In the towns ofWest Africa, women used their trade skills to acquire positions of social prominence. Operating family businesses that were mostly passed down from mothers to daughters or aunties to nieces, these women were able to command a formidable position in pre-colonialAfrica’s formal economy, making important contributions to the taxes being generated through the activities of trade and commerce.
The commodities that these women traded into ranged from agricultural produce to slave labor, and the hereditary nature of their businesses allowed them to play an importance role in the market dynamics of their respective societies since they enjoyed considerable influence in matters of taxation, as well as rules and regulations governing trade.
Furthermore, the social prominence coupled with the economic independence that these women possessed often enabled them to rise to positions of social and political leadership, such as members of female assemblies, wherein they would be responsible for certain matters of public administration. The institution of bicameral assembly was in part strengthened by the successful enterprises that these pre-colonial businesswomen were running and the social prestige that it had earned them.
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