THE WHITE MAN’S TASK
IN TROPICAL AFRICA
By Sir Frederick D. Lugard
N the march of material progress in the nineteenth century
probably the most outstanding event was the discovery of
the use of steam as a motive power, and it is of interest to
note how and why it led inevitably to the development of the
tropics and their control by the white races. On the one hand the
oceans ceased to be barriers passable only at the cost of long
delays and great discomfort. The gateways through which trade
gained access to the western half of the continent of Africa were
no longer the Mediterranean ports and the camel caravan routes
across the Sahara, but the ports on the West Coast, while the
construction of the Suez Canal opened new and shorter sea routes
to its eastern shores. On the other hand the rapid expansion of
every branch of industry under the stimulus of power-driven
machinery gave rise to a great demand for raw materials and
for markets for the products manufactured from them. These
demands were moreover increased by the phenomenal growth
of population and the improvement in the standard of living of
every class, which was the proximate result of the industrial
revolution of the nineteenth century.
The supplies of many of these raw materials â€” vegetable oils,
fibres, cotton, hides and skins, rubber, various minerals, etc. â€”
were wholly insufficient, unless supplemented by the wealth of
the tropics, while others were obtamable only from them. Nor
was the demand for human food, and the minor luxuries which
now for the first time were available to the working classes less
insistent â€” among others sugar, rice, maize, tea, coffee, cocoa,
and edible oils.
Of the great white races of the earth, the United States of
America alone was for a time self-supporting, but as her population increased she too became a large importer of tropical products, both vegetable and mineral, from Africa and other tropical
countries; their volume and diversity, compiled from statistical
tables, would probably be a revelation to the average reader.
Twenty years ago the trade of the United States with the tropics
was shown by Benjamin Kidd to amount to $346,000,000 (about
half that of the United Kingdom) and he sums up with the con-
58 FOREIGN AFFAIRS
elusion that ” the development of the tropics will beyond doubt
be the permanent underlying fact of the twentieth century.”
His forecast has proved true, and its truth will be more abundantly proved as the century grows older. “The Control of the
Tropics” (as he named his remarkable essay) was probably one
of the not remote causes of the Great War, and the future is
pregnant with hardly less dangers from the same cause. If this
be so â€” if the essential needs of the white man and the jealousies
and misunderstandings to which they give rise, and if the socalled “awakening of the colored races,” are indeed matters of
such world importance â€” it goes without the saying that public
opinion should be well informed as to the nature of the problem.
Its solution rests primarily on the shoulders of those who have
assumed the immense responsibility of governing the backward
races which people the tropics, nor can it be evaded by those who
use the products of the tropics and who exercise influence in the
councils of the civilized nations. The nations in control are, as
Kidd expressed it, “trustees for civilization” â€” a phrase which,
repeated in the Covenant of the League of Nations, has become
a household word throughout the world. In carrying out this trust
they exercise a “dual mandate”^ â€” as trustees on the one hand
for the development of the resources of these lands, on behalf
of the congested populations whose lives and industries depend on
a share of the bounties with which nature has so abundantly endowed the tropics. On the other hand they exercise a “sacred
trust” on behalf of the peoples who inhabit the tropics and who
are so pathetically dependent on their guidance.
The fulfilment of the former mandate is for the most part
undertaken with avidity by private enterprise, and the function
of the Power in control is limited to providing the main essentials,
such as railways and harbors, to seeing that the natives have their
fair share, and that material development does not injuriously
affect the fulfilment of the second mandate â€” an even more important obligation.
Railways in Africa are generally constructed by the state.
Without arterial railways the cost of administration in the interior would be prohibitive and the slave trade and tribal wars
could not have been suppressed. Railways increase the mobility of
the forces necessary to stamp out these evils and maintain law and
order. They render possible the advent of trade and commerce,
1 “The Dual Mandate in Tropical Africa.” By the present writer. Blackwood & Sons,Edinburgh.
