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African Trade

From Critical Thinking Internet Activities: Ancient and Medieval History.
© Curriculum Adventures.

You're going to put yourself in the shoes of two different merchants from ancient Africa: one from Egypt and one from West Africa. These two regions traded with each other beginning in the 7th century A.D. You'll be asked to explain why each merchant would have been interested in doing business with the other, despite the long and difficult journey over the Sahara desert.

1. First, have a look at the map at the Trade in Ancient Africa page at This map shows the trade routes you'll be learning about.

2. Find out about the geography of the Sahara and travel conditions at the following sites:

  1. Describe the landscape and climate along the trade routes.

  2. Would this have been an easy trek? Why do you think someone would have undertaken it or hired others to take this journey?

3. Now find out a little about the concept of supply and demand, which was important in the development and success of the ancient African trade routes. Go to the Econopolis Supply & Demand Land page at

Read this page. Your teacher may want to stop and have a discussion after you've read it.

Now think of products you're familiar with for which there is:

  1. high supply but low demand:

  2. high demand but low supply:

  3. high supply and high demand:

4. Go to the Trade in Ancient Africa page at to read about the trade routes. Then answer these questions:

  1. Imagine you're a merchant from Egypt. Why would you want to trade over the desert and send your goods on such a journey? What product is in high demand in your area and high supply in West Africa?

  2. Imagine you're a West African merchant. What product is in high demand in your area and high supply in the Sahara and northern Africa?