The Long History of Trade and Markets in Africa

February 10, 2022

Market reforms in Africa can be frustrated by propaganda that markets are a Western import. Despite the validity of this belief, it is clearly absurd. Markets flourished in Africa before colonialism, and wherever they are repressed the result is social immiseration, as economist William Hutt points out  in his groundbreaking study of him,  The Economics of the Color Bar . Pre-colonial African merchants organized large-scale trade networks that spanned several regions.

According to  Alberta O.Akrong  (2019), the diversity of African trade carried out by land and waterways improved the continent's accessibility to strategic resources. As elsewhere, in pre-colonial Africa, Africans devised mechanisms to enable trade. In his investigation, Gareth Austin documents a litany of  such institutions  , including revolving credit facilities and secret societies. Recounting the primacy of markets in pre-colonial West Africa, he offers a compelling account of trade networks.