Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Legitimate Trade in 19th Century West Africa

This was the greatest effect of abolishing slave trade. Legitimate trade can be defined as a legal trade which was established after abolishing slave trade. It dealt with material products like, clothes, Ivory, coconuts etc and not human beings.
Slave trade can be defined as actual buying and selling of human beings while slavery is the absolute possession of human beings by another. The campaign against slave trade was started by Britain 10 1807 and by 1833, it had been abolished because of economic conditions in Europe at the time as 'q'eU as the activities of humanitarians like William Wiberforce, Granville Sharp, Thomas Clarkson and Henry Thornton to mention only a few.
In west Africa up to 1850, both slave trade and legitimate trade co-existed e.g. palm oil was continuously exported by the Calabar people while slaves were exported from Niger delta. By 1860s with the increase of mechanization in Europe, the demand for slaves had to drop drastically.
The major exports of legitimate trade in W. Africa were palm oil from Calabar and Niger delta, palm Kemals and also palm wood from Sierra Leone. Groundnuts were introduced from Senegambia, Gold and Ivory from Gold Coast and Ivory Coast respectively while bee wax and Ostrich feathers from Gambia and Cameroon. Imports to the rest of Africa included textile, guns, gunpowder, spirits, whisks, tobbaco, beads, glassware etc.
Aims for establishment of Legitimate Trade
1. Completely replace the slave activities.
2. To enhance the production of raw materials to feed European manufacturing industries.
3 Establishment of European strong markets for their manufactured goods.
4. Compensate the businessmen who had invested in abolished slave trade.
5. Provide work for freed slaves i.e. enslave them on their own land (Africa) in production of raw materials.
Problems involved in transition from slave trade to legitimate trade in west Africa.
1. There arose a strong opposition from European countries such as Portugal and France whose economy still depended on African slave labour on their plantations. Besides this, such countries wanted to industrialize just like Britain they used slaves before proper industrial sector could take off.
2 The crops suggested to replace slave trade such as rubber, cocoa. palm 011, could not grow in some places of west Africa. Palm oil and coconuts needed a long time to mature than the British expected. Therefore items for trade were in short supply at the start.
3. The emergence of financial problem, this came about as a result of;
i. Paying for transport of available goods unlike before when slaves transported themselves to the coast.
ii. No immediate income from Legitimate Trade as these crops took long to mature.
iii. Lack of funds to compensate the slave traders for losing their most important source of income.
4. Lack of correspondence in religion. The supporters of anti slavery movements were mostly Christians and yet West Africa was predominantly a Muslim state at least by the
2nd half of the 19th century They therefore bated the slave trade abolitionists as they
considered them as infidels.
5. Social problems in Europe were worse than those in Africa, for example, there were important social evils such as prostitution, under employment of workers, child labour etc. Therefore, many Africans argued that Britain and all other slave trade abolitionists should solve their problems in Europe first before intervening In slave trade activities in Africa which made the exercise quite difficult.
6. The number of anti slavery manpower was small compared to a big area they were controlling along the Atlantic ocean on the west African coastline. Therefore this patrol group was often dodged by the slave traders making the whole exercise difficult in west Africa.
7. In some West African societies such as Dahomey, slaves were acceptable by customs and culture. It was part of their ways of life. Such societies had to forcefully continue with slave trade despite of the measure that were put in place by the abolitionists in West Africa.
The anti slavery patrol concentrated at the coast; for long rime the British and other abolitionist had concentrated at the coast of west Africa leaving the interior unattended to. Therefore slavery had to continue inland. This was made worse by Britain which had no practical punishments put in place for those who Insisted on slavery activities.
Slave dealers also adopted dodging tactics e.g. they heisted the Amencan flag on their slave vessels which made abolitionist to ignore them thinking that they were Americans who bad got their independence from Britain and were not Involved in slave trade activities.
Slave trade in West Africa was partly organized by top political officials such as kings and chiefs. This made it difficult to stop it. Moreover slave trade was a means through which rulers would get rid of criminals from their societies e.g. chief Jaja of Opobo sold some of his subjects into slavery
