AFRICATHE UNCOMMITTED CONTINENT
An Address by
GEORGE B. CARTLAND, K.C.M.G.
Thursday, February 21, 1963
CHAIRMAN: The President, Mr. Palmer Kent, Q.C.
MR. KENT: This year our Club has had very few distinguished speakers from distant parts of the Commonwealth and, therefore, I am happy to present to you today a person who can speak with authority about the changing situation in Africa.
Mr. George B. Cartland, a Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George, has been further honoured this year when a knighthood was conferred. He will be invested by Her Majesty the Queen next month and will then be addressed as Sir George. Born in Manchester, England, he went to Central Grammar School, graduated in history from Manchester University and completed the Colonial Services course at Oxford University.
For nine years he served as district commissioner in the various districts of what is now Ghana, then the Gold Coast Colony and Ashanti. There followed five years in the Colonial Office in London when he inaugurated the African Studies Branch of the African Division in that office. In 1949, he returned to East Africa where he was associated in various capacities with the Government of Uganda. He was administrative secretary, then Minister of Social Services and Education and then Deputy Governor from 1961 until the country became independent last year. Now, Mr. Cartland has accepted the post of Registrar of Birmingham University and he will assume these new duties shortly. He has always taken a keen interest in Education particularly in the development and education of the African people.
Mr. Cartland is married, has two sons, age 21 and 17. His recreations include mountaineering, sailing and swimming and also he has tracked and watched wild game in Africa.
Because of his great experience and training, we are most fortunate to have him with us to speak on the subject: "Africa-The Uncommitted Continent".
MR. CARTLAND: The subject I have chosen, "Africa, the Uncommitted Continent", is one of those conveniently general subjects which will allow me to speak in general terms, and in some cases probably more specifically, on a wide range of subjects. The subject I really want to concentrate on is the developing foreign policy of the countries that are newly independent in tropical Africa.
Africa as a whole is a vast continent, and it has been customary in the past to divide it into two, and let the Sahara, that vast desert in the north, be a convenient dividing line, but my observations today will be largely concerned with the territories of tropical Africa rather than territories in the south which are not newly independent or those of the north which really belong more properly to considerations of the Middle East. Now, the part that these territories, the newly independent territories in tropical Africa, will play in the world of the future will be very much conditioned by certain background factors, and I would like to talk to you about them.
Before I do this, I would like to remind you that since 1950 there have been some 28 territories in tropical Africa that have achieved their independence; the greater number of those have come to independence in the last three years. You will appreciate then that these countries that I am talking about are new to the world of international affairsnot only new to the world of international affairs, but new to the world as a whole, and because the history has been a very short one for the main part, tropical areas, central areas of tropical Africa away from the coast have been developed really only in this century. Very little penetration or progress took place before then.
Established government only came to 'the interior of Africa round about the turn of the century. So the new countries in their experience of civilization, education, all sort of services that the modern world can offer are new to the form of commerce and money economy that it brings, which is part of the world we know. Not only are they new, and this is perhaps not surprising, but they are also underdeveloped. This is the phrase; this is the word which has come into use in recent years to describe those countries which are really living fairly near to the breadline nationally. Mainly new countries, many of them in the tropics; most of them with a basically agricultural economy. And this is the picture of the tropical Africa interiors.
The greater part of the economy is based upon tropical produce. Their exports are practically entirely the produce of the land. In my own territory, Uganda is dependent for the most part on cotton and coffee. It produces some sugar and tea and tobacco. Our neighbour, Kenya, produces sisal, coffee and some cotton, and a number of other small crops. Development of industry is small, and as much as 85 per cent of the exports of these countries is concerned with agricultural crops.
Now, the home policies of these countries. They have all come to independence determined that they will give the peoples of their countries a higher standard of living; a better range, better development of social services, particularly in the fields of education and medicine. The politicians who have come into fore have for the most part shown a fairly realistic approach to this subject. At least at the moment. They have realized that without money, the sinews of war so to speak, they will not be able to make any of the progress they desire. Therefore, in their speeches, and in their pronouncements of the home policy, they have laid very strong emphasis on economic development. How successful they will be is difficult to say.
