The Bantu Migration

Many historical narratives, consider pre-colonial Africa to be a static continent where not much changed until the arrival of European settlers.  However, the Bantu migration shows that dynamism has defined Africa’s history for centuries.

The Bantu Migration was the southward movement of peoples from the adjoining regions between Nigeria and Cameroon in West Africa, into Central, Southern and Southeastern Africa, introducing Bantu peoples into regions where they had been  previously absent. The migration started around 1000 BCE and followed different routes. Some migrants took a southwestern route along the coast and the major rivers of the Congo reaching central Angola around 500 CE. Another stream of Bantus  moved towards the great Central African rainforest emerging into the savannas of the present-day Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola and Zambia. Others settled along the highly fertile banks of the Great Lakes of East Africa with some of them eventually moving down to KwaZulu-Natal in modern-day South Africa.  

The phenomenon of Bantu migration, occurred in different waves over a period of more than a thousand years, and was eventually uncovered because of the similarity between the languages spoken across central and southern Africa. These are  called the Bantu languages and there are about 350 of them. Before the Bantu Migration, hunter-gatherers, foragers and pastoralists had occupied the southern half of Africa. With the Bantu migrants, agriculture and ironwork were introduced into the region.

By Iyeyinka Kusi-Mensah

(Image: Lumen Learning)

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