AFRICA SOUTH OF THE SAHARA
AN ADDRESS BY
MAJOR LOUIS KRAFT, GENERAL SECRETARY OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN INSTITUTE OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS
Chairman: The President, Mr. Tracy E. Lloyd
Friday, October 17, 1947
Ladies and Gentlemen
"We all vividly recall the charges made by the Russian Delegate, Mr. Vishinsky, at the United Nations Assembly at Lake Success, and we most certainly remember thereply to those charges made by the British Under-Secretary of State. Less than an hour after the British Secretary of State's address, the Empire Club sent him a wire inviting him to address us before his return to England. Since that time, we have been constantly in touch with Lake Success, endeavouring to arrange a suitable date, and were very pleased indeed when we received word last week that we could hold this special meeting today.
However, I am sorry to have to tell you that the Air Lines are not as dependable as the Empire Club because we are here but our speaker, who was to fly from New York this morning, is not--his plane having been grounded until after 11 a.m.
I did not know anyone nearer than South Africa who would step in a situation like this and assist the Club but Major Louis Kraft of Johannesburg, who graciously postponed speaking to our regular meeting yesterday and has now consented to deliver his address today--his subject being "Africa South of the Sahara".
I am sure, under these circumstances, we will give Major Kraft--General Secretary of the South African Institute of International Affairs, who is a native of Belgium, prominent authority on African affairs during World War II and who was head of the Information Branch of the Directorate of Military Intelligence and was decorated by the French and Belgian Governments--a very good hearing."--Major Kraft.
AFRICA SOUTH OF THE SAHARA
I must admit that I am rather pleased that an opportunity is being given to me to address you on the problem of my favorite stamping ground; Africa South of the Sahara, which, truly is Africa.
Africa North of the desert is not Africa since the Mediterranean is much less of a bar to intercourse between Europe and North Africa, than is the desert, between North Africa and the tropical regions to the South. The French showed they realized this deeper logic of Geography when they made the coastal provinces of Algeria an integral part of France (French "departments" they are called) as if the sea in between were but a very large river;--and the enterprising Englishmen and Englishwomen who still trek overland from Europe to South Africa, learn to their cost what a powerful barrier the North African desert is.
Besides, North Africa is in the temperate zone, while the Africa I understand by that word lies mainly in the tropics. There is, of course, temperate South Africa, but she too is (or until recently was) isolated as a result of her position at the tail end of a continent, in a particularly landless and people-less hemisphere.
Before dealing with some of the problems of this land mass separated from the rest of the world by salt water and sand, I have to dispose of a (to my mind) indispensable introduction. In all countries and continents, geography plays a major part in human destinies and policies. This is doubly true of Africa. I say "is" because, though I am mindful of how much less that isolation means in the air age, the conviction of Africa's past isolation is still in the minds and the instincts of many people living there.
The isolation of Africa South of the Sahara is, first of all, that brought about by the fact that Africa is in a hemisphere which has, comparatively, little land and only a small portion of the population of the globe. Most of the land masses and the overwhelming majority of the people of the world are in the Northern hemisphere-a fact recognized by the United Nations, whose emblem is a view of the Northern hemisphere seen as if you were looking straight down on it from the stratosphere.
Consequently, Africa South of the Sahara (and even South Africa, despite the magnets of its gold and of its more-than-ever important strategic sea routes between East and West) is well away from the big human stream flowing broadly round the top of the world, a stream flowing right across Canada.
And whatever population there is in the Africa I am dealing with now, is thinly spread. There are only 104 millions (of these 3 million whites) in that self-contained zone.
And when we come to South Africa, we have to recognize that, she too, despite her 2% millions Europeans, temperate climate, and mineral wealth, is, by her geographical position, well outside the hemisphere where the seats of military and political power exist. But that, too, is changing, and may in a predictable future, change quite a lot. The causes of such changes are the new outlook on geography--global geography--brought about by aviation's predilection for great circle course itineraries, and the changes in strategy brought about by the future possible employment of atomic energy.
The second form of isolation is one, which, in the past, had a major influence on the rate -of development of the Bantu people and consequently on the development of Africa:- the isolation due to the wider desert of North Africa, stretching from sea to sea, and to the two oceans to the East and to the West: the last two barriers preventing those horizontal cultural exchanges which proved so fruitful on the Eurasian continent.