I was concerned fairly closely with the preparation of the development plans in Uganda, and in other parts over the last ten or fifteen years, and it is extremely difficult to see how you can diversify the agricultural economy, rest your economy on a wider range of crops so that you will avoid the dangers of a fall in price in the world market of a single crop. It is difficult to find a field of industrial development that would come as a godsend to these countries. It could be carried out. The policies we had to follow were for the most part an attempt to build up small industries in a small way and hope the cumulative effect over the years would improve the basis of the economy. These are the problems which the new governments are facing at home.
In their approach to the world, and in their approach to home problems, the new governments are very conscious of their past. They are very anxious to show that they are no longer dependent. A good deal of the outlook is conditioned by this desire to demonstrate the reality of their new independence. In their approach to foreign affairs, this fact is an important one.
There are also other important facts. One of them is of all the aspects of government, their experience in foreign affairs is perhaps least. Foreign affairs, as you know, in the case of a dependent territory are operated through a metropolitan power, and the foreign affairs of the territories of Africa, that is apart from those discussions of minor problems across the border with our neighbours and discussions with our neighbours of administration and perhaps less dramatic matters, have been dealt with through Foreign Office or the Commonwealth Relations Office in London. This means there has been no foreign office on the spot. There is no foreign office to hand over. All the archives and records and information that go with the Foreign Office are for the most part not available in these countries. Moreover, they are not wealthy enough to establish many stations overseas which would be a source of information for them.
In the case of Uganda, only two stations have been established; one in Britain, where they have appointed a High Commissioner, and one in the United Nations. The United Nations representative is doubling at the Embassy in Washington, but there are no other representatives of Uganda overseas, so the amount they can draw from their own network is fairly limited.
All these territories have shown great interest in the United Nations, and this probably is not surprising. It provides them with an attractive forum to play a part in world affairs; to speak and command a world audience. It also helps them to substitute United Nations contacts with other countries; representatives of other countries for those direct contacts that they cannot afford to establish by sending representatives to the capitals of the world.
Also they have been very quick to recognize that in the United Nations these small independent nations can exercise an influence which would be denied to them if they were to try to operate separately. They stand almost as a bloc, and every new independent power is one more vote, and if you add twenty-eight new votes since 1950 it is some measure of the shift of influence in voting power in the United Nations. This is an important factor, and it provides a good deal of attraction which that organization has for these new independent territories.
The fact that these countries are underdeveloped, that they have difficulty in closing the gap between their revenue and their extended projects, difficulty they have in raising capital to invest in new developments in the country means that although they are anxious to be independent and demonstrate their independence, they are really going to be very dependent on other countries of the world for assistance in the economic field for some considerable time to come.
Now, that is the background of the countries themselves. What about the outside world and its interest and its attitude to Africa? Before the war, in the thirties, there was remarkably little interest in Africa. In fact, even in Britain which had vast responsibility in Africa, you found a remarkable ignorance of what went on in these countries and what they were like. I remember when I was first going to Africa in 1935, the people were saying goodbye to me with a mixture of sympathy and a mixture of some sort of feeling that you were going somewhere from which you would not return, and certainly a feeling that you were going a very great distance; and indeed in those days you were, because it took me three weeks to get from my home in England to my station in the Gold Coast. My colleagues who went to East Africa, and went to Uganda, where I am now, or was recently, took as much as five weeks from their home in England to their station in Africa.
The last time I went home on official duty from Uganda to London in September, I travelled home one day, nonstop, in eleven hours; spent one day in London doing my chores, and I got the plane back next day and was back in eleven hours. This demonstrates the way in which the whole of tropical Africa has come, inside my official experience, very much closer to London and very much closer to the western world, and indeed to the world as a whole. This means it is one of the main factors in a very considerable increase in world interest in Africa. It has been possible to know Africa; it has been possible to get into it; it has been possible for the people of Africa to get out of it that was not available in the past, and this is important.
