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.