Lesson Plan

Lesson 2: Trekking to Timbuktu: Trade in Ancient West Africa (Student Version)

Timbuktu from the terrace of the traveller's house in 1858.
Photo caption

Timbuktu from the terrace of the traveller's house in 1858.

Trade has played an important role in the economy of West Africa since very early times. As early as 300 CE, camel caravans carried salt from mines in the Sahara Desert to trading centers along the Niger River in present-day Mali. Their mission was to exchange the salt for the gold that was mined in forests near the headwaters of the Niger. West Africa's first kingdom, Ghana, became wealthy and powerful because it controlled the trade routes and commercial activities in its region.

    Guiding Questions

    What were the major trade routes in this region?

    How did the kingdom of Ghana accumulate wealth?

    How did Islam spread across Africa?

    How did Muslim merchants influence the development of trade in West Africa?

    Learning Objectives

    Interpret maps and other images to draw conclusions about the spread of Islam and growth of Empires in Northern Africa. 

    Analyze primary and secondary sources to determine the causes and effects of trade and spread of Islam in Northern Africa.

    Evaluate the environmental, economic, and cultural changes that came as a result of trade routes and the development of African Empires. 

    Evaluate the role played by Muslim merchants in the expansion of West African trade.