The major means by which slaves were obtained in Africa:
There were five main ways by which slaves were obtained both internal use and external demand. These were warfare, market supply,
raiding and kidnapping, tribute and pawning.
Prisoners of war were
enslaved and they usually constituted the largest proportion of
the total slave output. Warfare was rife among the savanna and forest
states of West, East, Central and Southern Africa. The jihads of the
19th century, waged from Senegambia in the west to the Red Sea in the
east resulted in the enslavement of thousands of people.
were established along the length and breadth of the continent and
members of royalty as well as free individuals could go to any of
these markets to purchase slaves. The famous markets were those
established along the caravan routes. In North and West Africa all the
markets along the trans-Saharan routes were important suppliers of
slaves. In West Africa some of the popular markets were
Wa in Ghana;
Bonduku and Buna in Ivory Coast, and
Ouagadougou in modern Burkina Faso. In the North Eastern part of the
continent Egypt and the Sudan had slave markets.
The popular markets along the East, Central and Southern trade routes
were Tabora, Ujijiand Karagwe. The Nyamwezi people controlled the
Central route and all the markets along the route, while the Yao people
controlled the Southern route and all the markets along the route.
Raiding and kidnapping people into slavery were common practices in
all the regions of Africa. The Tuaregs and the Berbers raided and
kidnapped their southern neighbours. Raiding and kidnapping were
Bambara society. The
Damagaram of Northern Nigeria
and the southern part of Niger procured some of their slaves by
this method. In the
Sokoto Caliphate of modern Nigeria and in the
Nilotic Sudan, slave raiding was sometimes a state affair. Many slaves
from the Sokoto Caliphate came from southern Adamawa in Cameroon or
from the lands beyond Bornu. Slave raiding was also common in the
Senegal Valley. The Kajoor and Bawol were the main victims of
slave raiding. The Kurtey was a small tribe in modern Mali and they
traditionally also raided for slaves.
In Central Africa the
Lunda slavers ravaged large areas of the Congo
Basin. Kidnapping was practiced among the
Lozi of Zambia and the Sena
of Mozambique. The
Amharas of Ethiopia raided and kidnapped the peoples
of the East and Central African interior.
Tribute paying was a very common practice in pre-colonial Africa. The
Yoruba of Nigeria obtained some of their slaves through this means. The Sokoto Caliphate demanded tribute from subjected communities. In Ghana
the Akwamuhene for example demanded tribute from the Akwamus who
remained in the old Akwamu Empire after their defeat. The chief of
Asamankese for example had to pay an annual tribute of 500slaves to
the Akwamuhene. Almost all the states
Asante conquered from 1700 to
1896were asked to pay annual tributes in slaves and other goods. The
state of Gonja paid 1,000 slaves; Salaga paid 600 slaves; Akwapim paid
1000 slaves, and the small Ewe chief ships sent 12 slaves annually to
Kumasi the Asante capital.
Pawning was basically the act of offering a person as security for
money borrowed. The pawn became a pledge, mortgage or security for what
a person owed. The pawn worked for the creditor who fed and clothed
him/her until the debt was paid. Pawning was not slavery, but pawns who
were not redeemed found themselves in slavery. In Ghana there were
several instances of this. The Sena of Mozambique and the Igbo of
Nigeria also practiced pawning.
Dr. Akosua Perbi - Manchester College - USA [full