The Trading States of the Congo River Basin during the19th-century in Africa were states within this region that were able to fashion out trading patterns for their collective survival. In the Luapula River valley, on the southeastern fringes of the Congo River Basin, the Kazembe Empire entered the 19th century as the driving force behind a transcontinental trading network. A Lunda state, Kazembe controlled the trade in copper, which was mined in the Copper-belt region of what is now Zambia and southern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and cast into ingots for use as currency. Besides copper, Kazembe also exported ivory, salt, and captives. The latter were sent mostly eastwards to meet the rising demand for slaves on the East African coast.
By mid-19th century the demand for ivory and slaves on the East African coast was so great that coastal Swahili, Nyamwezi, and Arab or mixed-race traders began exploring west of Lake Tanganyika, penetrating the Central African interior. Leading their own trading caravans of hunters, raiders, and porters, and heavily armed with guns, they sought out new sources of ivory and slaves. In the 1850s a Nyamwezi trader named Msiri set up his own raiding and trading state west of the Luapula River in defiance of Kazembe (which at the time was suffering a civil war). This state, known as Yeke, took control of the Copper-belt and with it the western Lunda trading network.
In the 1860s Hamed bin Muhammed (also known as Tippu Tip), a man of mixed coastal and Nyamwezi ancestry, established similar raiding and trading bases on the Lualaba River (the upper Congo River), west of Lake Tanganyika. Tippu Tip considered his “kingdom” an outpost of the sultanate of Zanzibar, by then Africa’s largest market for ivory and slaves. The activities of traders such as Tippu Tip and Msiri brought the full horrors of the slave trade to the remotest forest regions of the Congo River Basin, which had previously been little affected by the trade. These Trading States of the Congo River Basin during the19th-century in Africa were involved with such major trades as ivory and slaves sales.