Chapter IV : Economic Geography
Part 2 : Situation from a Commercial Point of View

from : J. Roland and E. Duchesne, Cours Complet de Geographie : Le Congo Belge, Namur 1914, pp.42

Commercial Situation.

Located in the very heart of Africa, the Congo finds itself at a distance of 9,000 km and at 19 days by boat from the port of Antwerp. Thanks to the river and to the network of its affluents, and the railways newly created, it is the natural outflow of a major part of French Equatorial Africa, of a part of German Kamerun, of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, of British Rhodesia and Portuguese Angola. - On the other hand, the Nile and the railways of the neighbouring countries are expected to play a major role in the development of the northern, eastern and southern regions of the colony. - An exploitation colony, the Congo Basin appears fortunately extraordinarily fruitful, its agricultural and forest products, the prospect of the exploitation of its mineral resources, comprise elements of a considerable commerce. An important factor in the economic prosperity of the country is the employment of native labour; indispensable under a climate which, for Europeans, makes acclimatisation impossible and all work intricate. The problem over a longer period preoccupied the better thinkers; the instinctive distrust of the native towards the European, their despise for tilling the land, hitherto reserved for women and considered as servile, had to be overcome, and in a general way, their pretended inaptitude for intelligent and regular work. The question seems to be solved today. Thanks to the State, the missions, to private initiative which all appeal to free labour, they are devoted to professional education of the negro, an indigenous element which furnishes the maintenance not only of agricultural work, but also work the mines and equip railway construction sites with manual labour, woodcutters, terrace builders, smiths, butchers, mechanics etc. "The results obtained in just a few years", writes M. Wauters in 1908, "permit to well predict the future. One can look forward to the day when the arm is reached (to work) at all points of the territory and when, thanks to the organisation of work based on liberty, every one of the poor villages of today are transformed into centers of production and prosperity".

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Last revised on February 13th 2002

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