French being my native tongue I go readily to French sources, and French speculations on problems. One illuminating thesis I came across a couple of weeks ago, a thesis about tropical lands, dovetails with some conclusions arrived at in South Africa about some of the probable causes of the backwardness of the Bantu and of their inability to develop their tropical heritage as well as many Asiatic communities developed theirs.
Incidentally, these Bantu people are relatively recent intruders: a mixed race which came South from somewhere West of Abyssinia. It is the language factor that makes the Bantu, one, as their various tongues have many root words in common and one grammatical formation. "Bantu" like "Aryan" is a language term. It means "people".
Professor Pierre Gouru, of the College de France, in his latest book "Les Pays Tropicaux" propounds the theory that, though the hot and rainy regions of the earth have a poor soil, easily exhausted, a soil subjecting the agriculturist to severe conditions with an output inferior to that of the temperate zones,--despite such basic conditions common to all hot and rainy regions such as the tropics,--the human development, the development of civilizations, has not been the same in Asia and certain parts of Central America on the one hand, and the rest of the tropical world, on the other. And it is the lessons of Asia's success that tropical Africa must learn and adapt to her future needs.
Gourou shows that cultural exchanges in Eurasia, by helping exploitation techniques in temperate zones to reach, and become progressively adapted to, tropical lands favoured the emergence in tropical Asia of a type of peasant community different from that of Black Africa. The Asiatic peoples of the tropics evolved an agricultural economy based on flooded rice fields, which is the only one ensuring in tropical lands, a steady production year after year, of cereals, since paddy fields do not exhaust the soil even after 2000 years of continuous cultivation (this is due to the silt) and do not provoke soil erosion. As a result a dense population is able to live in tropical Asia.
Africa, on the other hand, was denied by the Sahara barrier, the lessons and experiences of more evolved civilizations. This desert barrier is one of the major causes of the backward character of the cultures of tropical Africa. All that their populations were able to evolve in agricultural technique was the shifting type of cultivation on soils cleared by bush fires and veld fires; and what the African generally planted was the shallow-rooted annual which (in a land of torrential rains) led to, rather than prevented, soil erosion. Such agriculture, the shifting type on plots cleared by fire, is not compatible with a high standard of life.
Gourou also points out that paddy fields are not a favorable habitat for the larvae of the malarial mosquito. Thus, the rice-producing peoples of tropical Asia were, and are, better off, on that account, than the peoples of tropical Africa.
The French Professor thinks that, where possible, paddy fields should be developed, and I have heard of at least one tribe, the Mabena, who unable to make a living on the slopes of the Livingstone Mountains in Tanganyika, trekked down and developed paddy fields in the valley. Then there are the extensive paddy fields of Madagascar, a culture introduced by the Hovas, who came originally from S.E. Asia. Where paddy fields would not thrive, arborescent cultures (which being deeprooted do not favour soil erosion) such as coffee, tea, cocoa, rubber, coconut, palmoilnut should be developed with the help of modern techniques. He condemns the traditional type of cultivation still prevalent in tropical Africa, both in defence of the soil and in defence of the humans on it. He is dubious about groundnut schemes as planned in Tanganyika on a large scale, since in Senegal similar projects brought about a catastrophic type of soil erosion. But, of course, there is no reason to presume that the Tanganyika project fails to include all necessary guarantees against the spread of soil erosion.
This thesis dovetails with the South African view that geographical isolation was one cause of the backwardness of the Bantu (while to Europeans, contact with strange peoples set agoing the development of their own civilizations). Other reasons for this backwardness were: the absence round Africa of any fringes of islands encouraging graduated experience in the difficult art of navigation; and, the extreme unhealthiness of Africa, since, in the course of ages the Africans gained only a partial immunity to malaria. Many Bantu infants still die before developing immunity. Then there is dysentery, sleeping sickness, intestinal parasites, bylharsia, spirillum fever.
On this point I should like to quote the following very brief remark of Julian Huxley in his book "On Living in a Revolution"
"The white man in the tropics curses the native for his laziness. But if the native were once rid of parasitic and infectious diseases, and given an adequate diet, he would not merely be more energetic; his entire personality would be transformed".
