopard skin and copper became popular and were sold all over the World and in turn African got access to products from outside the world.
3. Introduction of money economy, Foreigners introduced the use of currency in trade. This was more convenient and replaced barter trade as the method of exchange. Coins begun to be minted and used in the East African city states.
4. Introduction of new technology, People from the Far East and Middle East brought new technology to Africa. For example, they introduced advanced navigation techniques and the art of keeping records by writing.
These things helped African along the Indian Ocean shoreline to travel further. Fishermen could also sail into deeper, get larger catches and dhows, and still used in some fishing communities.
5. Emergence of rich class, Since African people engaged in trade activities and acquired enough profit; a class of rich merchants emerged among them.
In East Africa the class of rich people included chief Kivoi of Kamba and Nganyo of Giriama in Kenya, Mirambo and Nyungu ya mawe of Nyamwezi in Tanzania.
D: NEGATIVE ECONOMIC EFFECTS
1. Unequal Exchange, Traders from the Far and Middle East traded with African using goods with unequal values.
They took goods of high value such as slaves, gold, ivory and animal skin in exchange of low value items such as beads, cowrie shells and colored clothes.
These commodities from Africa were then sold at great profits in foreign markets; this means that the foreigners gained a lot of expenses of the African.
2. Slave Trade Oman Arabs introduced slave trade to East Africa. Sultan Seyyid Said introduced clove plantations in Zanzibar and then got slaves to work in them. In additional they sold slaves to Europeans who began sugar plantations in Mauritius and America.
3. Exploitation of African resources, due to high demand of African commodities in outside world African resources were greatly exploited.
For example, large number of elephants and rhinoceros were killed for their horns and many strong young people were captured and sold as slaves. Therefore, this contributed to reduction of African resources.
4. Decline of Local industries, the introduction of foreign goods led to the decline of African local industries. Due to the availability of many varieties of clothes, utensils and other tools from abroad few people bought local products as a results local production also declined.
5. Loss of manpower. Example; slave trade in Africa decreased the manpower because traders captured the able bodied people who were essential for production; the aged, weak and children were left behind while they could not manage to produce at large quantity.