What Factors Caused the Rise and Fall of Ghana?

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The African trade in gold and salt caused the Ghana Empire to rise to prominence, and the disruption of that trade led to its decline. During its time, Ghana was one of the richest polities in Africa.

Though Ghana was not rich in natural resources itself, it was located along an important trade route between gold- and ivory-producing areas in the south and salt miners in the Sahara desert to the north. As a result of this strategically important location, Ghana became a wealthy entrepot.

Though the exact origins of Ghana are clothed in mystery, tradition places the empire’s origins in the fourth century AD. By the ninth century, the area had become affluent according to accounts by Muslim traders who began to visit the area. These traders from the north continued to develop the trade, linking its gold resources with the vital markets in the Mediterranean region, and the empire grew larger by incorporating its neighbors.

The decline of the empire started in the 11th century, when the Almoravids, a militant confederation of Muslims, began to attack the empire and even conquered it for a time. Though their grip on power did not last long, the chaos they brought to the region destabilized trade, hurting the empire’s sources of income. Decline ensued. The remnants of Ghana were incorporated into the Mali Empire in 1240.