Bantu Expansion (Bantu Migration)

Bantu Expansion (Bantu Migration) was the expansion of Bantu speaking people in Africa, resulting in the sub-group being the most widely spoken language in the southern half of the continent. Bantu is a sub-group of the Niger-Congo languages, with the basic root ntu meaning man.

Phase I


Around 3000 B.C., armed with stone tools and knowledge of yam and oil-palm cultivation, Bantu speakers traverse the tropical coast of west atlantic Africa. About 1800 B.C., the expansion arrived at Gabon, near Libreville. The expansion proceeded to the Congo estuary. It proceeded then into the rainforest arriving at the middle Ogooue Valley around 1600 B.C. and reaching the upper river around 400 B.C. Segments infiltrated the Congo River, inhabiting the tributaries, flowing into the inner Congo by 400 B.C. By 1000 B.C., segments reached the eastern edge of the tropical rainforest near the Great Lakes.

Phase II


The second phase of the Bantu expansion required inhabitation of savannah regions south and east of the rain forest. To inhabit the savannah regions, Bantu speakers acquired seed bearing or cereal plants like sorghum, cattle herding, and mastery of iron smelting. Some scholars are of the opinion that iron smelting technology, sorghum cultivation, and cattle herding were acquired from Nilo-Saharan speakers, at the Great Lakes. Movement started south to the upper Zambezi Valley, about 3 B.C. The expansion went west to the savannahs of Angola, eastward to Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe in the 1st century C.E. That segment bumped into an older segment. After the birth of Christ, expansion proceeded to Tanzania, then down the Indian coast to Mozambique. By the 2nd century A.D., the expansion reached Maputo then expanded south to Durban. By the 1st Millenium A.D., the movement had reach the Kei River in South Africa. The expansion halted at the Kei because sorghum, a major bantu staple crop, was not suitable for the winter rains of the western Cape and Namibia.


Works Cited

Iliffe, John (2007). Africans: The History of a Continent. 2nd ed. New York: Cambridge University Press, p. 41, ISBN 978-0-521-68297-8.