The Songhai had been the dominant force in Western Africa for more than a century, controlling the Western Sudan from the headwaters of the Senegal River to what is now Niger; however, a rivalry for succession after the 1583 death of Askia Daoud left the Empire in a weakened state.
Meanwhile, to the north, the Saadi Dynasty of Morocco was at the height of its power. In 1578, an attempt by Portugal to conquer Morocco had been repelled by the Moroccans at the Battle of Alcácer Quibir, where a large Portuguese army was decimated. However, the amount of money spent paying for the defenses used to hold off the Portuguese was a large strain on Morocco. The nation's coffers were depleted, and Morocco was on the verge of bankruptcy. In search of new resources for his kingdom, Sultan Ahmad I al-Mansur Saadi turned his attention to the Songhai Empire, where he erroneously believed the gold mines from which its wealth came from, were located.