The long, complex history of the Akan peoples is one of internecine conflicts and, since the eighteenth century, of opposition to the encroachment of various colonial powers: the Dutch, Portuguese, Danish, French, and English. In addition, there have been continual threats from the Islamic peoples of the southern Saharan fringe. Essentially all these conflicts have been over monopolies in trade, first across the Sahara with northern Africa and, in later centuries, across the Atlantic with the countries of Europe and the Americas.
It appears certain that there were early cultural and commercial links with the empires of the southern Sahara, the latter consisting mainly of the exchange of gold from the Akan region for salt and other commodities from the Sahara. Many of the cultural traits of the Akan indicate that their kingdoms may, in many cases, be considered successor-states to ancient Ghana and Mali. Also evident are many cultural similarities with forest peoples to their east, such as the Fon, Yoruba, and Edo, although these must have developed many centuries ago.