The trans-Saharan trade refers to the long distance trade carried out across the Sahara desert by the West African kingdoms. On the other hand, the trade from the West African kingdoms lives through North African States to Europe.
The two major groups that were involved in the trans-Saharan trade were the Arab and Berber traders from North Africa on one hand and the Kanuri and Hausa traders from Kanem-Borno and Hausaland on the other hand.
ORIGIN OF THE TRANS-SAHARAN TRADE
There is no precise date when trans-Saharan trade started. However, in Nigerian history, the introduction of Camel in about the 7th Century as a means of transportation was so important in linking some Nigerian areas such as Kanem- Borno and Hausa States to the trans-Saharan trade network. Camels were used in the trans-Saharan trade because of their ability to withstand the difficulties of travelling across the desert. They carry heavy loads, could stay for two to three weeks without drinking water, and move faster and smoother in the desert sand find their bearings or locations with ease across the desert.
The location of towns like Kano and Katsina on the trade routes led to their developments into cosmopolitan settlements.
Within the boundaries of modern Nigeria, there were four major centres identified with the trans-Saharan trade. These are: Ngornu, Birnin Ngarzagamu, Kukawa and Nguru (in Borno), Kano, Katsina and Zaria in Hausa land. These commercial centres were linked, through trans-Saharan trade routes, to similar centres in North Africa, such as Tripoli and Tunis.