Hausa Traders in North West Cameroon from the 19TH to the 20TH Century a Historical Investigation

Jabiru Muhammadou Amadou

Abstract


Gold and ivory were the products of old West Africa that were desired above all else by the traders of North Africa. Trans-Saharan commerce in these items helped to build the comfort and splendour of large North African cities. But the main expansion of the trans-Saharan long distance trade came after the Muslim conquests of North Africa in the eighth century AD. It was from this time onwards that the trade began to have important results for the Western and Central Sudan. The peoples of West Africa, among which the Hausas, had one great need which the people of the Sahara could help to supply, this was salt exchange for gold. Sahara Berbers sold the goods they bought from the Sudan to the Arab traders of North Africa, and the traders of North Africa sold them again to Europeans and Asians. European and Asian goods came down into West Africa by the same methods. The Hausas supplied ivory and kola nuts. The Hausas are a people who traced their origin from the Baghdad area of the Middle East. From there, they started migrating, passing through Sudan and arriving the Kanem Bornu area around the 16th and 17th century. Taking into consideration that they were town dwellers who engaged in commercial activities, they continued their migration and arrived Nigeria in the 17th century. During the 19th century when Uthman Dan Fodio launched his jihad, the Hausas were also involved. In the course of spreading the Islamic faith, the Hausas migrated to the Adamawa region of Cameroon. While in the Adamawa, many of the migrant traders continued their Southward March to the North West Region in the 1900. They established their settlements there. The Hausas were principally long distant traders who supplied kola nuts and ivory from the Bamenda Grassfields to merchants in the lower Benue and other areas of the Adamawa region. Each Hausa settlement in the Northwest was a market place for the nearby countryside. Each Hausa settlement also became gradually a centre for long distance trade. It became a place for the exchange not only of locally-produced goods but also of goods brought from Nigeria, North Africa and Egypt, from the rest of the Sudan. Not all Hausas in the Northwest engaged in long distant trade.

Those who stayed back home traded with the different tribes in the Northwest region.  Thanks to Hausa traders, the Northwest region greatly prospered to the extent that Bamenda grew up to become a cosmopolitan and commercial town. This article therefore set out to examine the commercial activities carried out by Hausa traders in the Northwest Region of Cameroon during the 19th and 20th century. We also intend to analyse how those commercial activities were organised and what were the benefits behind those trading transactions. It is worthwhile noting here that the gains gotten from those businesses were enormous. Both Hausas and non-Hausas benefited so much from the prosperous long and short distant Hausa traders. To crown it all, the Northwest Region of Cameroon owed much of it developments to the commercial activities carried out by the Hausas resident in that region.


Keywords


Hausas; Traders; Jihad; Adamawa; Kola nut; Ivory; Bamenda Grassfields.

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