Henry Wellington Wack
The Story of the Congo Free State
New York & London : Putnam 1905



Chapter XXVI : Trade, Revenue, Taxes (pp.274-297)


STATISTICS OF GOODS IMPORTED INTO THE CONGO FREE STATE DURING 1903
Summary

Goods Values
Special Commerce

Frs. Cs.
General Commerce

Frs. Cs.

Tissues

Printed Cotton
Dyes, Cotton
Other Kinds, Cotton
Raw Wool
Woollen Prints
Woollen Dyes
Woollen Cloth
Other Wool
Hemp and Jute
Silks
Velvet
Shawls
Carpet
Awnings, oil-cloth, Tarpaulin

688,813.04
3,966,602.10
123,052.95
-
446.94
52,766.94
1,060.20
48,863.76
190,920.12
8,914.84
6,995.52
2,036.26
17,685.73
58,068.92

772,302.83
4,632,076.80
132,819.78
152.06
446.94
54,174.68
1,060.20
60,844.02
223,715.70
14,228.44
9,300.42
7,083.20
22,616.82
60,320.68
Glassware and Fancy Glass Glassware
Fancy Glass
50,128.43
253,278.71
58,606.07
324,955.06

Total

20,896,331.02

23,933,375.02


RECAPITULARY TABLE, SHOWING COUNTRIES FROM WHICH PRODUCTS WERE IMPORTED
Year 1903

Countries



Belgium
Great Britain
Germany
France
Netherlands
Portuguese Possessions (Sea Coast)
Portugal
Austria
Denmark
Italy
Switzerland
British Possessions (East Coast, Africa)
Spain (Canary Islands)
Zanzibar
Sweden and Norway
Portuguese Possessions (Left Bank of the Congo)
British Possessions (West Coast of Africa)
United States of America
Senegal
Algeria
Spain
French Possessions (Upper Congo)
German Possessions (East Coast, Africa)
Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
Republic of Liberia

Totals
Special Commerce

Frs. Cs.

15,699,535.09
2,390,779.79
639,098.72
584,372.36
491,758.23
451,903.78
155,500.81
110,976.30
85,195.04
76,616.46
69,763.40
59,210.72
27,645.02
13,301.28
11,790.87
8,245.69
5,467.20
5,274.33
4,800.00
2,647.20
1,141.55
731.28
434.82
84.00
60.00

20,896,331.02
General Commerce

Frs. Cs.

16,524,451.18
2,790,509.07
781,608.72
1,724,921.27
975,031.13
478,443.69
160,004.16
115,275.70
85,607.06
81,730.76
69,857.22
59,210.70
27,645.02
13,301.28
12,077.07
8,245.69
5,467.20
9,285.88
4,800.00
2,971.20
1,166.03
1,121.28
434.82
148.86
60.00

23,933,375.02


COMPARISON OF IMPORTS FOR 1903 WITH THOSE OF PREVIOUS YEARS

YEARS Values




from May 9th to Dec. 31st, 1892
Year 1893
Year 1894
Year 1895
Year 1896
Year 1897
Year 1898
Year 1899
Year 1900
Year 1901
Year 1902
Year 1903
Special Commerce

Frs. Cs.

4,984,455.15
9,175,103.34
11,194,722.96
10,685,847.99
15,227,776.44
22,181,462.49
23,084,446.65
22,325,846.71
24,724,108.91
23,102,064.07
18,080,909.25
20,896,331.02
General Commerce

Frs. Cs.

5,679,195.16
10,148,418.26
11,854,021.72
11,836,033.76
16,040,370.80
23,427,197.83
25,185,138.66
27,102,581.18
31,803,213.96
26,793,079.37
20,699,723.98
23,933,375.02


The collection of import duty commenced on May 9th 1892.

These tables show what has provided the enemies of the Congo Free State with a great deal of puerile prattle - an excess of exports over imports which is more apparent than real. One of the bitter critics who write from Liverpool repeats the charge in the press that the Sovereign of the Free State is denuding the Congo of it's natural resources by exporting more than he imports. In this respect a German writer in Der Tag, Berlin, September, 26, 1904, not at all friendly to the Congo State (because it is diverting the Zanzibar trade of the Fatherland), has some pertinent things to say of the excess of exports over imports in the British colonies of South Nigeria and Lagos. Herr Eberhard von Schkopp discusses the Congolese, British, French, and German trade statistics in the following concise manner :

In 1901 the Congo State importations reached twenty-three million francs whilst the exports attained fifty million, and the transit trade seven million. This excess of exports over imports has been turned to account to support the attacks - justified besides - upon the Congo State's system of government.
If that circumstance is of a kind to weigh in the balance, it ought to be imputed as a ground of complaint against all nations carrying on a practical colonial policy, and whose possessions export more than they import. The Congo State is neither the only nor even the first colony where this excess has been exhibited.
The exports of the English colony of South Nigeria have always surpassed the imports. Here are the figures :