The difference can be seen in the natives who have worked on the Rand Gold Mines for a year or two, after having been cured of their ailments and been given a balanced diet for a time. They looked fat, jaunty and energetic. I am no admirer of the migrant labour system favoured by the Rand gold mines though I realize the logic of its short-term economic motive, but within the framework of that system--good or bad--one must admit that the Rand gold mines look after the health of their native labour force.
What Huxley says about the effect of disease on the personality of the African is particularly true of the debilitating effect of sleeping sickness. In many natives the action of the trypanosome is a very slow one. They remain up and doing, but as they are sick, they are more often prone than up and are more often "lazy" than active. As Dr. P. J. du Toit, of the South African Veterinary Services, said in London, last month (September), when showing a colour-sound film of the spraying of tsetse-infested lands with DDT from the air: "The tsetse is the biggest problem in Africa". And though DDT will make an appreciable difference, those who know tropical Africa, its size and the limited capital resources available there, realize that the tsetse may remain a scourge for generations. Also, because Africa is a political jig-saw puzzle while rapid efficient tsetse control, like locust control and in fact all pest and disease controls, must be planned "functionally" across political boundaries. But in Africa., like elsewhere. the crossing of political boundaries, either physically, or mentally, is not always easy.
(I may add that Madagascar is free from sleeping sickness though the island is mainly in the tropical belt. So is the RuandaUrundi, a Belgian mandated territory, on account of its altitude. That is why cattle thrive in both territories (being free from nagana, the animal counterpart of sleeping sickness).)
Having travelled much in Africa and lived there uninterruptedly for 21 years, there is a great temptation to describe it and that I must not do. I must not give you a travelogue. At the same time I feel that I must say something about the diversity of Africa, a diversity which should not mask its indivisibility. Africa has no Rockies or Cordilleras to divide it vertically.
The bulk of South Africa is on a plateau and this renders even near-tropical places like Johannesburg and Pretoria, temperate and healthy. This plateau extends along the eastern part of Africa as far as Abyssinia but immediately north and north west, only as far as the southern part of the Belgian Congo (the Katanga with its rich copper and uranium mines), which though far up into the tropical belt is still relatively healthy. This part of the plateau is the southern side of the rim of the Congo basin; and it is at the bottom of the basin (a basin open to the west where the Congo River flows into the Atlantic Ocean) that one finds the lands which are steamy, unhealthy and unsuited to permanent white settlement.
This is the region which has most of the water resources of Southern Africa, a land of big rivers with 8000 miles of navigable sections. Further North the ground rises again slightly and then slopes gently towards Lake Chad.
And to the East is that great crack in the surface of the earth, a crack more than 3000 miles long, a crack which matches upside down and with emptiness, the Rockies and Cordilleras of the Americas. It is the Great Rift Valley extending from the Jordan Valley to the southern end of Lake Nyasa. It is one of the great distinctive features of Africa but except for the presence of two very long navigable lakes inside it, it has no major significance. Of much greater significance is the mighty Congo River and its tributaries.
Now, in this vast tropical zone South of the Sahara, there are cool and healthy uplands, sticking out of the hot bush and damp tropical undergrowth: the Shire districts of Nyasaland; the coffee farms South of Lake Tanganyika and around the shores of Lake Kivu; the whole mandated territory of RuandaUrundi (one of the most thickly populated areas in the world); three highland strips in Angola, and particularly the southernmost one which became, for a few generations, the home of Trekboers from South Africa, a region which, miraculously, duplicated their own Worcester Valley near the Cape; the Kenya Highlands; the slopes of Mounts Kilimanjaro and Kenya and of the Ruwenzori range, the Bauchi plateau of Northern Nigeria and, of course, the altiplano of Abyssinia.
But the bulk of Africa South of the Sahara and North of the Tropic of Capricorn is an unhealthy, depressing, energy-sapping region which deserves the expert ministrations of Unesco nearly as much as the Matto Grosso of Brazil.
