The Factors Responsible for the Rise of the Western Sudanese States

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This tutorial takes a quick look at the factors that led to the rise of the Western Sudanese states or Empires.

For all Senior High School students preparing for a test in WASSCE History, the Western Sudanese empires of Ghana, Mali and Songhai, ought to be a familiar topic

Below is one common way that the people at WAEC set a question on the Western Sudanese states.


All I’m going to do in this post is to give a summarized, bullet point easy-to-remember response to the above test question.

So, here we go …

Western Sudan refers to the savannah belt of West Africa stretching from the Atlantic Coast in the west to lake Chad in the east.  States, which rose in this area, include Ghana, Mali, Songhai, Kanem-Bornu and the Hausa state of Sokoto.

Factors accounting for the rise of Western Sudanese states

1. Linguistics

– Existence of core linguistic and ethnic groups in the areas of the state.

This played a major role in uniting the people behind a strong, centralized political leadership

Here come some examples.

Soninke – Ghana.

– Mandingo – Mali

– Songhai – Songhai

– Kanuri – Kanem-Bornu

This brought about peace, unity and stability.

2. Political – one …

There were bureaucratic and highly respected monarchies.

The people obeyed their kings without question since they were regarded as divine. This ensured stability and progress.

2. Political – two …

Able and strong leadership

The kings ruled effectively and this led to the rise and growth of the Western Sudanese states.

– They established strong armies to expand and safeguard their kingdoms.

Examples of leaders of these hugely successful Western Sudanese states were: .

Askia the Great (Songhai)

Mansa Musa and Sundiata (Mali)

Idris Alaoma (Kanem- Bornu)

3. Economic


– Most of the Western Sudanese were middlemen in the Trans-Saharan Trade.

– This brought wealth and growth of cities and towns.  E.g. Timbuktu, Jenne, Kumbi Saleh, Gao.

4. Geography

Favourable location

– The rise of the Western Sudanese also became possible since they were in the midst of abundant natural resources.

– They became self-sufficient in food production and supply.

They had mineral wealth as well.

Gold – Wangara

Salt – Taghaza

Copper – Tekedda

What you need to do next …

Keep studying this topic and more in the best way you can. Do not also forget to leave a comment.

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About Ralph Nyadzi

Ralph is a professional blogger, founder and CEO of RN Digital Media Ent. He spends his day working as an online entrepreneur, e-learning strategist and a test prep coach. If you can't locate him anywhere online doing what he knows how to do best, then check him out on his farm or in the kitchen. He lives in the Central Region of his native country, Ghana.

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