Africa

on the World Today

UNITED STATES investors already have a sizable stake in Africa. There is an estimated hundred million dollars of U.S. capital in South Africa alone. American money and engineers helped to start the Rand gold mines, and American money still is in the Anglo-American Corporation, an investment empire with interests in South African industry as well as in many major mines in South Africa and elsewhere throughout Africa.

Since the war, U.S. investment funds have ventured farther into Africa. American money, an American firm, and American engineers are operating copper mines in Southwest Africa and in Namaqualand. A new finance company, the American Anglo-Trnnsvaal Corporation, was formed in 1946 with an authorized capital of 20 million dollars, backed primarily by the banking houses of Ladenburg Thalmann & Co. and Lazard Frères & Co. of New York. Stettimius Associates has been formed to interest investors in Liberia, where the United States is developing at Monrovia a port which will have the largest dock facilities between Gibraltar and Cape Town.

The need and desire for American technicians have been expressed in a recent request by the British Colonial Office for fifty American specialists to fill vacancies in topographical, geodetic, and geological survey sections in Africa.

Some American cars are assembled in South Africa and there is a lusty South African appetite, whetted by gleaming advertising in American magazines, for most American products. The South Africans overbought during the post-war period and consequently used up their dollar reserves. But the current dollar shortage and import control should pass and there is, in the Union of South Africa alone, a market of over two million Europeans, many of them in the upper income groups, who could be avid customers for American goods. Most South Africans like Americans, and have a great curiosity about the United States which they would satisfy by visiting “the States” were dollars available.

As our program to aid the backward colonial areas progresses, our stake in Africa will become far greater. So what of this continent to which we are turning an investor’s eye? If the more arctic regions of the American continent were lopped off, Africa would equal in size North and South America put together. It is the one great underdeveloped hinterland in which Western Europe can expand, now that Asia is torn by civil strife and the Latin American countries seem inclined to buy up railroads and other European investments.

Of the part of Africa that lies south of the Sahara, France controls the greatest acreage; an area about the size of the United States. The area under British control comes a close second in size, and ranks first in population, both native and European. In fact, over two thirds of the people in the British Colonial Empire live in Africa.

The Congo, which is more than seventy-six times the size of Belgium itself, puts Belgium in third place; and Portugal’s colonies are more than twenty times the size of the motherland. Spain’s holdings are negligible, and the only native states are Ethiopia and Liberia. The Union of South Africa is the only industrial state of considerable white settlement on the continent.

New roads, new horizons

Since the war, Great Britain and France have worked together on matters of common interest in West Africa. Two years ago, in Dakar, an AngloFrench Communications Conference initiated plans toward an integrated communications system. As a result, an inland road is being built across Gambia to provide a link between the French territories of Sénégal and Guinea. A survey is being made to extend the Sierra Leone railroad into French Guinea and thus provide an outlet to the sea for French produce. An international coastal highway is planned for the Gold Coast, Ivory Coast, Dahomey, Nigeria, and the Cameroons, and recommendations have been made for the improvement of telephone and postal communications.

By 1950, eight technical conferences between Britain, France, and Belgium will have considered their common interest in agriculture and soil conservation, rural economy, forests, nutrition, labor, education, health, and pest problems. Other colonial powers, and Africans as well as Europeans, are invited to those meetings.

A Joint High Commission has been set up to simplify collaboration between Kenya, Uganda, and Tanganyika. This interterritorial administration controls and legislates for a number of common services, such as production and supply, industry, research, revenue, posts and telegraphs. At present, a linking of the railroad systems of the Rhodesias and East Africa is under discussion by the High Commission. Before long, the native with a pack on his head may be an unusual rather than a common sight.

Now that governments and colonial offices see the need for coördination, the political scene is shifting in order to hasten and encourage the process of tapping Africa’s resources. The Marshall Plan countries see in Africa a source of wealth to bolster their own economies and pay off the United States investment in Europe.

Peanuts in Tanganyika

The peanut project in Tanganyika might be called a trial run for dev elopment programs, and a study of the failures and difficulties of the Overseas Food Corporation will help those who come into the field later.

To begin with, the scheme was politically burdened and tied in with the margarine shortage in Great Britain. The average taxpayer and housewife were led to expect miracles which have not materialized. The targets set were too optimistic. The glowing hope of putting 225,000 acres under cultivation the first year resulted in a meager 7500 acres. Instead of 1,230,000 acres in 1949, only 45,000 will be planted, and almost half of those to sunflowers, although they give less oil than peanuts.

Evidently it came as a surprise to the management to discover that if you plow up Central Africa with machines, the earth will harden like cement, yet anyone who has ever raised so much as a carrot in Central Africa knows that a subsoil crop is difficult to pry out of hard ground. He knows equally well, having learned the hard way, that neither Africa nor Africans can be hurried.