If we now view again the whole of Africa South of the Sahara, we find that water power is very unevenly distributed. South Africa has hardly any while the Belgian Congo has much more than half the horsepower potential (in its rivers) of the whole of Africa. South Africa cannot, anywhere, use rivers for the transport of merchandise while, in the Belgian Congo, there are 1400 vessels and barges transporting cargo, and also passenger, along watercourses.
This self-contained region is a political jig-saw puzzle handled by five sovereign powers, four of which have their headquarters in Europe: Britain, France, Belgium and Portugal. The fifth is South Africa. I discount Spain which has no more than the tip of her toe in Africa South of the Sahara. Then there are two rather weak independent black states; Liberia, which periodically finds it difficult to make l0th ends meet without the assistance of the United States, and Abyssinia which keeps very much to herself on the very edge of the Africa we are dealing with today.
With the exception of the two Portuguese colonies (Angola and Mozambique) which have identical administrations and colonial policies all the other territories have a different constitutional set-up, different types of administrations and various shades of native policies: near-dominion status in Southern Rhodesia; colonial status (but not identical) in French Equatorial Africa, Northern Rhodesia and in Kenya; protectorates in Uganda and in what are called the High Commission Territories, near or inside the Union of South Africa; indirect rule in Northern Nigeria; colonial status tempered by the principle of trusteeship required by the Berlin Treaty of 1885 in the Belgian Congo; "B" mandates in Tanganyika, Ruanda-Urundi and the Cameroons; "C" mandate and its closer integration with the mandatory power, in SouthWest Africa; a transition from colonial status to membership of a federation in Madagascar.
Such plurality of control is reflected in a plurality of native policies, from the colour-bar of South Africa, only a little less rigorous in Southern Rhodesia, to the other extreme in French territories--that is, the granting of the status of French citizen to natives who qualify for it, and access to all professions. In between, there is the Belgian policy, with its lack of industrial colour-bar and occupational segregation but with a social colour-bar and residential segregation. British policy is as liberal, particularly in West Africa, where natives are trained for the highest administrative posts.
However, it should be noted that, though the repressive character of much of South Africa's legislation about natives cannot be denied, and that native political representation is inadequate, there is some form of political native representation in South Africa (three members of the House of Assembly and eight Senators who must be of European parentage) while elsewhere in Africa South of the Sahara, there is none at all, except in the French colonies. However, the natives under the French flag may elect men of their own race.
Now, the gold, the diamonds, the copper, palm oil, coal, which comes out of Africa, blinds people elsewhere to the fact that Africa is, on the whole, still a poor continent (4 1/2% of the world's primary production from the second largest of the continents), an agglomeration of poor countries,--because the overwhelming majority of the peoples living there are very poor and resources are barely exploited.
Even South Africa is poor, by world standards, and if she had not benefited from what Professor Herbert S. Frankel, of Nuffield College, Oxford, calls a succession of economic "miracles" she would be even poorer.
South Africa which, with the Belgian Congo, is rightly considered the most developed, the most industrialized country South of the Sahara, is very poor as Colin Clark showed clearly in "The Conditions of Economic Progress". According to this book South Africa's wealth expressed in international units was, for the period of 1925 to 1934, 276, while Canada's was 1337, Great Britain's 1069 and the United States' 1381. Put differently and for a much more recent period, viz., last year, South Africa, with a national income of about 400,000,000 pounds per annum for 11,000,000 people, has an income per person of only 77 pounds a year.
This is recognized in South Africa by all serious-thinking people not blinded by racial or other prejudices. They admit that as noted in the "Third Interim Report of the Industrial and Agricultural Requirements Commission", a large majority of South Africa's population is underfed, badly housed and poorly educated. The Commission points out that "an acceleration of South Africa's industrial development is essential".
To discuss this single question with some adequacy would need more time and more knowledge than I possess. All I shall say, simply as a pointer, because it has an important bearing on my treatment of Africa South of the Sahara as a whole, is that there is little hope of progress as long as 6401o (mainly natives) of South Africa's population continue to farm, since they only produce, on the country's drought-stricken soil, 12 1/2% of the national income. The country is best suited to stock farming. For the rest, there is need to develop South Africa's secondary industries, particularly now, while a fourth "miracle" (the Orange Free State Goldfields) gives the Union a fresh breathing space for putting her economic house in order, while continuing to have (as long as the gold lasts) "the surplus wealth needed to buy from abroad the capital instruments she needs" (I am quoting Professor Frankel).
