The economic activities of the Somalis in the pre-colonial period

The Somali were living in Mogadishu by the 10th century AD. Around that time, they began
to move southwards,, probably because the Oromo presented a threat, or because they were looking for pasture, since they were nomadic pastoralists.




Between the twelfth and the fourteenth centuries AD, many of the Somali converted to Islam and established the Ajuran state near Mogadishu.

By the 17th century, the Somalis pushed the Oromo out of their traditional homeland near the river Juba. The Oromo responded by migrating to Kenya

The following are the economic activities of the Somalis in the pre-colonial period




  • They were nomadic pastoralists. They kept donkeys, camels, goats and cattle.
  • Some of them, particularly those who lived in Oases regions and along river valleys, practised subsistence agriculture. They grew grain crops, vegetables, dates and bananas.
  • They practised iron smelting and made iron tools like swords, knives, bangles and arrowheads.
  • They hunted wild animals and gathered roots, vegetables and fruits.
  • They engaged in crafts such as leatherwork. They made handbags, belts and clothes.




  • Some of them who lived near rivers and along the Indian ocean practised fishing, using fence traps, hooks, and lines.
  • They traded, mainly with their Bantu neighbours, particularly the Bantu, to who they sold iron implements and leather products