Imports
Exports
1896

750,000
844,000
1897

655,000
785,000
1898

640,000
750,000
1899

732,000
774,000
1900

723,000
888,000


Pounds Sterling
Pounds Sterling


Statistics of the trade of the English colony of Lagos :



Imports
Exports
1896

881,000
975,000
1897

758,000
810,000
1898

892,000
882,000
1899

960,000
915,000
1900

832,000
885,000


Pounds Sterling
Pounds Sterling


Here also, except for 1898 and 1899, the total of exports exceeds that of imports. The case is the same with the commerce of the Gold Coast and the Gambia.
The French colonies also - Ivory Coast, Dahomey, Guinea, and French Congo - can also boast of having frequently had their exports higher than their imports.
No one has ever yet pretended to make that a grievance against the English and the French, and it must appear astonishing that the favourable trade statistics of the Congo State should lead to an attack on the system of it's own administration.
It would be very desirable if, following the example of the Congo State, and as we have seen on the English and French colonies, our possessions [the German] across the sea were to show exports exceeding their imports. For a commercial firm that is the best proof of success, and it cannot in any way be concluded from this fact that the "poor" blacks of Africa are being exploited by Europeans devoid of conscience.


But let us see if the Congo State exports really do exceed the imports, and if so, by what sum. The exports of the State are estimated in the tables at their value in Antwerp, after they have been harvested, prepared for transport from remote parts of the Congo Basin, stood charges of porterage, freight, export duties, taxes, insurance, brokerage at the African and European terminals, and merchant profits of an indefinite measure - in all, at least half their European value. The original value of Central African ivory, rubber, palm oil, gum copal, and other exports is, in fact, less than half their market value in Europe. In other words, if the exports of the Congo State were estimated as they left the forests or the native collector, instead of aggregating 54,597,835.21 francs for the year 1903, they would show but 27,298,917.16 francs.
On the other hand, the imports, also estimated at their European value, but having similar distances to undergo and similar charges to bear, represent when they reach their consumers at least double their invoiced European cost. On a proper basis of value in their ultimate African market the imports for the year 1903 would amount to 42,792,662.04 francs. Thus the exports would stand at 27,298,917.16 francs, and the imports at 42,792,662.04 francs for the year 1903.
But even this is not a just comparison with the exports and imports of the British colonies, inasmuch as in the colony of Lagos, for instance, the imports include about sixty-five per cent, of alcoholic liquors, leaving the native the beneficiary of an aggregate import of really civilising products of only thirty-five per cent. of alcoholic liquors, bestowed upon the native legitimate products for his civilisation to the extent of ninety-five per cent. of the total of all the imports of the State.

The revenue of the British colony of Lagos for the last three years available was derived as follows :




Alcohol
Tobacco
Salt
Cotton Goods
Other Goods
1898

Fcs.

3,386,450.00
273,250.00
40,075.00
428,075.00
366,650.00
1899

Fcs.

3,288,250.00
266,125.00
43,750.00
382,850.00
661,350.00
1900-1

Fcs.

3,345,850.00
379,150.00
140,800.00
432,450.00
799,775.00


The following is a comparison between the alcoholic liquor imported into Lagos and the Congo Free State :


Gin
Rum
Whiskey

Total
Lagos

463,380 gallons
129,780 gallons
8,100 gallons

601,260 gallons
Congo Free State





43,300 gallons


Thus for every gallon of alcohol imported into the Congo Free State (1,000,000 square miles in area) there are imported into British Lagos (3,460 square miles in area), thirteen and seven tenth gallons, or at 5 per cent, is to 68 1/2 per cent of total revenue.