Africa too has become a sort of no-man's land in the clash between East and West. Many people on both sides have felt that Africa was the place where perhaps the cold war would be fought out, and big nations on both sides of the Iron Curtain have shown considerable interest in Africa because of this fact. They have attempted to put over their own points of view and they have attempted to influence African opinion, and they have attempted to establish their influence by grants of money and by offers of scholarships, and by the provision of literature and by inviting leading Africans to their camp headquarters. This has gone on on both sides, and this has greatly intensified world interest in Africa. Of course, it has had the effect of greatly boosting the morale and the confidence of the leaders in Africa, because of this great attention that was being paid to them.
The interest of the outer world of course went further than that. They were interested in commercial expansion and were looking to Africa for markets. I think many countries felt with the weakening of the four big colonial powers that there will be openings for them. We find many countries of Europe, Western Germany, Italy and Holland, who sent their representatives to Africa to look around for fields of activity and to look around for a possibility of expanding their commercial connections. This, too, has happened in the case of the North American continent. Iron Curtain countries, Russia, China, Czechoslovakia, have all taken an active interest in what is going on. They have offered scholarships, and they have invited leaders of Africa to go and make contact with them.
Other countries of the world, apart from those who might be interested in a purely commercial point of view, have also developed keen interest in the continent. India has some responsibility in the continent because a large number of Indian subjects have settled in Africa and they take some considerable interest in what goes on, particularly in East Africa.
Egypt has had its eye on the Nile Valley. You are aware of the fact that Egypt draws its life-blood from the Nile, and two of the major natural reservoirs of the Nile are in Uganda. We are conscious of the considerable interest that the Japan Government has paid in the whole Nile Valley in Uganda, at least over the last decade, although this is an interest that goes back some considerable distance.
The North African states exercise and exhibit a considerable interest in what is going on in tropical Africa, looking possibly for political associations that will strengthen their own position, and although we have always regarded them as much more naturally connected with the Middle East, they have begun to look southward for further support.
The Casablanca Conference and the Casablanca group of African power is a demonstration of this interest. Tropical Africa was not contacted in this particular connection, and Ghana is the only one of the new states, apart from New Guinea, and a certain passing interest amongst certain French territories that have really shown active interest in the north. British territories have preferred, for the most part, to support a rather moderate grouping of African states which was established in a conference in Monrovia. Nevertheless, it does show an interest of another group in North Africa.
Japan, too, has been showing considerable interest in Africa, with a view, as one would expect, to expansion of its markets. The Asian states have shown considerable interest, too. They have made approaches to the African states, and we have seen a development of an Afro-Asian bloc in various conferences that have taken place in the last decade, and the development of a significant Afro-Asian bloc in the United Nations; the sudden feeling of common interest between undeveloped territories and between newly independent territories. This has been a sort of cement that has bound them together. Now, in describing this, I have not attempted to say what has been the success of these interests, what has been the success of these attempts you might say to penetrate Africa, possibly to succeed in certain spheres their own colonial powers.
Let us turn to the policies of these countries. The element of the foreign policy and the attitude towards foreign affairs in these countries has followed certain clearly defined lines. They were greatly influenced by the attitude of the Asian states that came to independence. India, Ceylon and Pakistan. In India the primary and central feature of their foreign policy was neutrality; the determination to show they had broken completely away from the old government states, and this element of neutrality is common to all the newly-developed, all the newly appearing African states. They have chosen to call it positive neutrality. I have not been able to discover what is meant by that. I suppose it is neutrality with a determination, but they have certainly attempted to keep clear of the major blocs.
They do take an independent line in the discussion of international problems, and take a very independent line on many occasions in the United Nations. It is interesting that in spite of this, both French territories and British territories have shown a tendency to look for a certain amount of not political leadership but paternal leadership and economic assistance to their own economic powers. In the case of British territories, they have all, immediately upon receiving independence, applied for membership in the Commonwealth, and they have been accepted, and they greatly value that. I know from my own contact with the leaders the value they set on the Commonwealth association.
All of them, as I have already said, look to U.N.O. They all applied for membership in the United Nations and they all tried to have an active part in it. The chief feature which is important which has developed in Africa and is common to all the states is a feeling of what they describe as Pan African. A determination to stand together in the affairs of the world, and to stand together inside Africa for a rebuilding of Africa.
