It would be difficult to overstate the deleterious ramifications for the continent of Africa of the slave trade. Slavery was an industry, and that meant a certain selectiveness in those seized and sold into that industry. Because so many of West Africa’s most vibrant people were precisely those who fetched the highest price, that vast region suffered the loss of the people who would otherwise have been instrumental in developing their own countries. While those West Africans deemed too weak or incapable of manual labor were not marched to their deaths, as occurred in Europe during the Holocaust, but rather left alone, the loss of the young, strong youth and adults left a void in West Africa that could not be filled. Consequently, West African economies did not develop through traditional processes. Those regions of Africa most directly affected by the slave trade were rendered gravely weakened and much of that area continues to struggle with the long-term effects of slavery today.
Another way in which the slave trade adversely affected Africa was in the destruction of families and communities and in the perpetuation of conflict between tribes and clans. Social structures were decimated. Tribes and clans were susceptible to bribery by European slave traders who exploited the potential for ethnic or social divisions to pit tribes and clans against each other. When groups of Africans saw that they could profit at the expense of other groups while remaining free from the slave traders themselves, they became willing accomplices to the slave trade.
The slave trade deprived Africa of millions of people who would otherwise have contributed to the development of their own societies, and it created violent divisions among peoples. The ramifications of the slave trade and the legacy of the colonialism that followed were instrumental in the evolution of dysfunctional social structures and of economic destitution.