Some slaves had got used to the life of slavery. They were not sure of making a living as free people. They were unskilled to be resettled in all independent lite they were therefore unwilling to break away from slavery in that when the campaign started many slaves had to hide away in European surbubs fearing to be brought back to Africa.
Nevertheless the transition of legitimate trade came with its problem of enslaving Africans on their own land cultivating cash crops which they needed as raw materials in their industries in Europe. These crops were bought cheaply or exchanged with valueless European products e.g. mirrors, glasses, used clothes. etc which made Africans ask themselves lamenting questions such as;
’’ To what extent was legitimate trade legitimate'?"
Effects of Legitimate Trade in West Africa.
The first and most important one was that instead of being a commodity, the African became a human being once again. with material and spiritual needs to be satisfied. However, this was followed by colonialism that took away social, political and economic independence of these Africans.
There was emergency of two classes of Africans following the increased commercial activities in Africa For example, there was a middle class consisting of private traders and business men and a working class made up of people employed by various trading companies.
Many more trading firms mainly from Britain and France were attracted to West Africa. This resulted into rivalry and competition between the companies leading to the birth of one giant company known as Royal Niger Company (R.N Co) which was a chartered company of the British origin.
Traders like missionaries also constantly appealed for home government protection to establish peace and order to break down the opposition of African middlemen. It was in response to such appeals that West Africa was occupied by the Europeans in the 191h century.
5. Urbanization effect. Following the growth of legitimate trade, many new trading ports and stations in the interior were established to accommodate the activities of Legitimate traders. These late. grew into bigger towns. for example, Onitsha and Lokoja towns became famous in west Africa as a result of legitimate trade activities.
6. Enhanced the rmportation of European products and articles which changed the African way of life e.g dressing. eating. housing etc on the other hand, killed the development of African art and craft as once observed by Mahmood when he said that
‘’An African entered colomausrn with a hoe he had made himseif and came out with an imported one'
7. Led to introdu. non of new ecoaormc systems in West Africa e.g. West African economy became monetized with introduction of new currencies. banking system, credit facilitation. This broke away the traditional use of barter system
8. Due to the need of transporung goods inland and collecting raw materials, there were infrastructural developments. A number of railway lines connectmg West Africa and the interior to the coast. for example a railway from Lagos reached Kano in 1911 in Nigeria, in Ghana (Gold Coast) a railway line was established connectmg Accra with Sekondi and Tarkwa in 190 i purpose i) for gold collection. In absence of such railway systems, seasonal feeder roads were estabhshed III resourceful areas of West Africa.
9. new cash crops unknown before were introduced in West Africa to supplement the traditional kolanuts, rubber and pain OIL These included coffee and cotton the main raw rnatenals needed by european powers In the era of industrial revolution.
10. It made West African chiefs and their subjects to change their living habbits, for example, slavery could no longer provide the principal source of revenue but instead changed to cash crops and minerals.
1 1. There came trade monopoly and competition divided between Africans and Europeans, for example, African natives trading company was in stiff competition with French trading firms and British firms like Liverpool and Manchester. To beat off other firms, George Goldie organised all British firms in West Africa and formed one giant Royal Niger company tr.at traded and colonised a big part of West Africa for British,
12. Legitrnate trade left West African economies tied to those of Europe m a permanent dependency as the} determined the nature of west African products and their prices and at the same time determined the type of manufactured goods to be imported with their prices to West Africans. This situation has incidentally persisted to stay even in Neo-colonial Africa.
Revision questions.
1 , Discuss the problems that were encountered in transition from slave trade to legitimate trade How were they solved?
2 Why was slave trade abolished and what were the effects of its abolition?
3.Analyse the effects for establishment of legitimate trade in West Africa by 1914.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. not directly criticise your fellow's points of view. we need yours with vivid examples if possible

  2. Still problem in understanding your reasons for legitimate trade

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