THE WHITE MAN’S TASK IN AFRICA 59
from which a considerable revenue is raised for administrative
purposes, and they encourage native production by providing a
market for native produce in return for imported goods, such as
textiles and hardware, and so add to the well being and prosperity
of the people. Along the lines they traverse they have superseded human porterage, and so set free vast numbers of men for
productive work. Their construction, if carried out on right
principles, is an educative agency of great importance, teaching
tribes hitherto at war the value of cooperation, and the principle
of a fair day’s wage for a day’s labor. Feeder roads, telegraphs
and harbors are ancillaries. For such works native labor is required, for the white man cannot, or at any rate will not (except
in Queensland) do manual work in the tropics. Private enterprise
also requires native labor, and hence the first problem is to decide to what extent and under what conditions it can be employed without injury to the people. On the one hand the withdrawal of too large a percentage of adult males from the village
community tends to destroy the social organization â€” slender at
best â€” and the tribal authority and tribal sanctions. Some of
these no doubt are based on superstition and barbarous traditions.
In course of time they must disappear and be succeeded by a
higher type of social organization, but if they are broken down
too rapid-ly, if whatever is good in them is treated with contempt,
and disappears with the bad before something better has been
evolved, the result is chaos.
It is perhaps difficult for us to realise how great is the contrast
between the communal life of the primitive tribe, hedged round
with observances and customary rites, and the life of individualism and license of the labor camp. Much can be done, and is done,
to ameliorate these conditions. Units of a tribe may be kept together under their own tribal authority, wives may be induced to
accompany their husbands, and if the absence is not too prolonged little harm may be done. Something of good, as has already
been said, may also result. The primitive savage in contact with
civilization learns the discipline of work, and the result of cooperation. He learns on a plantation new methods of cultivation which he can apply to his own fields. If well fed and
housed his physique improves with the regular day’s work. New
ideas and better standards of life are opened to his mind â€” in
housing, clothing, sanitation, and the utensils for field work.
The old order must change â€” as it has changed with us â€” and
6o FOREIGN AFFAIRS
the inexorable mandate of civilization forbids to stereotype the
conditions of savage life. Whether the primitive African dancing
in the moonlight through the livelong night, careless and improvident for the morrow, will be the happier for it, who shall
say? Is the villager of England with his wireless set and his trade
unions, with motor cycles and cars dashing through the village
street and rattling the bones of the elders of the past in the village
cemetery, happier than they were?
To return to our subject. Men recruited from distant tribes
often suffer from the change of climate, diet and mode of life
before they become acclimatized. New diseases against which
they have acquired no measure of immunity cause a heavy death
rate. In spite of medical care, disease is sometimes carried back
to the village. Not only is the mortality high among the laborers,
but the birth rate decreases. In many parts of Africa it is estimated that the population since the advent of the white man has
been stationary or has decreased, and this in spite of all that has
been achieved in the stopping of slave raids and of tribal war, and
the conquest of such diseases as smallpox which formerly ravaged
Africa unchecked. The security of life which the reign of law and
order has introduced is no doubt itself parodoxically in some degree responsible, for the freedom of movement has facilitated the
spread of infectious diseases.
From a merely utilitarian point of view, it becomes a matter of
the first importance that the demand for labor shall not lay too
heavy a burden on the present generation. For essential public
works and services even compulsion may in the last resort be
justified and is authorized in such cases by the terms of the Mandates in tropical Africa, but **only if adequately remunerated” â€”
important words, which were omitted from the proposed Slavery
and Forced Labor Convention which is now under discussion
In regard to forced labor for private profit the “traditional
policy of Great Britain” has been very clearly formulated in a
state paper, as being “absolutely opposed to compulsory labor
for private employment. .. . It is a point of fundamental
importance that there is no question or force or compulsion,
but only of encouragement and advice through the native chiefs.”
“In no British Dominion and in no British Colony,” said the
Under Secretary lately, “will it ever be tolerated that there
should be compulsory labor for private profit.” Indirect pressure.