One aspect of it is statements that they will attempt to achieve closer union between African states. We have seen this in the attempt to create a union between Ghana and Mali. We see it in the statements that have been made by Julius Nyerere, the President of Tanganyika, that he will work for East African political federation.
A great deal of support has been given verbally to these ideas. At the back of it, Pan Africanism, apart from the desire to draw the African states together in general association, in some cases in political association, there is growing a fairly strong feeling of "Africa for the Africans." African nationalism is a feature which is mixed up in the general attitude towards the world at large. This African nationalism was the major force inside Africa which created pressures for the grant of independence, and in the independent states now it is beginning to turn two ways. One, towards association with other states which are not independent in an attempt to help them become independent by exercising pressure on the metropolitan power.
The Prime Minister of Uganda, although Uganda has only been independent for six months, appeared in London the other day to exercise pressure on the Secretary of State to grant an early independence to Kenya. He appeared in Leopoldville with other Prime Ministers of Africa to criticize the policy of Belgium and the United Kingdom in relation to Katanga, and attempted to exercise pressure there to draw Katanga into a union of the Commonwealth. It was another aspect of this policy, of the desire, to keep a political group of African states, and not to allow secession.
African nationalism has taken on another feature, and that is an attempt to create a new world image of Africa. The world image of Africa is a place of primitive peoples, underdeveloped peoples, and the African nationalists are now anxious in all these states to create an image of civilized peoples and civilized communities and states that can hold, their own in the councils of the world. They talk of a renaissance of African culture; all different aspects of creating a new image, an influential image and a worthwhile image in other people's minds of Africa. They gloss over the fact, of course, that you cannot have a rebirth of something that did not exist, but that is part of the psychology of their new outlook. They are anxious to create an impression.
They talk of the regeneration of the economies of the African countries. Again, you cannot regenerate something that did not originally exist. They use this word with the idea of building up the public impression of these countries. Of course, as I say, in the old days there was no money economy and today it is money economy. It is not an attempt to regenerate it; it is really an attempt to build it up in the first instance, but this word "regeneration" is an important one because it is all part of the attempt to build up the world image.
The whole approach of the African planners and the African states in the beginning was a highly idealistic one, and also a fairly emotional one. They are anxious, as I say, to increase their influence and to improve their image and to demonstrate their independence. These are all general considerations, but like all of us, as we grow up, we have to face the facts of life and we find that at times life does not work out in the rather idealistic way that we have approached it when we embarked on it in the beginning.
They wanted policies in the form of neutrality and to be friends with everybody. This was demonstrated when Russia approached the Prime Minister of Uganda and asked him if he could have a Russian Embassy in Kampala. He said, "Yes, certainly; I want to be friends with everyone." This was the idealistic approach, but as time went on, the experience of the African states with the Iron Curtain activities in Africa has led to some extent to their disillusionment, and I am certain in my own mind that as far as the theory of communism is concerned, communism has no future. What may happen in the future, if we get industrial development, is another matter, but at the moment it has very little prospect of making an ideological progress in the continent.
More than that, they have become, to some extent, disillusioned with the sort of help that has come out of Russia, and there is a good deal of suspicion surrounding the activities of the Iron Curtain countries. We have gone through periods of being very anxious about attempts of iron Curtain countries to penetrate, particularly in attempts to get students to go behind the Iron Curtain where they may be exposed to indoctrination and exposed to education there. In fact, it seems to be recoiling on the Iron Curtain countries, and they seem to be less popular today than they were. Students who have gone have come back, to some extent, disillusioned with their treatment. Not very many days ago there was a report in the press of a large number of students in Bulgaria objecting to the treatment they had, and of many of them leaving the country. This is the sort of thing that has gone on. They have begun to realize where their friends are, and their first reaction to demonstrate independence and be independent has begun to be militated by the fact that when it goes to the point of their wanting something, at least our own territories tend to turn back to Britain, where they have ties which are older than with the Commonwealth. They will turn to other western nations. I believe only in the last resort will they turn to the Iron Curtain, but they will keep that path open. They will keep themselves independent in order that they can go anywhere for the assistance they need, but it is interesting the wayin which order, and the places where they look.
