This refers to the type of trade that involved three continents Africa, America and Europe.

In this trading system, Africa was the source of cheap labor which was in the form slaves. America was the source of raw materials and Europe was the source of manufactured goods, hence the triangle. The main participants were Britain, France, Holland and Portugal.


The Atlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, or Euro-American slave trade involved the transportation by slave traders of various enslaved African people, mainly to the Americas. The slave trade regularly used the triangular trade route and its Middle Passage, and existed from the 16th to the 19th centuries.

The vast majority of those who were enslaved and transported in the transatlantic slave trade were people from Central and West Africa that had been sold by other West Africans to Western European slave traders, while others had been captured directly by the slave traders in coastal raids; Europeans gathered and imprisoned the enslaved at forts on the African coast and then brought them to the Americas.

Except for the Portuguese, European slave traders generally did not participate in the raids because life expectancy for Europeans in sub-Saharan Africa was less than one year during the period of the slave trade (which was prior to the widespread availability of quinine as a treatment for malaria).

The colonial South Atlantic and Caribbean economies were particularly dependent on labour for the production of sugarcane and other commodities. This was viewed as crucial by those Western European states which, in the late 17th and 18th centuries, were vying with one another to create overseas empires.

There are various factors that contributed to the rise of the Trans Atlantic slave trade

a) Discovery of the new world.

The discovery of the new world that is America by Christopher Columbus in 1492 contributed to the rise of Trans Atlantic slave trade. The Europeans rushed to America and established plantations and mining centers which demanded for labor, this necessitated the importation of Africans thus the beginning of the Trans Atlantic slave trade.

b) Discovery of maritime technology.

The discovery of the art of making ships and compass direction played a fundamental role in the rise of the Trans Atlantic slave trade, this technology made it possible for Europeans to trade with various countries across the Atlantic Ocean.

c) The inability of the indigenous people.

At first the Europeans were using Native Americans, red Indians to provide cheap labor on the plantations and mining centers; but these later died in huge numbers due to plague. This called for the importation of African slaves which contributed to the rise of the Trans Atlantic slave trade.

d) The establishment of plantations.

After the discovery of the new world, many Europeans flocked to America; these included the British, French, Portuguese and the Dutch. Many of these immigrants established plantations that caused more demand for slave labor. The increased demand contributed to the development of Trans–Atlantic slave trade.

e) Accessibility.

The accessibility between the new world and the West African coast facilitated the rise of the Trans Atlantic slave trade. The distance from West Africa to the new world is very narrow thus it made it possible for the transportation of goods between the two regions.


The Trans Atlantic slave trade was a disaster to Africa. It is one of the factors which contributed to under development in Africa.

(a) Economic effects

i. Removal of African labor; The Trans Atlantic slave trade was associated with the uprooting of many Africans who were taken to provide cheap labor on European plantations in America. The ones who were taken were between the ages of 15 and 35 who made up the productive force in Africa.

ii. Stagnation of African technology; The Trans Atlantic slave trade contributed to the stagnation of African technology. It led to the flooding of European manufactured goods which were exchanged for slaves. Due to these goods , the Africans found it easier to sell their fellow Africans in exchange for manufactured goods hence they neglected production which led to the stagnation of African technology.

iii. Decline of African agricultural production; There was decline in agricultural production due to the loss of labor. Those who were taken as slaves were the ones who were very active in farms, thus their removal led to shortage of labor consequently causing the decline in agricultural production.

iv. Decline of African traditional industries; It contributed to the decline of African traditional industries due to the flooding of European manufactured goods. Due to these goods Africans abandoned production and exchanged their fellow Africans with the Europeans goods. The manufactured goods from Europe also destroyed African traditional industries by killing the market for African local goods.

v. Insecurity; The major item of trade during the Trans–Atlantic slave trade was slaves. The slaves were acquired through release of ambushing and raiding various villages, these activities contributed to insecurity which disrupted trade and agriculture.

(b) Social effects

i. Depopulation; It led to depopulation because millions of Africans were uprooted and exported to America as cheap labor. It is believed that during the 400 years of slave trade, around 100,000,000 Africans were taken as slaves.

ii.Famine; The Trans Atlantic slave trade contributed to famine in Africa. The trade was characterized with insecurity because of slave trading activities, the insecurity made it difficult for people to engage in agricultural production.

iii. Erosion of African culture; The Trans Atlantic slave trade was associated with an influx of foreigners especially Europeans. This led to a destruction of African traditional values because Africans were coping European culture.

iv. Break down families; There was break down of families because various members were taken as slaves.

(c) Political effects

i. Fall of states; The Trans Atlantic slave trade contributed to the collapse of some states in West Africa, these included Oyo and Benin. These states collapsed because of slave trading activities which led to famine and depopulation consequently leading their decline.


Mercantilism had great impact in the development of industrial revolution and the eventual transformation of European countries into big powers. The European countries accumulated capital for around 300 years. It should be noted that mercantilism was a blessing to Europe, but a tragedy to Africa. The contribution of mercantile trade to the developing of European industrial capitalism included the following;

I. Accumulation capital.

The European countries acquired a lot of capital from mercantilism. The countries were able to accumulate a lot of capital throughout the 300 years of mercantilism through unequal exchange, the obtained precious metals such as gold, silver and diamond which they used to finance the industrial revolution.

II. Source of cheap labour.

Mercantilism was associated with slave trade, during this period millions of Africans were uprooted and exported to America, where they provided


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