Trade between East Africa, Middle and Far East was disturbed by Portuguese invasion along the
coast in the 16th Century and 17th Century. The Portuguese attempted of capture and control the
Indian Ocean trade and this led to wars.The Portuguese invasion on the East African coast
caused four major changes in the pattern of trade:
- There was diversion of the major trade routes especially in connection to with copper and
gold. These items were now shipped overseas from Sofala southwards and through the Atlantic
- Conflict developed between African gold miners and Portuguese traders. The Portuguese
sought control of gold production and this was resisted by African miners and there was a
decline in the output of gold.
- Portuguese imposed trading licenses and permits on African and Arab traders. This led to
further decline of trade between East Africa and Asia.
- Coastal City states such as Kilwa began to decline because their prosperity depended on
gold trade. This meant the African and Arab traders who acted as middlemen also lost business.
Contacts with Europe (The Portuguese, Dutch Settlement at the Cape)
The Social and Economic Motives of Contact between Africa and Portugal.
The contact between Africans and Portuguese dates back as far as 15th Century:
- The Portuguese led by Vasco da Gama reached the East coast in 1498.They were the first
Western Europeans to enter the Coast from the South.
- The Portuguese managed to reach this region in their attempt to explore a sea route to
India around the continent of Africa.
- Their search for a sea route was supported by Prince Henry the navigator, the son of King
John of Portugal.
Commodities which were exchanged during the contact.
- The important commodities involved during the contact included, copper, gold, silver,
spices and ivory from Africa and invaluable goods from Europe such as wines alcohol, mirrors,
The Social and Economic Impact of the Portuguese in Africa.
- Need to exploit valuable resources believed to exist in Africa such as gold, silver and
- To create a Portuguese empire in the African coasts.
- To secure the sources of gold that existed in Africa. Several regions of Africa such as
Akan in West were the main sources of gold.
- To find a sea route to India and Far East (famous for Spices) and this was in response the
closure of the land routes to Asia by the Ottoman Turks in 1453.
- Need to monopolise Indian Ocean trade which for a long period was dominated by Arabs,
Chinese, Indonesians and Indians merchants. The trade was profitable.
- Need to control strategic points: East Africa provided bases for military troops in the
mission of the Portuguese of controlling the East.
- Religious: Portuguese wanted to spread Christianity in Africa and prevent further spread
of Islam in Africa.
- Personal initiative of the King of Portugal Prince Henry the Navigator who sponsored
and encouraged the Pioneer Voyages.
- Exploration: At the end of 13th Century Western Europe had experienced the period of
learning new knowledge and discoveries.This made people start to explore unknown land and
sailing unmapped areas.