SOCIAL, POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC FACTORS THAT LED TO THE RISE OF SONGHAI EMPIRE
Social Factors: The merchants of Songhai Empire worked in partnership. The state also protected the partnership. The port cities on the Niger made the empire a very strong and powerful trading kingdom. The expansion of the Sankore University in Timbuktu, and the building of other numerous schools throughout the Songhai Empire, aided increase in population and attracted many people to the empire. Songhai strengthened its cultural ties with the rest of the Muslim world, by encouraging immigration of scholars and skilled workers from Arabia, Egypt, Morocco and Spain.
Political Factors: Songhai embarked on military conquest of some cities and its surrounding lands and this expedition led to the expansion of the empire greatly. Songhai established diplomatic relations with Egypt, Morocco, Arabia and Spain. This resulted in the visits of scholars from these places into Songhai Empire and the empire became popular. The empire concentrated on the building of the army which gave her the opportunity to guard and control the trans-Saharan trade. Her dominance in the trade greatly boosted its economy. Songhai operated a centralised form of government by creating large and elaborate bureaucracy to oversee the empire’s interest; this was in addition to the emergence of powerful leaders such as Askia Muhammed among others, who wisely and diligently ruled, putting in place structures which aided the building of Songhai Empire. It can therefore be seen that Songhai Empire’s tightly structured and hierarchically patterned political system, with well trained and organized military, aided the rise of the empire.
Economic Factors: Songhai economy flourished as a result of the safe and peaceful trade that existed in the empire. According to reports, about 200,000 members of the armed forces of Songhai Empire secured the trade in each of the provinces, which allowed for a stable economy in the empire. The gold fields of the Niger River, which were often independently operated, provided a steady supply of gold. The gold was sold on trade by barter arrangement for salt. The slave trade also added more funds to the treasury of Songhai Empire. So also was book trade developed at Sankore University at Timbuktu. Agriculture also prospered. The security of the trans-Saharan trade routes made all these prosperous and flourishing.