THE WHITE MAN’S TASK IN AFRICA 6i
on chiefs by advice which they dare not disregard, by unduly
heavy taxation, or by inadequate land allotment, is also reprobated. But voluntarjr labor is already insufficient to meet the
demands of settlers m the sparsely populated highlands, which
offer a congenial home for the white man, where by introducing
new cultures and improved methods he has increased the material
prosperity. What then is to be done? There are three possible
courses; first, to reduce the demand by limiting government
works to those of essential importance, and restricting European
immigration and private enterprise; second, to make the existing
supply go further by increasing the efficiency of the laborer and
by the use of labor-saving devices; or finally, to import labor
Each of these courses deserves brief consideration. The construction of railways may be limited to arterial lines and to such as
traverse densely populated regions and therefore afford an outlet
for produce, new markets, and a rapid means of transport for
labour recruits. It is of no use “opening up” for white plantations sparsely peopled regions, however fertile, if there is no
labor for their development. In the second place, wage labor can
be made more efficient by good feeding and care of health, by
training, by piece-work â€” which means more European supervision â€” and by the use of machinery, either to supplement or
replace human labor. One illustration will suffice. The use of the
ox in agriculture and (on European owned estates) of mechanical
plows, etc., and the abolition of human porterage by the employment of draught transport and of ** road-less ” mechanical vehicles,
would set free hundreds of thousands of men for productive
work, and add an enormous acreage to that which the natives at
present cultivate by primitive methods.
Finally there is the question of supplementing African labor
by importing workers from overseas. The two sources of supply
in the past have been India and China. The importation of Indian labor has raised in Natal and Kenya difficulties greater than
those of the problem it was hoped that it would solve. Moreover
the Indian Emigration Act of 1922 has prohibited the indenture
of Indian coolie labor. There remains China. It is necessary to
distinguish between immigrants, whose indenture provides for
compulsory repatriation, and those who on the expiration of
their contracts are allowed to remain as colonists, bringing their
families with them and using their period of indenture as a kind
6a FOREIGN AFFAIRS
of apprenticeship, during which they can save a little money
and get to know the country. For reasons which cannot be discussed here, the Chinese would no doubt belong to the former
category. The cost of recruiting, transporting and repatriating
Chinese, and the high wages they demand, would make the
experiment a very costly one. The Chinese refuse to bring their
wives with themâ€”or the wives refuse, as in Samoa, to come unless
paid the same wages as the men; they take back their earnings with
them and spend little or nothing in the country; and there is the
serious question of racial miscegenation. On the other hand, if the
strict supervision exercised by a special official, which is adopted
in Malaya, is enforced, there are no grounds for humanitarian
objections so far as the Chinese themselves are concerned.
What, it may naturally be asked, in view of the difficulties with
which this labor question bristles, is the nature of the demand by
private enterprise, and what is the solution which it proposes itself? The demand is mainly either for mining or for Europeanowned plantations and estates; the requirements of traders and
others are comparatively negligible.
The mining companies which export gold, diamonds, tin,
copper, manganese, etc., generally make large profits, and are
able to offer every attraction possible to wage labor. The extraction of coal, on the other hand, economizes expenditure on
railways and steamers, and is therefore of direct benefit to the
people of the country. In Nigeria, primarily on account of the
labor question, it has so far been retained as a government
monopoly. Foreign agricultural enterprise may either consist of
plantations of rubber trees or oil-palms, etc., which grow in the
lowlands and are supervised by Europeans who relieve each other
periodically, or of estates owned by settlers in the highlands,
whose altitude renders continued residence possible. If the
crops consist of exotic species which require skilled cultivation or
technical preparation for the market, such as Arabian coffee,
tobacco, sisal, tea and fiax, these foreign-owned plantations are a
notable contribution to the economic resources of the country,
and they also should be able to offer attractive conditions to
wage labor, provided that the demand is not too heavy. It is,
however, a disadvantage that the heaviest demand is at the
season when the natives are most engaged in tending their own
But ii the forieign estate owner does not limit his enterprise to
THE WHITE MAN’S TASK IN AFRICA 63
these cultures, and includes products which are successfully
grown by the natives, such as cotton, maize, cocoa, groundnuts
etc., it is inevitable that â€” unless artificially protected â€” he
cannot compete with the native grower who has no “overhead
charges ” to meet and can work in his own time, in his own way,
for his own profit, and with the assistance of his family. Their
interests become antagonistic, and if the planter has a powerful
share in the legislation and policy of the government, strict impartiality, despite the best of intentions, becomes difficult.
The planter and the settler point to the capital and the efforts
expended in converting lands left derelict or used only as grazing
areas for nomadic cattle-owners, into estates of great value whose
produce forms the bulk of the exports. They hold that the natives
can only become good citizens by contact with the Europeans.
