Trans-Atlantic slave trade was the most largest and famous slave trade, which occurred in Africa during the early period of 15th century. During its occurrence, slaves were transported to the new world colonies of Europe, from various regions and States including Eastern region of Africa, West Central Africa, as well as West Africa (Inikori 106). Close to twelve million African slaves were transported during the trans-Atlantic slave trade into European new world colonies. A lot of people died during the process of transportation, both to the coast and during the actual raids. Some people were taken by force, while others were betrayed into slave trade by their own communities and societies, in which they lived. In this paper, we are going to critically evaluate the many negative effects that trans-Atlantic slave trade had on Africa.
The first negative effect of trans-Atlantic slave trade on Africa was ethnic fragmentation. This effect was detrimental, following the fact that Africans were raiding their fellow Africans, to capture them as slaves, and hand forcefully hand them over to European slave colonies in form of trade. Villages and States engaged in the act of raiding one another and capturing slaves for trade, and this led to hostility among the AfricanStates, as well as villages (Inikori 117). The hostility led to conflicts between Communities, Societies, and States in defense of their members from being raided and subsequently captured into slavery. The established codes of conduct (concerning warfare), which were meant to create peace, were destroyed leading to high levels of insecurity. Social interaction was highly compromised following high levels of insecurity among various social groups, and this led to confinement of populations within their respective ethnic boundaries and groups. Due to the rising incidences of conflicts, suspicion and banditry, arising form trans-Atlantic slave trade, there was destruction of almost all the village networks and federations, that had been created before, in the 19th century (Nunn 141).
The second negative effect of trans-Atlantic slave trade on Africa was weakening and fragmentation of African States. The external demand for slaves from European colonies exerted pressure on African communities, thus leading to conflicts within the communities. Due to insecurity at that particular time, communities had to look for means of defense (Curtin 179). The only available means of defense at that time was through weapons such as knives, swords, firearms and spears. However, the problem was that, these weapons could only be obtained from European colonies in exchange of raised, captured and kidnapped slaves. This escalated slave trade and created much more hatred between African states, due to the act of enslaving one another for security and protection. One good example in the 19th century was the Kabre community of Togo; which engaged in delivering of their own kin to European colonies in exchange of iron knives, and spears for defense. The weakening and fragmentation of African States also resulted due to political instability. Political instability in most African States was mainly caused by European intervention in search for slaves. Since the participants of the trade benefited by getting most slaves, they went ahead to intervene various political processes so as to create internal instability and conflicts (Curtin 184). The raiders and merchants of slavery formed alliances with various groups in villages and States purposely to get slaves. Since most of the community young men were frustrated by the fact that power was under control of elderly men, they readily made alliances with these merchants to extract slaves. This actually led to increased political instability, internal conflicts and ultimate weakening of the States. Most of the pre-existing forms of government collapsed due to internal conflicts and increased political instability. For instance, the weakening of political institutions domestically occurred within the West Central Africa’s KongoKingdom, where the local Kongo citizens were kidnapped in early 1514, and handed over or sold to Portuguese slave merchants. This scenario became rampant with time and created lots of social and political disorder, leading to collapse of the entire Kingdom and the King’s authority (Curtin 198).
Another negative impact of trans-Atlantic slave trade on Africa was deterioration of the established legal institutions. One of the ways that were used by the slave merchants to obtain slaves was through false accusations. They actively engaged in false accusations against individuals for community crimes like witchcraft. Since most of the African communities, at that particular time, had established judicial and punishment penalties for such crimes; the slave merchant took advantage of these situation to convert such penalties into enslavement. Some of the penalties that were converted into enslavement include: ex-communication from the community, beatings, compensation, and exile (Nunn 153). Therefore, instead of the African communities subjecting their own members to these penalties, they decided to enslave them for false accusations. This was actually an abuse of the judicial system, and leaders supported this tribute to protect their communities and themselves. A good example was the Cassanga chief, who engaged in punishing the community members by giving them poison. Those who took the poison and vomited were pronounced guilty and immediately sold to slavery merchants. For those that failed to vomit, they actually faced death due to poisoning. Their family members, who had remained behind, were then manipulated, seized of any available property and handed over to slavery merchants for shipping. It is these kinds of acts that led to total deterioration of the legal systems, which had been put in place prior to occurrence of the trans-Atlantic slave trade (Nunn 167).
The trans-Atlantic slave trade negatively affected Africa by causing displacement of many communities. After raiding and capturing the slaves, the slave merchants used various routes to transport the slaves to the coast, where they were collected together, and shipped to Europe. Most of the communities, which were residing along these routes, were forced to migrate and ran away due to fear of their safety. Most of these communities felt insecure to continue staying along or near these routes. In fact, some of the communities claimed that, some of their members were being pulled along by the slave merchants, while transporting the captured slaves to the coast. The displacement of people also led to abandonment of various activities, projects and investment opportunities. Agriculture was the most affected economic activity, since people abandoned their lands and farming activities in search of places where they can be more secure. This led to de-stabilization of many economies of the Africa States during the entire period of the slave trade (Engerman 64).
Another negative effective of trans-Atlantic slave trade was that, it led to death of very many Africans in the course of the entire period. The conflicts, inter-ethic fragmentations, political unrest, and other forms of disorder; which resulted from the slave trade, led to many killings, which saw many innocent Africans, lose their lives. In fact, many people, who were captured and transported to the coast for shipping also died on the way due to ruthless handling, merciless beating, and excessive use of force. The colonies inside Africa also started fighting against each other over slaves, thus leading to massive killings. It is these massive killings that led to stagnation of the population of Africa, nearly for the entire period of 19th century (Engerman 87).
The trans-Atlantic slave trade also led to loss of lots of property in the entire period. Many people lost property following numerous raiding, conflicts and displacements. In fact, those who were raided and captured had their property destroyed, or taken away, by other powerful members of the society, without seeking permission or clarification from the immediate family members (Whatley 82).
Some of the other negative economic effects that the trans-Atlantic slave trade had on Africa were as follows:
The slave trade led to stagnation of economic development in most of the African States, since most of the States were loosing their human resource to the European colonies and other slave markets. Human resource is the most importance resource when it comes to production and development of economy. After shifting the economy from agriculture to industrial, there was a tremendous increase in dependency ratio, especially to the European goods. This actually escalated the need for labor in European fields of sugar, cotton, rice and other plantations, thus making Africans susceptible to slave trade for labor provision (Engerman 119).
The trans-Atlantic trade led to numerous social, political and economic shortcomings. During the period, there was re-structuring of many social relations and subverting of traditional values. The predatory regime developed, where Africans were predating or raiding fellow Africans and selling them as slaves. Many social groups were displaced or relocated, thus leading to stagnation of economic and technological development (Inikori 113). In addition, many European powers interfered with various African political processes, to surpass any AfricaState, which had any intention of rising to hamper their operations. At the end, many Africa States were politically de-stabilized, economically weakened, and socially fragmented. The trade actually left the African continent in a state which could be described as disorganized, underdeveloped, and susceptible to colonialism.