SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES BETWEEN SONGHAI, GHANA AND MALI EMPIRES
- The three empires were located close to the Niger River; they developed from the same Western Sudan region.
- The peopling of Ghana, Mali and Songhai Empires was similar.
- The three empires controlled the salt and gold trade.
- They were all strongly involved in the trans-Saharan trade.
- The three empires rose to their peak at different periods.
- They all declined as a result of certain similar weaknesses.
- They all had clans and heterogeneous populations.
- They were all dynastic empires and centralised states.
- Ghana, Mali and Songhai empires were important in the history of Western Sudan.
- The three empires relied heavily on trade.
- They all produced gold which made them to be strongly involved in the trans-Saharan trade.
- The three empires embraced Islam and established relations with neighbouring Islamic kingdoms.
- The three empires were all successful and well organized states at a point in time of their history.
- Each of the empires had a capital as the centre of administration and economy.
There were many differences between Ghana, Mali and Songhai Empires.
- The three empires were built at different times and by different leaders.
- Their ethnic origins were different.
- They reached their peak at different times, and so were the period of their fall.
- They had different titles for their leaders. The title of the ruler of Mali Empire was Mansa, the title of the ruler of Songhai Empire was Askia, while Ghana had no specific title for its ruler.
- Mali and Songhai were bigger and better organized than Ghana.
- The formation of Ghana Empire is lost to memory, and different views are expressed by historians. Mali and Songhai kept records of their founders. Mali was created through the union of smaller states led by Sundiata Keita, while Songhai was created by Sunni Ali.
- Mali became a much larger, prosperous and influential empire than Ghana and so was Songhai in comparison to Mali.
- There were differences also in the political and economic systems of the respective empires.
- In Ghana, Islam was introduced by the Berbers nomads. In Mali, Mansa Musa was a Muslim convert but allowed the people to practice the traditional religion. In Songhai, Askia Muhammad promoted the spread of Islam through scholars. He accused the previous rulers for not promoting the authentic teaching and practice of Islam.
- The major factors that led to the decline of each of the three empires were also different. For Ghana, it was the invasion of the Almoravids. In Mali, successors of Mansa Musa were weak and that encouraged the rebellion of the Berber nomads. In Songhai, after the reign of the Askias, the succeeding rulers were not strong, and that was the time the Moroccan invasion took place.
- Trade and commerce were organized differently in each of the three empires. Ghana traded in small quantity of gold to maintain its economy. In Mali, Timbuktu was the major centre for trading in salt and gold. In Songhai, Sunni Ali expanded the borders and the effective control of the salt mine by Askia Muhammad sustained the economy of the empire.
- The three empires had different capitals. Ghana had Koumbi and Saleh, Mali’s capital was Niani and Songhai’s capital was Gao.
- Ghana Empire was smaller than Mali and Songhai was bigger than Mali in terms of territorial coverage.
- Mali was the most internationally acknowledged empire than Ghana and Songhai, mainly because of the pilgrimage made by its leaders to Mecca.