Katanga in 1920

from : South and East African Year Book and Guide, 26th edition, 1920, p.144

The Belgian Congo (Tanganyika Concessions)

To deal with the Belgian Congo as a whole is outside of the scope of this work. It is, however, impossible to understand the lines upon which South Africa is being developed without some knowledge of the influence exercised by the extraordinary mineral wealth revealing itself in the Katanga District in Southern Belgian Congo.
Everyone acquainted with South Africa knows how the efforts of all the ports were once directed to securing a portion of the trade of the growing gold city of Johannesburg. As a magnet attracts steel filings, so did Johannesburg call to itself long lines of railways from every port. These railways, primarily constructed to serve the mining community of the Witwatersrand, became the agents by means of which vast and fertile territories, formerly neglected and dormant, came to life amd commenced to cultivate and export products which, but for the railways, could never have been created.
Such a centre we see again developing itself in Katanga. To it ways of communication are travelling from every direction. Its promise has even deflected the Cape to Cairo railway from the intended N. Rhodesian route. From the South uninterrupted lines of rails run from Capetown, Algoa Bay, Natal and Lourenco Marques to Kambove and Bukama. From Beira and Salisbury on the S.E., a loop line is contemplated with the sole object of shortening the distance between Katanga and the coast. From Lobito Bay on the W., a direct line is creeping across the Bihe Plateau towards the Angola-Comngoland frontier. From Dar-es-Salaam in East Africa, a railway has reached Lake Tanganyika and the Lake is connected by rail and river with Katanga. By way of Bukama and the Congo River, Katanga is also united by uninterrupted mechanical transport with the West Coast, 2,000 miles away. It will eventually become the junction of a vast system of continental traffic of possibly greater potentialities than that created by Johannesburg.
Who shall say what proportionate value the few thousand tons of copper produced today, shall bear to the wealth circulating later on through these radiating veins and arteries of commerce ?
The total white population of Katanga in 1911 was 747; in 1912, 1760; in 1913 about 2500, of whom 400 were British. The native population is scanty, except along the banks of the Luapula River, for a radius of some 120 miles to the N. of Elizabethville. The natives, who were formerly addicted to cannibalism, are not good workers, and the production of copper has been curtailed by labour shortage; some 12,000 natives are required to keep the seven furnaces fully supplied; the number obtainable to date is about 7000.
The production of copper in tons by the Union Miniere has been as follows :


Distances from Kambove to London when the railways, etc., are completed will be as follows : - via Capetown, 8,588 miles; via Bulawayo and Beira, 9,498 miles; via Lobito Bay, about 6,250 miles.

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Last revised on February 13th 2002

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