They have talked a good deal about the philosophy of democracy, and in fact they used democracy as an argument against Britain to establish independence, but they have seen with some dismay, and this is real among some of the East African politicians, the way Ghana has gone.
They realize that the slope from democracy is a very slippery one, and once you are on it a country begins to slide rapidly. They have been very, very dismayed indeed about what is happening there. We realize it is bound up with the ambitions of a single man. This frightens them and makes them look again at their own affairs. This is not to say they themselves will not slip if similar circumstances arise, but they are conscious that there is a difference in Ghana between the ideals that were talked in the beginning and the practice that has developed.
They have seen the personal ambition and, indeed, the imperialism that has developed, not only on the part of Ghana, in their operations in the Commonwealth. This again is frightening to them. They have found that their attempts to secure political association are not going to be met with the easy solution that might have appeared in the beginning.
In East Africa they really talked a lot in the beginning about political federation, but the possibilities of political federation of East Africa are, to my mind, and I think this is becoming clear in East Africa now, becoming increasingly remote. The countries, having become independent, whatever their ideals may be, whatever is spoken, whatever lip service they may give to the idea of federation, are going to find it very difficult indeed to give anything away on which a federation can be based. They will not want to relinquish their own control of their own armed forces; they will not want to let go their seat at U.N.O. They will not want to let go the right of direct representation in other countries, even though the representation at this day may be small.
They may be prepared to co-operate economically, and they may be prepared to co-operate from an administrative basis, but to let go political power, it is extremely unlikely, and federation is as far off, I think, under the independent states as it was under British rule in East Africa, largely for different reasons which I think I should not go into this morning.
What of the future? I believe that the policy of the future will develop along the sort of lines of the analysis that I have now given you. I believe that there will be a widening gap between the ideals that they have laid down for themselves and the practice. We may see development of ambitious men, and I am sure we shall see conflicts of national interest that will eat into the ideology that these independent states have created for themselves.
I think that the scene, the African scene, in the centre, in tropical Africa, will be dominated in the next few years by two big problems. One will be the continuing problem of the Congo, as I do not believe myself that what has happened in the Congo in recent weeks has in any way contributed to the solution of the building of an effective stable state there. I think the Congo politics will continue to dominate the scene. The second factor that will dominate the scene in the next few years will be the political future of the territories that contain large white settler populations. As far as Britain is concerned, those two territories are Kenya and Northern Rhodesia. I do not propose to attempt to forecast what is going to happen in either of those territories, but very active discussions and examination of the problems that are raised in these territories are under way now by the British Government. One can only hope that the solutions that will emerge from the very active and very careful work that is going on on these problems at the moment will be such that it will bring peace and stability to both those countries.
My final word on Africa, tropical Africa, is that I believe the future of it, the future stability and the way it will develop politically internally and in its attitude externally will depend very much upon the solution of the economic problem. Africa is underdeveloped. It needs a great deal of capital to develop its resources. It will need a great deal of development to provide the wherewithal for the Government to provide the social development that the people are clamouring for and that the governments are anxious to give. The problem, perhaps, is not entirely one of capital. It is also one of making their own way. It is not only a matter of being able to borrow millions on the world market or to get grants of a million or two, say, for a specific project such as schools or hospitals or the development of some industry or hydro-electric property.
It is a question of how they are going to increase the wealth of the country in a way which will provide the Government with additional revenue to carry out the policies that they have in mind. The sad fact is in East Africa, three territories there, there is a gap between the revenue and expenditures on the wrong side. At the moment the British Government has done a great deal to close the gap. In Kenya it is paying considerable sums. It has been paying in Tanganyika an official final settlement to give some assistance for a short period in this direction. The problem will remain unless the money can be invested in territories in a way that will bring an awfully rapid return in terms of money and hard cash, not in returns over long periods, in terms of educated men or healthier men, not that sort of return, but hard cash in the next few years. They are going to be faced with extreme difficulty and inability to match the performance to the policies that they have in mind.
THANKS OF THE MEETING were expressed by Mr. B. R. Curson.