During Pre-colonial period there was the number of economic activities practiced by African. The main economic activities in the pre-colonial period can be classified into three main categories
- Handcraft Industries
This is an economic activities which involved cultivation of crops and animal keeping. It started at the end of the late Stone Age, this was after man had improved his tools
Types of agriculture practice included;
- Permanent crop cultivation
- Shifting agriculture
- Mixed farming
All these types of agriculture were determined by environmental factors of a particular place.
- Permanent Crop Cultivation
This was the agricultural activities which involved cultivation of crops throughout a year in a particular place. This type of agriculture practiced in places with fertile land and heavy rainfall throughout the year. Crops such as bananas, palm and coffee were grown
It was practiced along the Indian Ocean coast, North West and Highland areas of Central Kenya, Mount Kilimanjaro and Meru and Usambara Mountains in Southern highlands. Livestock keeping was also practiced under this type of agriculture.
- Shifting Agriculture
This is the type of agriculture whereby farmers cultivate their crops temporary, it involve movement from one area to another until its fertility has been naturally restored.
- Mixed Farming
It is the type of farming where a society keeps livestock while at the same time practicing crop cultivation
Before colonialism this type of farming was practiced in grasslands where there was a moderate rainfall, in the tropical woodlands, in the steppe areas and in the highland areas that enjoy seasonal rainfall
People practiced mixed farming included The Ankole in Uganda, Kimbu and Sukuma, Wagogo, and Nyamwezi in Tanzania and they also included Kamba and Kikuyu in Kenya.
This is among the economic activities which concentrated more on animal keeping, examples of those animals are cattle, goats and sheep, donkeys and camels
Pastoralist depended on animal products such as meat, milk, blood and skin which were shared among the family members, livestock belonged to the entire family.
Pastoralism was commonly practiced in dryland which had scarce rainfall, these include Arid and semi-Arid areas of East Africa such as Northern Kenya extending to the Central past of Kenya.
Other pastoralists occupied the tropical grassland. These were the Karamajong and Teso in Northern Uganda and Maasai in Southern Kenya and Northern part of Tanzania. The tropical grassland received very little rainfall.
Pastoral communities were nomadic; they had no permanent settlement, they were always moving in search of pastures and water for their livestock.
IMPACT OF AGRICULTURE TO THE TRADITIONAL SOCIETY
- Improvement in agriculture resulted in increased food production. This in turn led to rapid population growth
- Availability of adequate food enable people to trade and engage in other economic activities
- Cultivation of crops encouraged permanent settlement
- Areas used as a market places grew into urban centers
- Led to the improvement of other economic activities such as Trade and handcraft industries
- Agricultural also led to introduction of medicine
- Handcraft Industries
The term Industry refers to the place where raw materials are manufactured/processed to become product, this is the place where goods are manufactured.
Handcraft means production or manufacturing of goods by using both hand and artistic skills, for example in pre-colonial era in order to suit their needs. The major and crafts produced were irons melting and salt extraction, pottery, cloth making and carpentry.
Some of the famous people in handcraft were the Makonde of Tanzania and Mozambique, Fipa from Rukwa and Nyamwezi.
Importance of Handcraft Industries
Types of Industries
- They helped to identify the culture of a given people
- Some handcraft produced used in traditional, religious and cultural activities
- They were used as a symbol of Power by Kings
- Some traditional societies used handcrafts to symbolize social prestige, beauty and identity
- Some handcraft products were used as storage facilities such as spoons and furniture.
- Salt- making extraction
This was one of the earliest activities which was related to the development of agriculture, it was used as an ingredients in food and for preserving perishable food stuffs
- Iron smelting
Technology of smelting iron developed in areas with iron deposits, and it spread to many areas in Africa by 1050 AD
The art of making iron was the most important discovery that shaped man’s social and economic development. The blacksmiths were able to identify rocks that contained iron ores.
The knowledge of iron making was kept secret by those societies that practiced it. Examples of societies that developed iron smelting technology include Mapumbugwe in South Africa, The shona of Zimbabwe, Meru of Kenya, Kerewe, Buhaya and Zinza of Geita and Buganda people from Uganda
Barter System is the exchange of goods for other goods, Societies that emerged as professional traders include Yao from Southern Tanzania, Chewa and Bisa of Central Africa, Imbagala and Vimbundu of Angola and others.
During pre-colonial African societies there were two types of trade;
- Local trade
- Regional or long distance trade
- Local trade
Local trade is an internal exchange within a given society. Local trade in pre-colonial societies did not aim at profit making but rather aimed at enabling people to obtain essential use values that they could not produce themselves. For example a peasant who took his grains to the market to obtain bark cloth was not after profit.
- Regional/long distance trade
This was the commercial transaction which was conducted between different regions, this involved the exchange aimed at profit making. It developed after the emergence of professional traders who travelled from one region to another. For example copper from Katanga was exchanged for salt from Uvinza. Examples of Long distance trade are long distance in Central and East Africa and Long Distance trade between North and West Africa (Trans Sahara trade).
Advantages of Long Distance Trade in Central and East Africa were;
Disadvantages of Long distance trade
- Growth of States such as Buganda, Mirambo, Mkwa’s Mwanamutapa
- Acquisition of new experience and skills for example iron working
- It strengthened local contacts between different communities
- People were able to get commodities that they were not able to produce
- It strengthening some peoples economy
Evolution of Man, Technology and Environment Development of Social and Political Systems in Africa
- It led to the fall of some states such as Kazembe, Maravi, Manua and Sere of Tabora
- Devastation of economic activity due to slave trade
- Occurrence of Insecurity
- formation of classes between rich and poor people