No one anticipated that heavy equipment for clearing the scrub would be incredibly difficult to find, nor even that getting the scrub roots out of the ground would be an obstacle. Today, it is reported, there is hope that the roots will disintegrate by themselves. This is a fine example of that axiom of African ventures: learn Africa and go her way instead of trying to force a non-African method.

Overcentralization of administration in London, an old Colonial Office error, has proved another hindrance. Anyone in the African bush who needs a reroofing job on his house during the rains is likely to go slightly mad while wailing for the approval of the head office.

The turnover of native labor has been high. The African has no love of regimentation. It is his custom to go out to work for a few months and put up with industrialization for the sake of a few pounds and then return to his kraal. Mines in Africa, the biggest employers to date, operate on that system and the African is used to it. With a few exceptions, long-term employment is out side his experience, unless he works for an individual who attempts to reproduce for him the conditions in which he is at home and happy.

White labor, too, has been discontented. Even if supplied with electricity and bathtubs, life in the African bush is too extreme a change for many people, the women particularly. One loves it or hates it, and there have been misfits. More careful screening and more intelligent orientation for those selected are necessary.

Mistakes are costly and now it is obvious that it will take at least twice the initial investment of 25 million pounds to bring the scheme into the estimated production. Meanwhile the accomplishments are not negligible. A port has been constructed, roads have been built, and a town of 2000 exists where there was nothing but scrub bush two years ago. Eventually an annual 228,000 tons of margarine should come out of it.

Whites versus untives

Before the most economic means of realizing the wealth of the continent can be found, some agreement on native policy is essential. Our own bold new program calls for “guarantees in the interest of the people whose resources and whose labor go into these developments.”

“What people? is the question being asked in Africa. ” The black or the white?" How to balance the interests of the natives and those of the white settlers and the European powers is the big problem of Africa, and the solution varies in the different territories and even between territories within the orbit of the same power.

Africa’s difficulty lies in the fact that small but energetic European populations are surrounded by Negro and Bantu races whose own civilization is at an Iron Age level and whose population ranges from four to a thousand times that of the whites. To prejudice the development of Africa in the interest of the natives is a proposition considered absurd by men and women whose homes and livelihood are in Africa. To them it is as if the settlers of colonial America had left the development of the prairies, the forests, and the mineral riches of North America to the Indians.

There is much to be said for their contention, yet no equitable solution has been found for developing Africa under European leadership while, at the same time, giving the native an opportunity to go as far as he is able.

Europeans set the pace

The aim of French colonial policy is to create a France Overseas. Therefore, it is the degree of Frenchness to which a native attains that determines his standing. There is no segregation and no color bar in the French colonies, and even the higher administrative and technical posts are open to natives. An educated minority— the elite — are trained for administrative posts, and citizenship is granted to those who meet strict requirements.

There are two classes of natives: subjets and citoyens—the sujets far outnumbering the citoyens. In 1946 forced labor was abolished, and the following year the natives were granted full equality with French citizens before the law.

Great Britain attaches to political rights, and to freedom in commercial relations, the importance which France attaches to legal and social status. Her policy is based on the assumption that the colonies may become self-governing, in association with Great Britain.

Great flexibility is the chief characteristic of British policy, which varies largely according to the degree to which Europeans have settled in the area. The larger the white population, the more determined it is on white supremacy.

The Union of South Africa, with well over two million Europeans, is the most extreme exponent of white supremacy, and the present government is committed to making even more pronounced distinctions between the races and to eliminating the native from the European community except as unskilled laborer. The color bar is strictly enforced, and what little political representation has been granted to natives and coloreds has been threatened.

Although the Belgian policy in the Congo might best be defined as a paternalistic commercial policy, it still contains very marked advantages for the native population. There is no economic color bar and the natives are trained in skilled occupations to replace European labor. Also, a place is being made for the évotué, the educated African. He is not admitted to European social life, but at least he is not forced into the life of the primitive African.

The Portuguese consider the native the essential element of their colonization, and base their policy on a belief that natives or mixed populations must constitute the natural basis of African society. The color bar is hazy, and children of mixed marriages have the status of Europeans, as do Africans who have adopted European standards of living.

White fears

Among the British colonies, selfgovernment and the development of political man are primary aims. Naturally, political consciousness is spreading among Africans, and this fact arouses white fears of being overwhelmed by Iron Age Africa.

The danger is that a primitive mass, stirred by talk of equal rights and opportunities, led by frustrated agitators, and enraged by suppressions, may try to take control before it has learned to manage its own affairs within the framework of industrial society.

The one bright hope is that the trend toward regional coöperation and federation will foster an exchange of some of the more successful attitudes and methods of administration and training, and provoke new approaches to the African. There would then be grounds for the belief that the African’s interests will be protected while the riches of his continent are being unlocked for the good of mankind.