Deducting, therefore, from the Lagos imports sixty of their sixty-five per cent. of gin, rum, and whisky, thereby placing them on an equation with the imports of the Congo, we find in Herr von Schkopp's figures an arraignment of Lagos "civilisation" which indicates where the real curse of Central Africa abides.
The foregoing is an astonishing record of exports and imports for a country practically developed in the short period which has elapsed since 1886. Congolese products are largely sent to Antwerp and, as the tables show, Belgium is by far the largest exporter and importer. A few years ago England was the chief exporter to the Congo of it's cotton stuffs and other goods, but the same laggard spirit which caused Englishmen once interested in the Anglo-Belgian India-Rubber Company (known as the Abir) and other undertakings to abandon their Congolese enterprises has lost England a large and growing market in Central Africa. That the Belgians have developed in Mid-Africa trade by dint of hard work, organisation, and the risk of capital, is a state of things intolerable to those who have neglected and lost it. The awkward English monetary system is alone responsible for a large percentage of the world-wide diminution of British trade. All other nations have shown greater adaptability to the characteristics of foreign markets, and the capabilities of the peoples who compose those markets. The Germans, French and Americans circulate their catalogues and price lists in the language of the country where they seek a market and quote prices in it's coin, giving the equivalents in francs, marks, and dollars. British merchants, on the other hand, have adhered to their ancient custom of employing a monetary system so needlessly cumbersome that it can hardly be attributed to intelligent origin.
Belgian manufacturers have patiently studied the needs of the natives and have successfully endeavoured to supply them with the textures and food stuffs, machinery, agricultural implements, and building material which, being of simple construction, they are capable of putting to intelligent use.
The mineral wealth of the country which prospecting during the last five years has revealed in many sections of the Congo Basin, it is not the purpose of this volume to more than mention. Fine outcroppings of gold, coal, and copper have been discovered in the Katanga district in the south-eastern corner of the State. It has lately been rumoured in Europe that foreign prospectors have discovered territories marvellously rich in gold near the borders of British East Africa in the south, and again in the Enclave of Lado in the north. On this subject, and the likelihood of early and interesting mineral developments in that region, the Congo State authorities appear to have considerable knowledge. They do not, however, discuss the matter with any degree of candour. When the secret of certain political phases of Congolese history shall be revealed, a connexion may be found between the mining and rubber industry and the calumnious campaign now proceeding against the State. But with that story, the present volume has naught to do.
The State's revenue, consisting of import and export dues, tolls, excise, and direct personal taxation, is indicated in the following table :



Nature of Receipts



Registration Taxes
Sale and Letting of Domanial Land, Timber Felling etc.
Customs Duties on Exports, Frs 4,550,000.00
Customs Duties on Imports, including the Duties on Alcohol Frs. 1,600,000.00
Direct Personal Taxation
Road Tolls
Taxes on Timber Felling
Postal Receipts
Maritime Rates
Judicial Receipts
Chancery Duties
Transport, and Different Services of the State
Taxes on Portage
Proceeds from the Private Domain of the State, from Tributes and Taxes Paid in Kind by the Natives
Interests and Dividends
Fees for Licences Granted to Congolese Companies
Extra and Casual Receipts

Total Receipts
1902

Estimates

Frs.

3,000.00
70,000.00
6,055,000.00

580,000.00
1,000.00
125,000.00
155,000.00
55,000.00
25,000.00
8,000.00
4,160,000.00
60,000.00
15,452,000.00

1,703,000.00
122,000.00
135,000.00

28,709,000.00
1903

Estimates

Frs.

3,000.00
20,000.00
6,150.000.00

600,000.00
1,000.00
140,000.00
155,000.00
60,000.00
25,000.00
6,000.00
3,100,000.00
60,000.00
16,440,000.00

1,100,000.00
105,000.00
125,000.00

28,090,000.00


It will be observed that by far the greater proportion of the State's revenue is derived from the State's lands (Domaine prive), which is fully considered in a succeeding chapter. Direct personal taxation is a comparatively small item, being only 600,000 francs, or one forty-seventh part of the year's budget. Import duties, including duties on alcohol, are only 1,600,000 francs, while duties on export amount to 4,550,000 francs. These duties were, as hereinbefore stated, fixed by arrangement with France and Portugal on April 8, 1892, for a term of ten years, and by a protocol dated May 10, 1902, extended until July 2, 1905.
The export duty collected on India-rubber and ivory under these tariff agreements between the interested Powers are as follows :

Ivory, in pieces or sticks
Tusks of less weight than 6 kilos
Tusks above 6 kilos in weight
India-rubber
Frs. 10 per kilo
Frs. 16 per kilo
Frs. 21 per kilo
Frs. 4 per kilo


"Personal taxes", says Descamps, "are levied upon three bases : 1, The area of inhabited buildings and enclosures; 2, the number of employes in service; 3, the ships and boats used by tax-payers." As to the taxes en nature, levied upon the natives and already referred to in a previous chapter, the Chevalier de Cuvelier, Secretary of State of the Congo Free State, says in his official capacity in the Bulletin Officiel for June, 1903, that "it is as legitimate as any other kind of tax. It does not impose upon the native obligations of a different nature or behaviour than the system of taxation employed in neighbouring colonies, such, for instance, as the British hut-tax. It is the native's contribution to the public charges incurred by the State in exchange for the protection given him. In the Congo State this participation in the State's support is light, seeing that it represents on an average not more than forty hours of native labour in a month." It is the payment of tax in this form that the State terms prestation, which, if literally translated, would mean enforced labour upon roads.








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