They would solve the labor problem by inducing the natives to
live on their estates as **squatters” or tenants pledged to render
service for specified periods. The planters of Virginia solved their
labor problems three centuries ago in much the same way, by
importing slaves, but what was possible in the early seventeenth
century is not possible in the twentieth. The imported slaves
resided on their estates, and it was equally to the owners’ interest that they should be well-cared for; but in order to maintain
the system they wisely made it an offense to teach the slaves to
read and write, for education must doom such a system to
failure. British settlers in Kenya and Nyasaland, on the contrary,
show much enthusiasm for native education. And here I touch a
The policy and methods hitherto adopted in educational matters in Africa have not produced good results, and the fact has
recently received official recognition in England by the appointment by the Secretary of State of a Standing Committee at the
Colonial Office consisting of educational experts, representatives
of the churches and missions, and others of practical administrative experience, under the presidency of the Under-Secretary.
A synopsis of the policy they advocated was published with the
approval of Government as a state paper. In this movement the
Trustees of the Phelps-Stokes Fund, with their intimate knowledge
of the methods by which such great results have been achieved in
the United States at Hampton and Tuskegee, lent assistance and
cooperated by sending two Missions to Africa and publishing
the results of their investigations. It is, however, only just to
64 FOREIGN AFFAIRS
add that the principles they so ably advocated had already been
demonstrated and an attempt to give them practical effect by
legislation had already been made and would have been carried
out in detail had not progress been arrested by the war.
The new policy regards the education in the class-room of a
comparatively small minority of the youth in the principal
centers as only one phase â€” and that not the most important â€”
of education. The system of set examinations based on curricula
more appropriate to pupils in England, and conveyed in text
books ill adapted to African experience and mentality, must in
future give place to a system which shall reach the heart of the
people and influence the village community. Its object will be
to retain what is best in African tradition, to make the village
agriculturist or craftsman more efficient, to replace superstitious
fear by the ethics of a higher religion, to fill in the great hiatus
between the illiterate masses and the so-called “educated”
minority. Education, it is hoped, will mean the raising of the
standard of the people, not the denationalization of the few,
making of the African a better and more efficient African and
not an imitation white man.
So regarded, the Education Department is but one of many
agencies engaged in the work. And not least of the potent agencies which operate outside the class-room is that of the Administrative Officer, whose task it is to train each tribal unit or separate
community to conduct its own domestic affairs under the guidance of its own appointed head.
Among the more advanced sections the task is comparatively
easy. Habits of obedience to authority on the one hand, and of
responsibility and initiative on the other hand, have already
been acquired in a greater or lesser degree. But among the more
primitive, where as yet no higher authority than the head of the
family exists, where impulse to action is dictated by some prompting of superstition, or some motive hard to fathom, the District
Officer’s task is much harder. He will set up a petty tribunal
for the settlement of minor disputes and offenses, but it will arrive at most astonishing decisions or be wholly unable to assert
its authority. The very standards of right and wrong will often
need to be created. It would be simpler and much more effective
to assume all powers himself. The interminable delays, the inability to grasp simple fundamentals, the constant failure of
one chief after another in whom he had built hopes of success.
THE WHITE MAN’S TASK IN AFRICA
are heartbreaking to the competent energetic officer, and it
becomes a chronic temptation to do the thing himself and do it
well. It is thus that the proverbial efficiency of the rural administration in British India and elsewhere has been achieved.
But is the white influence as effective as it seems on the surface? No tropical administration has revenues adequate to support the army of officials required thoroughly to administer
these vast areas peopled by a mosaic of tribes speaking scores of
different languages. Exigencies of climate, necessitating absence
on leave, together with the transfers due to departmental promotion, cause frequent changes in personnel. At best the District
Officer, who thinks he is “running the show” himself, and with
success, is really in the hands of his interpreters, his court messengers and his police. Every now and then a scandal comes to
light which reveals the tyranny, bribery and peculation carried
on in the white man’s name.
Apart from such considerations, what is the ultimate result?
Half a century of direct assumption of control by the Administrative Officer finds the community just where it was. The
more capable and energetic he has proved himself, the less competent will it be to stand alone. Meanwhile, contact with civilization, and the spread of education, beget as their natural offspring
the agitator for “self-determination” and a share in the control
of domestic affairs. The tribes are without leaders of influence,
for leadership has been at a discount. The only lesson they have
been taught is obedience to the will of another. The agitator
presses for elected representatives on the Legislative Council,
and a widening of the unofficial vote. But the native lawyers,
who for the most part constitute the native members of the
Council, are not representative of the masses, and know less
about them, their language and their needs than the District
Officer. Philanthropists at home applaud the extension of ” a new
measure of self-government.”
