The Pre–colonial African societies were not static or unchanging they went through various transformations that were influenced by the nature of the environment, climate and soil fertility. At the time of colonization, most of pre–colonial African societies were in the communal mode of production but in transition to the feudal mode of production. Some societies were in the feudal mode of production. The slave mode of production was not well developed because most of the Africa societies transformed from the communal mode directly to the feudal mode of production. There were various characteristics of pre – colonial African societies
1.The family was the basic unit of production. This limited the division of labour and it was a hindrance to the development of science and technology, consequently agricultural production was always low in pre – colonial Africa.
2.The level of productive forces was very low because the tools used were made of stones. The use of primitive tools led to low levels of production which in turn contributed to the absence of surplus.
3.Land was the commonest object of labour; its distribution was on cultural values and traditions. In clan organization land was distributed by the clan head on customary laws.
There were some class societies in pre–colonial Africa. For example under the slave mode of production; there was a 4.class of slave masters and the slaves and in feudal mode of production was characterized by a class of land lords/ feudal lords, and peasants.
5.The major economic activities were agriculture and pastoralism. Agriculture was mainly carried out by feudal societies and it was common in the interlacustrine region. Pastoralism was mainly practiced by societies that level in the rift valley region for example the Maasai of East Africa.
6.The pre–colonial African societies were pre–capitalist because there are three modes of production. I.e. communal, slavery and Feudal modes of production. The capitalist mode of production was introduced during colonialism.
7.Production in pre–colonial Africa was mainly for consumption and not for the market. Production for the market was introduced during colonialism whereby Africans were producing raw materials for the export market.