The social and economic changes brought on by iron working technology in Africa
what are the impacts of iron working technology in social and economic development in Africa?
The arrival of iron smelting technology in sub-Saharan Africa has brought profound changes to the societies and lives of its inhabitants. In many parts of Africa, particularly in the south and the east, a distinction is made between the Early and the Later iron age, a time of sociocultural and economic change with increasing urbanization and population growth allied with increasing social complexity. The production of iron tools and weapons has allowed for the kind of extensive systematized agriculture, efficient hunting, and successful warfare necessary to sustain large urban centers.
Iron working technology played a significant role in social beliefs and rituals. For example, in Nigeria, traffic created as a result of iron working technology expanded the social contact that occurred between Nigeria’s major kingdoms and therefore fostered the rapid exchange of knowledge and spiritual beliefs (Ross 2002).
Other revolutionary social and economic changes brought on by iron working technology to Africa are:
• More efficient farming developed due to iron tools such as axes and hoes
• Job specialization led to the production of more trade goods (bringing great wealth to those who controlled West African cities)
• Permanent settlements grew along rivers as the number of farms increased
It is important to recognise there is great regional variation when considering the impact of iron working technology in Africa. For example, whilst some areas benefitted from industrializing iron production, certain areas encounter problems stemming from mass deforestation required to provide the charcoal for fueling iron melting furnaces.