Reading 25 - Reading 25: Imperialism and Africa Imperialism...

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Reading 25: Imperialism and Africa Imperialism Points: 50 (See also Flash Animation at end of reading for additional Information.) Introduction: As many Arab and European merchants had learned to their sorrow, Africans were astute and resourceful businesspeople, more than able to hold their own and press an advantage in complex commercial dealings. Unfortunately, one result of European imperialism was that African traders and entrepreneurs were forced out of business or relegated to secondary roles as employees who took orders from the European boss. When independence came after World War II, the absence of an experienced African managerial and entrepreneurial class was an obstacle to economic development in the new African states. The following selection, written in 1899 by the French traveler and explorer de Cardi after a visit to West Africa, tells the story of JaJa, of the Anna Pepple clan in Bonny, an area on the Niger delta in modern Nigeria that for centuries had been a place where Africans sold slaves to European agents. After abolition of the slave trade, palm oil, used in Europe for lubrication, soap making, and various industrial processes, became the major item of trade. As had been true with slaves, palm oil was collected away from the coast and transported to African middlemen who sold it to Europeans. JaJa began life as a slave but as a successful young businessman was able to buy his freedom while he was in his 20s. Then in 1860 he was given the job of reviving the Anna Pepple clan's commercial enterprises and paying off its debts to Europeans. Again he was successful. In the competitive and rapidly changing business environment of the Niger delta, JaJa became head of a major trading house and a powerful man in the region. When the prospect of assuming political power over Bonny faded because of his conflict with the Manilla Pepple clan, he founded and became king of the state of Opobo. He consistently outmaneuvered his African rivals and European Customers and established a near monopoly in the palm oil trade. When in 1885 the Congress of Berlin proclaimed freedom of trade on the Niger and Great Britain established a protectorate over the region, JaJa resisted British infringement on his commercial empire. But this was a game he could not win. For his refusal to abide by the new British regulations he was fined and exiled to the British West Indies, where he died in 1889. Reading 1: Charles Napoleon de Cardi, from “A Short Description of the Natives of the Niger Coast Protectorate” Two years after JaJa was placed at the head of the House the late Elolly's debts were all cleared off, no white trader having been detained beyond the date JaJa had promised the late chief's debts should be paid by. In consideration to the prompt manner in which JaJa had paid up, he received from each merchant with whom the late chief had dealt a present varying from five to ten percent on the amount paid. From this date JaJa never looked back, becoming the most popular chief in Bonny among the
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Reading 25 - Reading 25: Imperialism and Africa Imperialism...

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