Better in my judgment all the early mistakes and absurdities
of the primitive native tribunals, the incompetence of the petty
chiefs, and the slow growth of efficiency, while the chief and his
village council acquire with the support of government a steadily
increasing authority. If their actions on occasion give cause for
protest, they cannot at any rate be laid at the white man’s door.
Democracy in the East (perhaps more logically than in the
West) begins at the bottom with the village panchayat in India
and its counterpart, the Hpao in China, â€” generally perhaps
with autocracy enthroned as a figure-head at the top, ostensibly
omnipotent but in reality with well understood limitations.
From all of these considerations there emerges, as I think,
one great lesson for all of those powerful states which have
accepted the grave responsibility of controlling and educating
â€” that is to say, “bringing forth” to a higher plane â€” the
backward races who are, in the words of the Covenant of the
League of Nations “unable to stand alone in the strenuous conditions of the modern world.” The lesson is this: we should
abandon the idea that methods and policies found suitable to
ourselves are necessarily the best suited to the ancient civilizations of the East or to the evolution of African tribes. The predominant characteristics of the English-speaking races are individual initiative, willingness to accept responsibility, and belief
in the value of compromise in the settlement of affairs without
strict adherence to logic. From these characteristics have sprung
our system of representative government through parliaments.
We are prone to assume that our methods of government, our
religious formulse, our systems of education, the lessons of our
history, our appraisement of the degrees of criminality and our
code of punishments, because we have proved them best for
ourselves, must be best for all the world. It may be so in the far
future, but the attempt to bridge the centuries without adequate study of other mentalities, traditions and beliefs, is more
likely to lead to failure than to success.
With the realization of the difficulty and of the importance of
the work, there has come an increasing recognition of the fact
that, as Sir Valentine Chirol puts it, the task demands not the
average man but the very best men we have got. When I first
went to Africa â€” and the assertion is obviously not fiattering
to myselfâ€” there was undoubtedly a feeling that anyone
was good enough for Africa. Selection of officers was haphazard
in the extreme. The Indian Service enjoyed great prestige, and
next to it came the Eastern Colonial Cadet Service. To-day
neither the one nor the other can boast of better men than those
who serve in tropical Africa. And the credit is due to the Service
itselfâ€”though many, alas! of those who pioneered the way
have not lived to see the results.
Conditions in the early days, of housing, food, medical aid,
and overwork for the British staff were very bad, especially in
THE WHITE MAN’S TASK IN AFRICA 67
West Africa, and the mortality was dreadful, but as a result of
the abounding material prosperity of these dependencies these
conditions have now improved beyond comparison. Wives accompany their husbands, and the tone of European society has changed
greatly for the better, a change which includes all classes, â€” missionaries, traders, miners and officials. Its effect is not lost on the
black man. I do not refer to British colonies only.
And what are the results on the credit side of the dual task,
to compensate for the death roll. In material prosperity they
are amazing. Thousands of miles of railways, harbors both on
the East and West Coasts constructed at a cost of several millions
each, and a trade which now aggregates many scores of millions
of pounds sterling. The little colony of the Gold Coast has
built a hospital at a cost of a quarter of a million pounds sterling,
and is now engaged on school buildings at Achimota estimated to
cost double that sum. In non-material matters the progress made
cannot be so easily tabulated. I have spoken of education, of
methods of rule, and of principles of employing wage labor; in
these and in many other spheres there can be no doubt that the
white man’s standard has been raised. The endeavors of the
Mandates Commission to uphold the true principles of Trusteeship on the one hand, and the loyalty of Africa and its white
rulers during the war on the other are tangible tokens of progress.
A word in conclusion as to the Mandates. Has the system set
up by the Covenant of the League proved useful and effective?
