Mali was the heart of trading; the city was the commercial center of West Africa. Its economy was based on gold. It's empire was one of the largest trading systems in the world, with its roots in the gold in West Africa. The goldsmith would create jewelry in styles that reflected regional distinction. The size of the gold jewel would indicate the the displayer's wealth.
Ashanti Empire and Niger River
Gold was found here and it gave wealth to the forest people of the Ashanti empire. An Arab traveler described King of Ghana as the wealthiest of all kings on Earth. Ancient stability and peace is still exhibited in the area by the Niger River. While gold has brought wealth to this area, the fish have provided sustenance. Women do the work of smoking the dry fishes and then they get a proportional amount of the profits. This was a vital artery of trade, bringing the wealth of the inlands (cotton, ivory tusk, nuts, gold) into Mali. The word of this wealth and gold spread all over Europe, which led to the first pictorial maps of inner Africa into Europe.
Timbuktu and Burbon Nomads
The Muslim emperor Kunkun Musa converted the trading city of Timbuktu into a center for learning and religion. His book trade brought more profits than any other business. Although, he did this more for prestige and respect. The religious books led to a national literacy. Children were required to memorize the Kuran in Arabic. The Islamic rules of the emperor influenced personal ethics and trading. Camels were used to carry gold across the dessert. Arrival of the camels was met with singing and dancing. It took 60 days to cross the Sahara, with Cairo being the eventual destination. Burbons controlled the trade routes in North Africa. Without their power and leadership, the trade routes may not have progressed so far.
Cairo was an Islamic center rich and renowned as the "metropolis of the universe." Coins were minted here in African gold to be used as currency. Eventually Europe also began minting coins from this gold. This again shows that Europe once thought of Africans as different but equal. There were Swahili villages all along the coast with their unique history, culture, and architecture. These lead to the essential trading post of Kilwar. Unfortunately, treasure seeking Europeans raided these kingdoms once they were discovered. Some of the treasures that were saved show of a central government which ruled the vast area of the Central Plateau of Southern Africa. White settlers saw the huge kingdom and already established intercontinental trading networks, but refused to give credit to the Africans for creating it. And once the Portuguese sailed around the Cape into the Indian Ocean, the Europeans took over the trade routes, causing the ruin of all of the African cities which were supported by the trade.