October 19, 2020

The Factors Responsible for the Rise of the Western Sudanese States

Reading Time: 2 minutes

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.

Ralph Nyadzi

Ralph has a passion for the teaching and learning of Language and Literature mainly because these two help him to understand and appreciate why people act the way they do. Over the past two decades, he has coached over 5000 students and adult learners to achieve their educational goals. Ralph is the founder and CEO of Cegast Academy.

View all posts by Ralph Nyadzi →

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