East African Trading System

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The trading system on the east African coast has been one of world relevance for centuries. Long before the Portuguese, and the first Europeans, officially established themselves on the coast around the 1500’s, the Swahili merchants, Indians and Arabs were already involved in this area of the Great Indian Ocean to trade with the Middle East, Mediterranean and the eastern Indian Ocean and their islands. They had great knowledge of shipbuilding, currents and navigation, using various vessels to trade in between the islands and to cross the Indian ocean to Asia. So when the Portuguese came to the coastlands, they found an already established trading network and could easily adapt and take over the trading routes with their advanced ships and military…show more content…
The imports in the region were among other things, weapons, gunpowder, watches, flour, refined sugar, liquor and glass goods. The Zanzibar’s trade towards India consisted mainly of ivory, cloves, copal, sandalwood, hippocampus teeth, wooden beams, rhinoceros horns, and…show more content…
This ancient trade, which had been in place for centuries, got revived and implemented on a bigger scale during the Oman rule of the East African Coast and her trading routes. Ivory had been exported from east African coast since the 2nd century A.D. towards the Mediterranean and was the leading market together with India and China since the 7th century. The ivory, exploited from the coast was mostly being transported from Mozambique. The demand from the Middle East and Indian coast for the East African ivory, which was soft and therefore used to make ivory carvings, was high, mainly due to the low prices in comparison to the ivory form East-Asia. During the nineteenth century the demand from Europe and the Americas increased as well and the Arab merchants began to open up new trading routes from the hinterlands towards the East African coast. The demand was mainly influenced by the industrial revolution, with the invention of mechanically cut ivory at the beginning of the 19th century, where the soft ivory from east Africa was best suited for. Where the ivory used to be taken from the coastal areas, the increase in trade caused the elephant population to decrease drastically and traders were forced to travel inwards Kenya and Tanzania to supply the demand. The ivory trade was organized from Zanzibar, where the sultan Said of Zanzibar took his seat in 1832, via

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