Trade and wealth culminate to new developmental change in every aspect of people socio-political lives. More so, most political changes or development was as a result of new economic development. This was the case of the emergence of Ghana as an empire. The Soninke state of Ghana is referred to as the earliest empire in the Western Sudan. The role of middle men in the Trans-Saharan trade and the knowledge of iron led to the expansion of the Soninke people over their counterparts in the Western Sudan. Ghana was said to be a pagan state though it had a large Muslim element. Territorially, ancient Ghana boundaries were said to be Niger to the East, and Senegal and the Baule to the South and West respectively. Historical records position that the Soninke built their state before 773 A.D but exactly how long before we do not know. It is possible that they were traders in the region in very distant times. Some historical records says that there were twenty-two kings of Ghana before the beginning of Muslim era (622 A.D) and twenty-two kings after that. If this was true, it could place the origin of the Ghana kingdom an about 300 A.D.
However, by 800, Ghana had become a very powerful trading state called Wagadu by its rulers. It is cogent to note that the name Ghana came into general use because of one of the king’s title, ghana or war chief. Each succeeding chiefs were known by his own name, and also by the title or ghana. Another popular title was Kaya Maghan, which means ‘Lord of Gold’, because the controlled export of precious metals.
Nothing is know about the political method or history of Ghana under its early kings, scholars however, posit that what probably may have happened was that head of large families or decent-lines among the merchant of the Sahara, saw an advantage in having a singular ruler. So they elected a king from themselves. The king’s duty was to organize the trade and keep good relations with the Saharan traders, as well as acting as senior religious and as representative on earth or the ‘founding ancestors’ of the Soninke people. This was the beginning of divine monarchy in the Western Sudan which later became the pattern in other kingdoms and empires that emerged from this region.
Historians explains that mystical power of the monarchy in the Sudan was based on traditional religious practices and the cult of the ancestor. As a result of this background, the king in ancient Ghana gathered power. He controlled the trade within the Soninke territory. He made gift and made reward to all those who served him. The next line of action was the expansion of Soninke power over neighboring people who were also busy with trade. The wide the territory of Soninke could control, the more prosperous they would be. By 800, the king of Ghana was able to make lesser kings or chiefs obey his laws and pay him taxes and tributes. And so, the king’s wealth increased. With more wealth he had power. He could raise big armies and employ large number of messenger and other servants.
It is also important to note that the geographical of the empire also affected it’s growth and wealth. The empire occupied the savanna land between the rich gold-field of Wangara and most importantly of the trading goods taken from North Africa to the Western Sudan, example, salt horses etc and those taken from the Western Sudan to North Africa like gold, ivory, kola nuts. From this came wealth and this new economic improvement, the king of Ghana became more powerful.
In conclusion, the trade between North and Africa brought about the formation of Ghana. The trade of salt to gold and gold to salt. Moreover, Ghana interactions with the north brought about Islam in Ghana.
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