The Sahelian kingdoms were a series of centralized kingdoms or empires that were centered on the Sahel, the area of grasslands south of the Sahara, from the 8th century to the 19th. The wealth of the states came from controlling the trade routes across the desert. Their power came from having large pack animals like camels and horses that were fast enough to keep a large empire under central control and were also useful in such kind of battle. All of these empires were also quite decentralized with member cities having a great deal of autonomy.
The Sahel states were limited from expanding south into the forest zone of the Bono and Yoruba as mounted warriors were all but useless in the forests and the horses and camels could not survive the diseases of the region.
There were integrated kingdoms and empires, with substantial cities and significant towns; and less organised territories with large scattered populations. People practised agriculture, stock-rearing, hunting, fishing, and crafts (metalworking, textiles, ceramics). They navigated along rivers and across lakes, traded over short and long distances, and used their own currencies.
African states between 500 BCE and 1500 CE
The main slave trade routes in Africa during the Middle Ages.
Trade routes of the western Saharan Desert c. 1000 – 1500 Goldfields are indicated by light brown shading.
The Ghana Empire at its greatest extent c. 1050
The successor states to the Ghana Empire c. 1200
Influence of the Kanem Empire c. 1200
Extent of the Mali Empire c. 1350
Constituent states of the Wolof Empire.
Constituent states of the Wolof Empire c. 1400
Carte des peuplades du Sénégal de l'abbé Boilat (1853): an ethnic map of Senegal at the time of French colonialism. The pre-colonial states of Baol, Sine and Saloum are arrayed along the southwest coast, with the inland areas marked "Peuple Sérère".
The Songhai Empire c. 1500
Bornu Empire territory by 1500
The Mali Empire and surrounding states, c. 1625
Senegambia c. 1707 Waalo marked as Re. D'Oualle in the upper left.
Bornu Empire and eastern Sahelian kingdoms c. 1750
The extent of the Bornu Empire, c. 1750
Shilluk Kingdom (yellow) and its neighbors, c. 1800
Bornu Empire in 1810
Sokoto Caliphate, 19th century
Major slave trading regions of West Africa, 15th–19th centuries
Depiction of the classical model of the triangular trade.
Depiction of the triangular trade of slaves, sugar, and rum with New England instead of Europe as the third corner.