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Trade Information Bulletin No. 331

Supplement to Commerce Reports

Price, 10 cents


The commercial importance of West Africa has increased tremendously with the additional and highly improved transportation facilities of recent years. It is to the interest of American exporters to become acquainted with this field, as it is a growing market, and American agricultural and mining interests should study it as a potential competitor.

This bulletin deals with the British possessions in West Africa–Gambia, Sierra Leone, Gold Coast, and Nigeria. The total area is about equal to the great plains included in the States of Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas, but with almost twice the population of these States. The portions of German Cameroon and German Togoland, given by the treaty of Versailles to Great Britain under mandate, are treated under the Gold Coast and Sierra Leone, respectively.

The eyes of the world have been turned in recent years to British West Africa as a source of cacao, other agricultural products indigenous to the Tropics, and many minerals, including gold, bauxite, and manganese. The foreign trade of British West Africa has grown rapidly, and the share of the United States in that trade has likewise shown favorable expansion. The American imports from all British West Africa were valued at $5,614,667 in 1921, increasing to $11,556,719 in 1922, and still further increasing to $17,497,461 in 1923, but dropped to $12,196,029 in 1924. Exports to that country also increased, although not to the same degree, growing in value from $5,363,502 in 1921 to $6,816,284 in 1922 and advancing to $8,126,657 in 1923, with a small decrease to $8,008,851 in 1924.

The information for this bulletin has been gathered from reports submitted by American Consul William J. Yerby, stationed at Dakar, Senegal, and from publications of the British Government and various magazines and journals. More detailed information is on file in the European Division of the Bureau and may be obtained upon application.

Julius KLEIN, Director.


British possessions in tropical West Africa, four in number, are Gambia, Sierra Leone, Gold Coast, and Nigeria. Each territory consists of a colony and a protectorate and is governed independently of the other areas. Because of their independence of one another and their separation by territory under the control of other European powers, they will be treated as four integral units, particular emphasis being laid on the indigenous resources.


The largest and by far the most important of the British West African possessions is the colony and protectorate of Nigeria, which is situated on the northern shores of the Gulf of Guinea, and is surrounded on the other three sides by French territory. The old German colony of Cameroon bordered on the east, but following the war Great Britain received a mandate over a small portion of that colony, while the remainder was given to France under mandatory powers. The area of Nigeria is approximately 367,928 square miles, with a population of about 18,631,442, and is larger than any other British dependency, aside from Tangaryika, India, and the self-governing dominions. It is nearly three times as large as the United Kingdom.

The territory is divided into two divisions, the colony and protectorate of Southern Nigeria, and the protectorate of Northern Nigeria. Hereafter they shall be referred to as the Northern Provinces and the Southern Provinces. The former has an area of approximately 276,034 square miles, with a population of 10,259,983, while the latter has an area of 91,894 square miles, with a population of 8,371,459. There are approximately 4,000 Europeans residing in Nigeria, most of them being located there temporarily as Government officials, missionaries, etc. The sphere of Cameroon attached to Nigeria under mandate from the League of Nations has an area of 33,700 square miles, with an estimated population of 664,000, which is included in the figures above.

Lagos is the most important city commercially, and is the seat of government. The town proper is built on an island in the lagoon, but the township includes the islands of Lagos and Iddo, and two towns on the mainland with a total population of about 73,000, of which 58,000 live on the island of Lagos. There are about 600 Europeans in Lagos. Other important ports are Sapelle on the Benin River, Forcados on the Forcados River, Akassa and Brass at the mouth of the Niger River, Opobo at the mouth of the Imo River, Calabar on the Cross River, and Victoria in the Cameroon Province.

In the interior there are a large number of towns, the chief centers being Abeokuta, Ibadan, Oshogeo, Jabba, Zungeru, and Zaria on the Nigerian Railway. In addition there is Locoja at the juncture: of the Niger and Benul Rivers, Yola, the capital of the Yola Province, Maifoni in the Bornu Province, Baro on the Nigeria River and termi

nus of the Minna-Baro branch railway, and Bukuru the terminus of the Zaria-Bukuru branch line.

The entire area is under the administration of one governor, with the seat of government at Lagos. Lieutenant governors are also appointed by the King to govern each of the Provinces, but they are subject to the control and authority of the governor. There is an executive council, consisting of a few senior officials, that acts in an advisory capacity. The legislative council consists of the governor, 26 official members, 3 elected unofficial members representing the municipal area of Lagos, 1 representing the municipal area of Calabar, and not more than 15 nominated unofficial members. The latter are selected to include nominees of the chambers of commerce of Lagos, Port Harcourt, and Kano, of the local chamber of mines and of the banking and shipping interests, together with members representing African interests in parts of the colony and the Southern Provinces of the protectorate which do not return elected representatives to the legislative council. This council legislates only for the colony and the Southern Provinces of the protectorate, and the government legislates for the Northern Provinces of the protectorate. The territory is divided into a number of small Provinces under the immediate control of a "resident,” though in many Provinces the administration is in the hands of the native chiefs and their officials.