The general verdict seems to be in tne affirmative. The essential
features which distinguish territories held under Mandate from
Colonies and Protectorates are, first, that the Mandatory is
pledged to administer the country in accordance with certain
strict rules laid down in the Mandate â€” whether those rules
are in accordance with the practice in its own colonies or not;
second, that it must render an annual account of its stewardship
to the Mandates Commission, a body advisory to the League, and
that these reports, together with the full minutes of the discussion
upon them with the accredited representative of the Mandatory,
are made public; and third, that inhabitants have the right to
petition the League through the Mandatory, and the world at
large has the right to submit any memorial if it is considered
that the conditions of the Mandate are not being carried out.
Publicity and the expression of public opinion are the only forces
which can be brought to bear on a Mandatory, but they are very
68 FOREIGN AFFAIRS
powerful forces. Whether the right of petition is sufficiently effective or whether it may be liable to misuse, are matters now
engaging the consideration of the Commission.
The Commission consists of ten members of different nationalities nominated by the Council of the League for personal
competence. They may not hold any appointment under their
governments. The examination of the reports, laws, petitions,
and the large volume of press articles, parliamentary debates
and other papers circulated by the Secretariat concernins; the
admmistration of fourteen separate countries, m addition to two
or three sessions each year of some three weeks’ duration each at
Geneva, is a task so heavy that it is perhaps doubtful whether the
system can long be efficiently carried out on its present basis.
Germany, in accordance with the Treaty of Locarno, will
before long become a Member of the League. Influential parties
in that country have long been engaged in propaganda having for
their object the restitution of one or more of her colonies. They
claim that until she is adjudged worthy to control a colony she
does not sit at the table of the League on a footing of equality
with Portugal or Spain, and that her industrial millions need free
and assured access to tropical resources. This she enjoys already
in all British territories whether under a Mandate or not, and will
have as of right in all other mandated areas in Africa when she
enters the League. Italy proclaims that if Germany were to obtain
a Mandate she would advance a similar claim. On the other hand
it is repugnant to right feeling that populations, to whom solemn
pledges of protection and of the permanence of the existing
arrangements have been made, should be bartered about as
mere chattels to suit the convenience or political exigencies of
European nations, and that the pledges should be treated as
“scraps of paper.” Nor can a Mandate be revoked (except in
theory for gross maladministration) without the consent of the
I have touched on but two or three of the many problems which
tropical Africa presents to the twentieth century for solution,
but enough I think has been said to indicate their great interest
and the claim they have on the careful attention alike of those
who benefit by the products of Africa, and those who acknowledge the obligations which wealth, leisure, civilization, and the
ethics of a higher creed impose upon the more favored nations.
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We have a privacy and confidentiality policy that guides our work. We NEVER share any customer information with third parties. Noone will ever know that you used our assignment help services. It’s only between you and us. We are bound by our policies to protect the customer’s identity and information. All your information, such as your names, phone number, email, order information, and so on, are protected. We have robust security systems that ensure that your data is protected. Hacking our systems is close to impossible, and it has never happened.
You fill all the paper instructions in the order form. Make sure you include all the helpful materials so that our academic writers can deliver the perfect paper. It will also help to eliminate unnecessary revisions.
Proceed to pay for the paper so that it can be assigned to one of our expert academic writers. The paper subject is matched with the writer’s area of specialization.
You communicate with the writer and know about the progress of the paper. The client can ask the writer for drafts of the paper. The client can upload extra material and include additional instructions from the lecturer. Receive a paper.
The paper is sent to your email and uploaded to your personal account. You also get a plagiarism report attached to your paper.
PLACE THIS ORDER OR A SIMILAR ORDER WITH US TODAY AND GET A PERFECT SCORE!!!
Delivering a high-quality product at a reasonable price is not enough anymore.
That’s why we have developed 5 beneficial guarantees that will make your experience with our service enjoyable, easy, and safe.
You have to be 100% sure of the quality of your product to give a money-back guarantee. This describes us perfectly. Make sure that this guarantee is totally transparent.Read more
Each paper is composed from scratch, according to your instructions. It is then checked by our plagiarism-detection software. There is no gap where plagiarism could squeeze in.Read more
Thanks to our free revisions, there is no way for you to be unsatisfied. We will work on your paper until you are completely happy with the result.Read more
Your email is safe, as we store it according to international data protection rules. Your bank details are secure, as we use only reliable payment systems.Read more
By sending us your money, you buy the service we provide. Check out our terms and conditions if you prefer business talks to be laid out in official language.Read more