Migration and Settlement in East Africa (1000 –1880)
Causes and effects of bantu migration
Learners' activities


The reasons for the migration of the Bantu are not known but they most likely included the following;

  1. Drought and famine: They moved due to the fear of famine, which broke out due to overcrowding and drought. The climate in their cradle land had become unreliable/unpredictable.

  1. Population increase which resulted into over crowding: They migrated due to population pressure, e.g. they became overpopulated in their cradle land. This led to the scarcity of grazing and agriculture land, and so they had to move to look for more land, both for agriculture and for their cattle.

  1. The constant attacks (external pressure) from stronger tribes in West Africa and the Nile valley. They moved due to external pressure, especially due to the migration of the Arabs into West Africa. The Arabs were believed to be more hostile, and so Africans were forced to move southwards.

  1. Internal conflicts from the Bantu tribes: they migrated due to internal misunderstandings/conflicts between the different clans. These conflicts concerned the ownership of agriculture area, the shortage of grazing lands and watering areas.

  1. Epidemics and diseases/natural calamities: The Bantu moved due to natural disasters, e.g. earthquakes, over flooding of rivers like river Niger, sickness, diseases such as Nagana caused by Tsetse flies, sleeping sickness e.t.c.

  1. Search for fertile land: Since they were predominantly farmers, the Bantu migrated

    in order to find more land which could be more fertile than the cradle land, which could no longer support them. E.g. they had changed from hunting and gathering fruits, to farming and had even discovered new crops such as yams, banana, and e.t.c

  1. Love for adventure: They moved due to their desire for adventure, i.e. they wanted to find out what was happening in other areas.

  1. Group influence: Some moved because they had seen their relatives and friends move.

  1. Need for water and pasture for their animals forced them to move.

  1. The Bantu migrated in order to export their iron-working culture. They had discovered the knowledge of iron working and had invented iron tools. These iron tools had transformed the agricultural sector by making the clearing of land fro cultivation faster and more efficient.


Effects of the Bantu Migration

The results of the Bantu migration were both positive and negative.

Positive results

The results of the Bantu migration were both positive and negative.
Positive results. The positive results include;

  1. Introduction of iron working: they introduced iron-working and the use of iron tools in the interior of East Africa were at first using stone tools but when iron-smelting was started, there was an increase in food production.

  2. Introduction of new crops e.g. yams, bananas: the Bantu introduced and increased the knowledge of food and extensive crop cultivation. Earlier on, the inhabitants of East Africa were food gatherers, but with iron smelting and its results, food production seriously started.

  3. The absorbed other tribes e.g. the gathers: This led to a widespread Bantu languages of “NTU” prefix in East Africa.

  4. They introduced centralized administration: They introduced a centralized system of government whereby the king acted as the overall ruler, under whom were the other chiefs, down to the lay person.

  5. Introduced a system of building permanent homes: They opened new land to settlement in families, clans and villages.

  6. The knowledge of iron smelting which the Bantu introduced led to the making of hoes and pangas for tilling and clearing land, the bows, arrows and spears for defense and protection.

  7. They introduced subsistence agriculture, whereby they grew enough food for home consumption, and the rest could be kept in case of shortages, or be exchanged in barter trade.

  8. They led to a rise of large states and bigger tribes in East Africa, e.g. the Baganda, Kikuyu, Nyamwezi. e.t.c

Negative effects

  1. The Bantu migration led to depopulation: This was caused by the frequent attacks made by the Bantu against the people East Africa for land, through wars. Many people died through these wars, e.g. the Zimba would attack people at the coast, kill them, and eat their fresh (i.e. cannibalism).

  2. There was loss of culture due to cultural absorption: This was brought about due to Bantu intermarrying with the non- Bantu peoples, whom they came across.

  3. There was transformation of languages into new ones: This led to the dying down of some of the Bantu languages, while others remained.



1. (a) who are the Bantu?

    (b) Why did they move from their cradle land?

2 (a) Describe the movement and settlement of Bantu people in E. Africa.

   (b) What were the effects of their movement and settlement on the people of East Africa.



Teachers' guide
Scheme of work

Lesson plan
Learners' activities

Useful weblinks

The story of Africa
Early settlements and migration
Bantu migration(map from Encarta)