The first three miracles were: the discovery of diamonds in 1867, the discovery of the Rand gold fields in the eighties and the more recent discovery of large deposits of coal in the Transvaal, coal which can be mined very cheaply: only 1 1/4 dollars per short ton, pithead price.
South Africa has made a good start (particularly during the recent war), in industrializing herself, and since the war, she has gone out of her way to woo customers in the rest of Southern Africa.
A year ago a "goodwill" trade mission toured the subcontinent to find out what the prospects of increased trade were (during the war they were very good, even with Madagascar) and the mission's report reveals rather than says (through its studied optimism) that a number of South Africa's manufactured articles are too dear to be in a position to compete successfully in the hinterland of South Africa with similar goods of same quality from say, Britain, America, France, Belgium or Portugal.
One cause is that South Africa skilled work is only done by Europeans. They receive high wages as members of what a Foreign Policy Association's Report has called a "white oligarchy". South Africa needs more skilled workers but still refuses to train and employ its own natives as skilled artisans. However, to satisfy her needs in this respect and also to reinforce the European section (whose net rate of increase is less than the natives') she welcomes immigrants from Britain and Western Europe. In my opinion she will not get all the immigrants she needs and may be forced to open to natives the doors of skilled trades. However, if this were done too quickly or too obviously, it might mean a victory at the polls for the Nationalist Party as many South Africans, including many of Anglo-Saxon descent would turn away from a government who tried to abolish the colour-bar in industry.
I now should like to revert to matters predominantly political: the question of future possible groupings.
Today South Africa has abandoned whatever incoherent dreams of political panafricanism she may have had in the past. Twenty-five years ago she tried to come together, politically, with Southern Rhodesia; but realizing that Southern Rhodesia fears the gravitational pull of a country (the Union) so much larger, more powerful and with such a large European population compared with her own, (i.e. 83,000),--realizing this, South Africa is prepared to wait, and wait quite a long time, until Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland have achieved some political integration. Then, relative specific gravities will not be so different and some fusion (not necessarily political) might take place.
Further North we have Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika Territory, which recently achieved a measure of integration, mainly administrative, by the creation of a central Legislative Assembly, with representatives from all three territories and from the main racial groups.
A larger grouping of these three big groups can be visualized in a rather distant future, but even such an integration of British Africa (excluding West Africa) bristles with obstacles,--such as deep-rooted differences in native policies.
If we look beyond the red areas on the map of Africa, then I cannot see any signs at present of any' kind of administrative integration (and certainly not a political one), between members of British Africa and even one member of what I like to call Latin Africa. The Portuguese are aloof and secretive; the Belgians of the Congo are co-operative particularly in scientific fields, but fear the thin edge of a South African wedge (more imaginary than real); and the French are developing their own Imperial set-up (i.e. the French Federal Union) which could not, not at present, mix with the British notions about nonself-governing territories.
All that is likely to happen, as Mr. Ivor Thomas, Under-Secretary for the Colonies, indicated a couple of weeks ago in the House of Commons, is collaboration by the British, the French and the Belgians, in solving the common problems of their dependent territories: agriculture, forestry, nutrition, health, education, tsetse, rinderpest. If this can lead up to an African version of the Caribbean Commission, then a great step towards regional planning in Southern Africa will have been made.
With regard to the African and his aspirations, my conviction is that rapid political evolution is not of much concern to him and neither is this his primary need. What he aspires to, what we should procure him, is nourishment for his body and his mind, and better, more healthy living conditions generally. Thus; the economic development should precede the political. But economic development cannot be carried out (in the light of what I said in the beginning), within the framework of the old method--the old hoe of a shifting type of cultivation. Modern, carefully thought-out methods must be introduced. Such methods need capital, much more than the 440 million dollars of the British Colonial Development Fund, and capital can only come from Europeans, just as the money of the Colonial Development Fund comes from Europeans.
To leave African communities to themselves at this stage, with the franchise and self-government as parting gifts, would be a tragedy for them, though they might not realize it.
