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How Slaves Were Acquired in Africa
  Slavery in Sub-Saharan Africa

The major means by which slaves were obtained in Africa:
Slave marketThere 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.

Many markets 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 Salaga, Yendi, Bole and 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 institutionalized in 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.

Source: Dr. Akosua Perbi - Manchester College - USA [full pdf]
(Slightly modified)

Slavery in Sub-Saharan Africa

East Africa & The Sahara

How Were Slaves Acquired?

Why Were Slaves Needed?

Pre-Colonial Structure

Rights & Treatment

Disabled Slaves

Traditional Political Setting

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