The Fall of the West African Empires Between 300 and 1600 AD three west African empires Ghana, Mali, and Sanghai came into power. The wealth of these empires came from the trading of gold and salt. These empires controlled at least at least two thirds of the world gold trade and taxed the traders heavily. Despite the splendor and wealth of these empires each one eventually lost power.
The first empire to rise to power was Ghana. At the time, the main gold and salt passed through Ghana and they taxed traders heavily. The price of gold was kept high by outlawing anyone except the king to own gold nuggets. By the year 700 the empire of Ghana had grown very powerful. Unfortunately for Ghana, in the year 1076, its northern borders were over run by Muslim Berbers.
Ghana eventually drove out the Berbers but the gold and salt trade, which it depended on, had been irrevocably damaged. Because traders no longer trusted Ghana s trade routes and because supplies of gold near the coast ran out, the trade routes moved further east were miners had found new deposits of gold. By the year 1200 Ghana had lost control of it s precious trade routes which were now controlled by the more eastern empire of Mali. Mali, like Ghana, taxed the traders and local chiefs heavily. The Mali empire was very short lived. By the late 1300 s Mali was experiencing the same gold shortages Ghana had.
Again, new mines were discovered eastward and the Mali trade routes were replaced by the Sanghai. On top of this, the founder of the Sanghai, Sunni Ali, attacked and looted the Mela in trade centers of Timbuktu and Jenn e, and then extended his rule to the outlying savanna and rain forest. Under the rule of Sunni Ali s successor, Asia Muhammad, Sanghai prospered. He divided the hug empire into provinces ruled by governors and setup an efficient tax system. The formerly Malian city of Timbuktu did especially well. A famous university there attracted Muslims from all over.
Despite it s prosperity, just as the empires of Ghana and Mali had fallen, so did Sanghai. This time however, it was for different reasons. Instead of falling victim to dwindling resources, the Sanghai empire was destroyed by a Moroccan sultan by the name of El Mansur who led 4000 men armed with cannons into Sanghai. Although three fourths of them died crossing the Sahara, the Sanghai were devastated by the Moroccan s cannons. With only swords and spears, Sanghai s 27, 000 person army was helpless. The Moroccans destroyed the Sanghai empire, thus ending the zenith of the West African empires..