The atlantic slave trade

The Atlantic Slave Trade
Ahmad Althuwaini
The Atlantic Slave Trade
The Slave trade in Africa had negative effects regarding both the long term and short
term. The slave trade lasted longer than the colonial period thus having more effects than the
colonial period. In addition to displacing a significant population, the slave trade led to
African nations waging war against each other and disrupting local economies and cultures
(Nunn, 2008). The African nations and Africa as a region were destabilized and it became
hard to industrialize. This paper seeks to explore the long term effects of the Trans-Atlantic
slave trade and how the slave trade affected the economic and socio-political landscape of
Slave trade in Africa came in to destroy and disrupt a pre-existing harmonious way of
life. Before slavery, communities lived proximate to each other, with the occasional tests of
power which included community to community-based cattle raids. But that was only that
and was considered a way of life. However, when the slave trade came in, everything
changed. The thinking of the people and their leaders changed. The right way of life was
shattered and the most moral fabric was eroded. In the beginning, it’s only the intruders who
invaded and got away with slaves, but with time even individuals of the same ethnicity
enslaved one another. Common results included weakened states, leading to political
instability, ethnic fragmentation and the corruption of judicial institutions.
The procurement of slaves included internal warfare, raiding and kidnapping. The
most common manner of slave procurement included villages or states raiding one another.
Some groups of villages developed into large-scale federations and relations with other
villages turned hostile. Ties between villages were weakened and blocked the formation of
large communities and broad ethnic identities (Nunn, 2008). Consequently, people were
confined within ethnic boundaries as the writer puts it “insecurity confined people within
ethnic boundaries constructing spheres of interaction”. The slave trade thus resulted in state
collapse and ethnic fractionalization which are subsequent effects to development As a result,
the slave trades explain the high level of ethnic fractionalization in Africa. Ethnic
fractionalization is significant for economic development given the parallel relationship
between ethnic fractionalization and long-term economic development.
Illustrating the underdevelopment of Africa using figures has also been done. The
mean level of average per capita income in Africa is $1,834 as per 2000 measures. The mean
is lower than the average for the rest of the world which is $8,809. Nunn (2008) argues that if
the slave trade did not take place, the 72% average income gap between Africa and the rest of
the world would be nonexistent. As the writer puts it, “had the slave trades not occurred,
Africa would not be the most underdeveloped region of the world and it would have a similar
level of development to Latin America or Asia” (Nunn, 2008). This thus shows how the slave
trade composed the long term underdevelopment story in Africa.
The slave trade displaced a substantial population from the African nations involved.
Population growth has a special relationship to economic growth and other factors such as
security. In Africa, communities that had larger populations were more likely to protect
themselves and to succeed as opposed to the ones with fewer people which were often
considered weak. The larger communities would protect themselves and manage to grow
steadily at the same time. This was corrupted and stopped by the slave trade. The human
labor required to steer a developing people was reduced by more than half, as the writer
writes “by 1850, Africa”s population was half what it would have been if the slave trade had
not taken place”. This only indicates the extent to which the population was affected and how
demographics were intermittently changed. Also in regard to population displacement and
regard to economic performance, the writer indicates that the poorest African countries are
the ones from which most slaves were taken.
Uncertainty and insecurity made individuals require weapons. The weapons were
readily availed by Europeans in exchange for slaves, thus pushing the need to enslave others
to protect themselves. The internal conflict led to political instability and the subsequent
collapse of existing forms of governments. The writer gives an example of the Kongo
kingdom of west-central Africa, where the kidnapping of local Kongo citizens was so
rampant that the king had to write to Portugal complaining of the slave traders, and the ruin
they were bringing to the kingdom (Nunn, 2008). The breakdown of law and order was
partially responsible for the fall of many powerful kingdoms and states. The fall of the
established states and kingdoms spelled many years of reconstruction and even the current
hostility that still exists between some African communities, which only impedes
The Slave trade also contributed to the corruption of previously strong and just legal
structures. Slaves were now obtained through false accusations where communities enslaved
their own. Leaders themselves supported and abused judicial systems to protect themselves.
Some even paid tribute using slaves. The writer gives an example of the chief of Cassanga in
the modern-day Guinea Bissau who used the “red water ordeal” to procure slaves and their
properties (Nunn, 2008). People who were found guilty were forced to take the drink. Those
who vomited were judged to be guilty and hence were sold to slavery while those who did
not vomit were deemed not guilty, even though they eventually died due to poisoning. Such
kind of corruption dictates the roots of modern-day corruption and the long time taken to
mend social fabrics. This also translates to slow economic growth. Statistically speaking and
in regard to outside context research, current economic development in Africa would be
almost double what it is if the slave trade did not take place.
In conclusion, it is evident that the Tras-Atlantic slave trade mainly affected the
development of the affected African nations and Africa as a continent. The slave trade also
determined and shaped the current African continent, in terms of cultural and social outcomes
as well. Other outcomes determined by the slave trade include ethnic diversity, the
prevalence of conflict, economic prosperity and institutional quality amongst others.
Nunn, N (2008), “The Long-Term Effects of Africa’s Slave Trades”, Quarterly Journal of
Economics, 123: 139-176.

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