I am suspicious of planning on too vast a scale, as such planning is generally done by the state and, before you know where you are, you have to do what the one and only employer tells you to do or you must starve. However, in regions like the Matto Grosse and in tropical Africa,--and even in those parts of South Africa where catastrophic soil erosion leaves little time for the remedial measures of the individual landowner,--planning may be the solution for which there is no practical alternative. The groundnut scheme in Tanganyika is an example of such planning and in principle, such undertakings should be applauded. Such a scheme will have the three-fold purpose of raising the standard of living of the natives of the region, of making that region more salubrious and of increasing the stocks of fats of the world.
Before I sit down I should like to say a few words about defence:
To begin with, we should remember that in Africa there are no potentially hostile powers, either to Britain or to British Africa. The same, as we know, cannot be said of the Middle East. Another reason why Africa south of the Sahara makes a better hub for Imperial Defence is, precisely, that a great desert separates that new strategic centre from the only possible enemy; also because the very vastness of Africa (a friendly vastness as I indicated just now) is better adjusted to the destructive power of atomic weapons. In Central or East Africa one can still achieve dispersal in an atomic age.
Thus the shift of the centre of gravity of Imperial Defence from Egypt to East and to South-Central Africa is a wise move, particularly at this time, when our withdrawal from India, reduces in time of war, the importance of the Red Sea and Suez as the shortest route between Britain and India. And precisely because Britain's main military base will not be in the Middle East, she may be in a better position to protect her interests there, from her new base. What I have particularly in mind is Middle East oil.
It was Liddell Hart who first pointed out the value of the North African desert, as a "desert vacuum", an effective bufferzone between Britain's new Imperial strategic centre and Russia.
Should East Africa and possibly Southern Rhodesia become (as they seem fated to become) the arsenal and hub of Imperial defence, then the consequences, both economic and social would be great. The creation of training grounds, the building of strategic industries (as part of decentralization of industries), the development of air and land routes (whether rail, river or road) would all assist in the general development of Africa. One could even visualize a speeding up of "functional" co-operation,--in science for instance, such as a drive for the elimination of the tsetse. . .
And to these British projects (some imminent, some hypothetical) two of Britain's neighbors in Africa would be able to make major contributions:
South Africa, not only with its existing industries and its air force; but also with its coal, which, either as direct fuel of electric power plants or as the raw material of synthetic petrol, would enable new industries to be created, particularly those requiring iron-ore and chrome-ore, minerals South Africa has in abundance and quite close to her largest industrial centre: Johannesburg. Dr. H. J. van Eck, Head of the South African Economic and Social Planning Council, said a year ago in a broadcast that South Africa "could become the cheapest producer of stainless steel and other chrominum alloys". When such developments are at hand, South Africa may well decide to use her large native labour force in skilled occupations, and thus the major cause of native bitterness would disappear.
Then there is the Belgian Congo which, quite apart from her other riches and her by no means negligible industries, has, close together in one region (the fairly healthy Katanga), a large copper mining industry and the greatest known deposits of uranium in the world. The Shinkolobwe Mine which is only 100 miles from the border of Northern Rhodesia, exports all its current production to the United States on the strength of a wartime agreement which is about to be reviewed. However, the fact that matters is that a friendly neighbor possesses that rich uranium mine and that it is located in South Central Africa conveniently near a large military supply base.
All these forces and currents may lead, sooner than we think, to some regional agreements in Africa (either economic or strategic or both) within the framework of the U.N. Charter (for strategy, in accordance with Article 52). But, in this connection, it should be remembered that the majority of the territories in Africa south of the Sahara are not politically free. They have their foreign entanglements made for them in European capitals. Thus a regional defence pact for Africa (similar to the Chapultepec agreement about a major portion of the Americas) or some other form of coming-together beyond mere cooperation,--these things are subordinated to similar agreements between Britain-cum-South Africa and Belgium, France and Portugal.
If this were achieved in Western Europe, the integration of Africa would immediately follow.
And then, then at last, would we see the rebirth of Africa, as only "continentally" and across all political boundaries, can African problems be successfully solved, can Africa be made a fit place for Africans (and a few others) to live in, and an abundant producer of many, of the things (particularly food) the world needs so much.