Trade refers to the exchange of goods or services with money or other goods or is the buying and selling of goods
The development of agriculture brought important economic changes as people were now able to produce surplus food which is more than needed to feed their own immediate family thus the surplus could be traded between neighboring settlement in exchange for raw materials luxuries and other items not produced within the community
It is clear that societies are not fully self sufficient. Therefore, interactions say between pastoralists with cultivators and agriculturalists with craftsmen in order to exchange goods are required. The major means of distributions from one hand to another were through gifts, tributes and taxation.
The exchanges carried out were not aimed at getting profit but it was after the use value of commodities and also strengthening relations. For example a person who exchanged his cattle with millet was not in search of profit.
Before the emergence of groups of people who specialised in trade the exchange system was barter this involved the exchange of goods for goods.
As societies developed trade development was also inevitable basing on the fact that some societies were not having specific resources which could only be obtained through the exchange.
Increase in surplus production supplemented with the development of industries, the presence of safe routes and the regional specialisation not forgetting the love for adventure cemented the development and expansion of trading activities in pre colonial Africa. The expansion of trading activities resulted into two major types of trade emerging in pre colonial Africa include:-
(a) The local trade (internal exchange relations). This was conducted from the village among the homogenous community, it did not require specific places to act as a markets, there was no need of middle men as goods passed freely from the hands of producers to consumers.
Many pre colonial African societies at first developed this trade as it availed them with the commodities they needed with much ease. People living within a given community exchanged commodities amongst themselves in order to fill the missing link; for example, cultivators could exchange their food with the livestock from the pastoralists, other commodities exchanged included iron tools, ornaments, animal skins and agricultural produce.
Generally speaking, the exchange which started with the intention to cement the existing social bonds amongst the different societies resulted in the growth of several industries, simulation of production for goods required in the exchange. It also led to the increase in incomes of the people who actively participated in the trade, the emergence and development of relationships among people of different localities for example the Sukuma trading with the Maasai and also the availability of all goods in the community brought about by increased production and the expansion in the exchanges.
(b) Regional trade (long distance trade). Trade between East and Central Africa started from the 1st millennium AD as they traded in raffia cloth, ivory and hides, copper from Katanga exchanged with salt from Uvinza.
This was concerned with the exchange of goods with people from different regions. This called for specialisation and dealt with the commodities which were relatively scarce and geographical un evenly distributed among the people of different ethnic groups. Regional trade involved different regions in the trading process. In East and Central Africa it came to be known as long distance trade while in West Africa it was called trans Saharan trade.