EDUCATION AND RELIGION There are a number of native tribes in Nigeria varying greatly in degree of intelligence, the Yorubas and Haussa being the most prominent. Other tribes are the Benis, Ijoas, Ibos, Aros, Fulani, and Bornu. As a whole the natives are of a low mental status and have an antipathy toward work. The prevailing religion is a native paganism, but Mohammedanism has a strong hold. Christianity has made little progress, largely because of its insistence on monogamy. Four British Protestant societies and two French Roman Catholic societies are established, with about 1,000 places of worship.

In 1921 there were 30 government schools and 103 unassisted private schools in the Northern Provinces with 3,217 pupils in attendance. It is roughly estimated that there were over 31,000 Mohammedan schools with about 267,000 pupils. A training college for Mohammedan native teachers was opened at Katsina. In the Southern Provinces a system of primary and secondary schools has been established. There is a resident school at Bonny supported by the government and by chiefs, a government secondary school and a mission grammer school at Lagos, and a high school at Calabar. In 1920 there were also 43 government schools, 158 assisted schools, and 1,443 unassisted schools in the Southern Provinces. The assisted schools are regularly inspected by the government and annual grants are made to them. There is a great demand for schools, as those in the larger centers are very crowded, but in the rural districts the parents are apathetic with regard to the education of children.

FOREIGN TRADE The foreign trade of Nigeria is similar to that of all tropical countries, i. e., exports consist of tropical raw products such as palm oil, palm kernels, hides, rubber, cacao, kola nuts, etc., while imports are chiefly manufactured products, apparel, cotton piece goods, tobacco,

mineral oils, etc. The total trade of Nigeria has increased rapidly during the last 20 years, as will be seen from the following table:

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Detailed statistics of the direction of the trade of Nigeria are not available for 1923. The extent to which the chief countries shared in the trade of Nigeria in previous years is shown in the following table:

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The bulk of the trade in 1923 was, as usual, with the United Kingdom, which accounted for 75 per cent of the total, supplying 80 per cent of the imports and taking 69 per cent of the exports. The United States with 8 per cent of the total shows a slight increase, and Germany with 8 per cent shows an increase of over 100 per cent. Of the total value of trade, 79 per cent was carried in British ships, the percentages for import and export being the same as for 1922, viz, 87 per cent and 72 per cent, respectively. The principal imports and exports in the trade of Nigeria in 1921, 1922, and 1923 are shown in the following table:






Cotton piece goods.
Iron and steel, manufactures..
Cutlery, hardware, implements
Tobacco, un manufactured
Bags and sacks.
Pour ad grain.
Raway carriage and trucks.
Gin, whisky, wines, beer, etc..

square yards..

tons.. dollars.. do... tons. do.. dozen

tons. .do... gallons

feet tons.

do. Imperial gallons..

47,908, 804

31, 740 3, 136, 930 1, 900, 699

1, 237 38, 525 164, 402


3,393 1, 464, 732 4,823, 141

1, 504 2, 130 377, 811

78, 202, 860

49, 227 1, 669, 924 1, 301, 368

1, 739 56, 829 261, 360


1, 793 2, 646, 353 2,985, 931


3, 261 557, 301

80, 818, 574

64, 476 1, 934, 936 1,611, 838

2, 564 40, 036 331, 104


2,383 2,559, 688 2, 371, 919


3,037 557,022



Cotton lint.
Mabogasy logs.
Palm Kernels
Palm oil
Shes bots and butter
Suits and hides.






17, 944
8, 579

8, 546
153, 354
52, 771
50, 979

5, 770 1, 292, 167

7, 181

31, 256 2,947 2, 409 11,953 178, 723 87, 609 23, 890

6,944 3,078, 977

8, 121

32,820 13, 145 12, 211 13, 582 223, 172 99, 439 22, 887

6, 456 4, 501, 727

8, 475


The principal agricultural exports during 1923 consisted of 32,817 tons of cacao, 223,074 tons of palm kernels, 98,907 tons of palm oil, 22,887 tons of peanuts, and 6,421 tons of shea nuts. The trade by articles between the United Kingdom and Nigeria for the years 1921, 1922, and 1923 is shown in the following table:

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Salt (other than table)

tons.. 38, 042 Tobacco..

52, 625 Wood and timber.

pounds.. 121, 893 362, 361

.loads. Apparel, not of fur.

7, 827 18, 072 Cotton piece goods. Machinery.

-square yards.. 40, 272, 400 59, 541, 100

.tons.. Iron and steel and manufactures of.

1, 864


41, 524 Vehicles, rail.

57, 744 Ships and boats. Spirits.

. Imperial gallons..

127, 594

150, 106

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The chief import items are cotton piece goods for native use, the market for whích has expanded in proportion as the natives have been brought under the influence of modern civilization. Other principal imports are manufactures of iron and steel, machinery, and railway equipment, which demonstrates that Nigeria is making rapid strides toward the exploitation of her latent resources.

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The above table shows clearly that Nigeria depends entirely on raw product exports to pay for the imports from the industrial countries, such as Great Britain and the United States. Palm kernels and palm oil easily lead all other exports, while tin ore is next in importance. The exports of raw cotton are of particular interest because of the efforts on the part of Great Britain to find new sources to supply its great textile mills.


During the period 1917–1921 the United States stood first among foreign countries (omitting United Kingdom and possessions) as regards trade with Nigeria.

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