The Fall of the Ghana Empire

As in one the previous posts on the Cultural Mosaic, Ghana was rich in gold and power. Other surrounding cities and small empires competed with Ghana in gold trade, but eventually, the competitors caught up. Jealousy(from all the wealth Ghana had), fear(afraid they would conquer their land), and anger of Ghana’s power prompted its neighbors to stand up against the kingdom. Their efforts were at first weak and insignificant, but eventually, in the mid-11th century, a Muslim group known as the Almoravids launched a devastating invasion on the capital city of Koumbi Saleh. Although many territories were taken over, and tribute taxes were enforced, Ghana recovered and forced the invaders to withdraw and get out.

          A little less than 200 years later, however, Ghana was not so lucky. Weakened by subsequent and frequent attacks, and cut-off from international trade of salt, gold, and other important things, the kingdom was vulnerable and unable to prevent defeat. In 1240 C.E., Ghana was conquered and absorbed/added into the growing nation of Mali, which would soon become the next great empire.

          Another reason Ghana fell from power, was after the attacks, when Ghana was still recovering, a drought came upon them and forced people to move out of the empire to find more food and water.


The wealth of ancient Ghana is explained in the folk tale of Bida, the black snake. The snake demanded an annual sacrifice, in return, for guaranteeing prosperity in the Kingdom of Ghana. Therefore, each year a virgin was offered up for sacrifice, until one year, the fiancé (Mamadou Sarolle) of the intended victim rescued her. Feeling deprived of his sacrifice, Bida took his revenge on the region, and a terrible drought took hold of Ghana and the gold mining began to decline. Since the gold mining began to decline, trade declined as well and Ghana was finished off when other empires took over. 


So the main reasons that Ghana fell are:

  • There was one war after another so Ghana couldn’t recover.
  • Trade declined after the gold mining decreased, so there was no income coming in.
  • There were many competitors in the gold mining trade industry that were trying to overcome Ghana in wealth and power.
  • There were enviornmental issues, such as a drought and the animals starving from the drought. So food sources dwindled.
  • People left the region because of the drought and the wars so the population of ancient Ghana decreased.
  • Ghana was to weak to stop anyone from taking over so they were extremely vulnerable to outside enemies.
  • The military was unorganized so they couldn’t fight properly.
  • The King of Ghana wasn’t helping out those in need when they needed help.

Fall of the Swahili Coast Empire:

The fall of the Swahili Coast was mostly because of the decline in trade. The city-states began to decline with the incline of Portugese trade. The consequent disruption of the old trade routes made the Swahili cities obsolete. The Portugese wanted native Africans to have no share in African trade and set about conquering the Islamic city-states. So with their main trading empires gone, the Swahili Coast empire didn’t have anyone to depend on and they slowly drifted away, and so did some of their culture.


By: Fatten Saad


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