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Impacts of Slavery and Slave Trade in Africa Essay


Slavery and slave trade existed in Africa for many years, but the Trans-Atlantic trade affected the lives of many people in the continent. The African continent received cheap manufactured goods from Europe while it supplied slaves to the American continent, with the sole purpose of providing free labor in mining and agricultural fields. Africans were expected to produce raw materials that would further be exported to Europe for processing (Hillman and D’Agostino 118).

Industrialization in the 18th and 19th centuries paved way for the manufacturing of various products even though the European continent was facing the greatest challenge of accessing cheap labor. Slavery existed in the African continent in form of indentured servitude in the previous years, but Atlantic slave trade changed the system, as people were captured by force through raids before being sold to other parts of the world. In this paper, the effects of slave trade and slavery are discussed in detail.

Slavery and slave trade had the greatest effects on Africa in the sense that they interfered with the continent’s demographics leading to economic downfall. In the western part of the continent, at least seventy-thousand able men were ferried each year to other parts of the world to offer cheap labor. Before Trans-Atlantic slave trade, Arabs had destabilized the region with the illegal trade. People would be taken to Asia and Europe through the ports of Red Sea (Hillman and D’Agostino 123).

Thornton noted that there was a significant population decrease in the Sub-Saharan region due to the raids and forceful transfer of people to other continents. The traders were mainly interested in buying men because they could manage working in the mining fields as compared to women who would do little to facilitate effective production. The East Africa part suffered as well since menial labor was highly needed in the horn of Africa, Persia, India, and Far East (Thornton 37).

History analysts are divided on the effects of slavery on African demographics, but they all underscore the fact that it changed the composition and the size of the population. Slave trade alone is approximated to have affected over ten million Africans while the form of slavery that exercised between 600 and 1600 is said to have displaced over six million able individuals.

In his analysis, Mentan concluded that the transfer of people from their counties to Europe and America was a demographic disaster in the sense that the African continent was left suffering in comparison to other trading partners. In fact, the political economist argued further that the continent is poor because all energetic young men and women were taken away to develop other regions leaving Africa with the old and young children who would do nothing to propel the economy (Mentan 43).

Mentan presented statistics confirming that the populations of Europe and America increased during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade while that of Africa stagnated. Since slavery provided good returns, emerging merchants were forced to abandon their industries in favor of the trade in the continent.

As soon as slavery was declared illegal, the population of the continent went up even before modern medicine was introduced (Hillman and D’Agostino 139). It was always claimed that diseases were to blame for stagnation of population, but the assertion was proved wrong following global interventions whereby slavery was abolished.

Apart from affecting the continent demographically, slavery and its associated trade had a tremendous impact on the economy because there were no individuals to work in industries. The trade ensured that people with adequate skills and knowledge were taken to Europe and the US to work in companies as machine operators leaving the continent with insufficient personnel to initiate economic growth.

Any economy is always in need of adequate work force to move forward, but the continent suffered a great loss since all able men were transferred to other places. African families and societies were left disintegrated to an extent that they could not form larger ethnic groups, something that led to ethnic divisions. It is surprising to note that Africans were unable to form stable political structures to facilitate the process of economic development instead many individuals decided to operate in small groups.

It is concluded that slavery and slave trade had several effects on the lives of Africans, but the economic stagnation and population decrease were the two major consequences that still affect the continent. African economies are focused on producing the raw materials while addition of value is done elsewhere. This could be traced back to the slavery era since people were used to receiving goods from Europe while supplying labor in return.

Slavery affected many African societies because the productive individuals were taken away to work in mining field in American while those left behind were helpless. Mentan observed that the continent failed to take off economically because of lacking sufficient labor and technology. Since slave trade was profitable, upcoming merchants decided to do away with their small industries to concentrate on the trade. This killed manufacturing and processing industries.

Works Cited

Hillman, Richard, and Thomas, D’Agostino. Understanding the Contemporary Caribbean. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2009. Print.

Mentan, Tatah. The State in Africa: An Analysis of Impacts of Historical Trajectories of Global Capitalist Expansion and Domination in the Continent. Bamenda: Langaa Research & Pub. CIG, 2010. Print.

Thornton, John. Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400-1800. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2020, April 9). Impacts of Slavery and Slave Trade in Africa. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/impacts-of-slavery-and-slave-trade-in-africa/

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"Impacts of Slavery and Slave Trade in Africa." IvyPanda, 9 Apr. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/impacts-of-slavery-and-slave-trade-in-africa/.

1. IvyPanda. "Impacts of Slavery and Slave Trade in Africa." April 9, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/impacts-of-slavery-and-slave-trade-in-africa/.


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IvyPanda. "Impacts of Slavery and Slave Trade in Africa." April 9, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/impacts-of-slavery-and-slave-trade-in-africa/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Impacts of Slavery and Slave Trade in Africa." April 9, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/impacts-of-slavery-and-slave-trade-in-africa/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Impacts of Slavery and Slave Trade in Africa'. 9 April.

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