Pre-colonial Africa possessed perhaps as many as 10,000 different states and polities characterised by many different sorts of political organization and rule. These included small family groups of hunter-gatherers such as the San people of southern Africa; larger, more structured groups such as the family clan groupings of the Bantu-speaking people of central and southern Africa; heavily structured clan groups in the Horn of Africa; the large Sahelian kingdoms; and autonomous city-states and kingdoms such as those of the Akan; Yoruba and Igbo people (also misspelled as Ibo) in West Africa; and the Swahili coastal trading towns of East Africa.
By the 9th century, a string of dynastic states, including the earliest Hausa states, stretched across the sub-saharan savannah from the western regions to central Sudan. The most powerful of these states were Ghana, Gao, and the Kanem-Bornu Empire. Ghana declined in the 11th century, but was succeeded by the Mali Empire which consolidated much of western Sudan in the 13th century. Kanem accepted Islam in the 11th century.
In the forested regions of the West African coast, independent kingdoms grew up with little influence from the Muslim north. The Kingdom of Nri of the Igbo was established around the 9th century and was one of the first. It is also one of the oldest kingdoms in modern day Nigeria and was ruled by the Eze Nri. The Nri kingdom is famous for its elaborate bronzes, found at the town of Igbo Ukwu. The bronzes have been dated from as far back as the 9th century.
The Ife, historically the first of these Yoruba city-states or kingdoms, established government under a priestly oba ('king' or 'ruler' in the Yoruba language), called the Ooni of Ife. Ife was noted as a major religious and cultural centre in Africa, and for its unique naturalistic tradition of bronze sculpture. The Ife model of government was adapted at Oyo, where its obas or kings, called the Alaafins of Oyo, once controlled a...