The Songhay [or Songhai] Empire that followed Mali was more despotic and warlike, and also more powerful. But it disintegrated quickly at the end of the 16th century when the seafaring Portuguese opened up the Atlantic Ocean trade routes, undermining the overland commerce that had been the lifeblood of all three empires. Then, the biggest blow to the crumbling Songhai Empire came from the invasion by Morocco in 1591. The Moroccan army used new technology, muzzle-loading firearms, to defeat the Songhai troops. The Songhai state limped along until 1737, but after 1591, it was no longer a unified empire with control over numerous tributary states.
The Songhai were former members of the Mali Empire. As Mali weakened in the 1400s, the people of Songhai rebelled and regained their freedom. Because of their Islamic beliefs, the Songhai were able to trade with the Berbers in the north and grow richer.