Availability of cheap labour was crucial to the colonial economy. The colonial powers therefore had to devise ways of acquiring African labour in order to facilitate realization of the colonial goal of exploiting the colonial resource. Colonial labour can be defined as the labour expended by colonial subjects for the benefit of different sector of different sector of the colonial economy.

3.5.1. Types of Colonial labour.

These types of Colonial labour are divided into forced labour, contract and migrant labour. Forced Labour.

This type of labour was not very different from slave labour, as it involved obtaining labour through the use of force. Africans were easily coerced to provide porterage service by the colonial forces. This form of labour also existed in the white settler colonies such as Kenya.

During the First World War and Second World War, a number of Africans were conscripted to fight for their respective colonial masters irrespective of their personal wishes. Contract Labour.

This type of labour involves the use of recruiting agents to mobilize and recruit African labourers. These agents were required to convince and persuade African laboures to sign up labour contracts. When a labour sign a contract, it became a crime to break such contracts and therefore, any breaking was punishable by imprisonment. Migrants Labour.

Migrant Labour was in the colonial urban centres and in the plantations. It involve the migration of African labourers from their home in the Africans reserves to the mines and plantations. This made those labourers to spent a number of years away from their families in the reserve.

The capitalists prefered migrant labourers for a number of reasons:

(i) Migrant labour was cheap as they were paid a low way.

(ii) Since migrant labour was seasonal in nature, the capitalists had no obligation on provide terminal benefits, or pay the labourer during the low labour season.

(iii) It was difficult for the migrant labour system to develop worker consciousness since. They were temporally they remained unskilled for all time thus they could not claim higher wages.

3.5.2. Tactics used to create colonial labour.

A number of methods were devised to exploit African labour. These included land alienation, forced labour, taxation, native registration as well as prohibition from growing cash crop.

(i) The French introducing unpaid labour after the First World War, However some aspects of the forced labour were paid for instance work on roads and railways.

(ii) Forced labour was used in the white colonies such as Kenya as the Africans were not willing to provide labour to the Europeans. Colonial chiefs and head men were often instructed to mobilize Africans to supply labour on public projects such as roads and dam construction and private white settler farm.

(iii) The colonial governments alienated large tracts of Africans land so that Africans communities were pushed to reserves where land was unsuitable for arable farming. In Southern Rhodesia, Africans were pushed into the tsetese -fly- intested areas which were inadequate to settle all the merobers of the community. land was alienated using this way in all the colonies with substantial number of white settlers such as Algeria, Kenya and South Africa.


(iv) Native registration was also used a measure of ensuring that Africans provided labour to the Europeans in several white settler colonies including Kenya, Southern Rhodesia and South Africa. The Kipande system which was introduced in Kenya to control African wages. If it happens that labourers wanted to change employment, the employer had to sign the pass before one could be discharged.

(v) Africans were prohibited to grow cash crops such as coffee, and tea in some colonies. Example in Kenya, it was a crime to grow those crops without a licence. As it was difficult to survive as the Africans had no option but to look for employment in order to meet their financial obligations.

(vi) Introduction of industrial manufactured goods from Europe as the results, it destroyed locally
manufactured goods. The Africans had to seek employment from European settler plantation and mining areas so as to obtain money for buying goods.

(vii) Low wages. Low wages was a tactic used to obtain labourers as the less they were paid the more had to work to earn money for supporting their needs.

(viii) The Western education system was introduced for the purpose of getting labourers who could work for low posts in the colonial systems. This aimed at getting junior clerks, teachers, nurses and soldiers. It was mandatory for an African to obtain education if one wanted to get white collar jobs.

3.5.3. Impacts of Colonial Labour in Africa

(i) Land alienation. This caused a lot of bitterness among Africans against colonialism in many Africans countries, People became landless and homeless.

(ii) The great disparity between higher population of Africans men and the small population of African women in colonial urban and mining centres gave rise to social evils such as prostitution, robbery and drunkenness.

(iii) Many Africans lost their lives in the process of providing labour for European in mines areas and railways construction sites.

(iv) Some Africans acquired important skills through apprentices the migrant communities such as typing gardening and office attendants.

(v) Africans united against exploitation by establishing trade unions that enable them to bargain for better terms of service. In South Africa the African formed Unions under Clement Kadalie in the 1930’s and 1940’s

Why did the Europeans plantation owners prefer migrant labour?

Migrant labours were those workers used to move from labour reserve areas and went to work in plantations and miners; for those migrated in Tanganyika they migrated from kigoma, Lindi and Mtwara to plantations which were in Tanganyika Kilimanjaro and Morogoro.


Why did the colonialists prefer migrant labour?

1. The migratory nature makes impossible for the workers to be conscious and form unity because they were kept in compounds along tribal lines.

2. It was not easy for the labours to run away from the colonial oppression and exploitation since they come from far away.
3. The plantation owners avoided the responsibility of feeding expenses because such laborers were recruited without their families.

4. Migrant workers were deliberately kept unskilled temporarily in nature and hence they were paid low wages for profit maximization.

5. Taking people from far different parts helped Europeans to maintain their policy of divide and rule and therefore intensive exploitation of African labor.

6. The plantation owners built up dispensaries, clubs and shops around the plantations and mines to recycle the labour income.

The mechanism through which cheap labour was obtained for example in Kenya
or how colonial government ensured constant supply of labour in their colonies of e.g. in east Africa.

In colonial economy cheap labours were the central point/ main target in maximizing their profit; the colonial state imposed a number of methods / mechanism to ensure constant supply of labor
in the colonies as follows;

1. They introduced taxes

2. Land alienation

3. Forced labour

4. Through the establishment of various laws e.g. the master servant ordinance of 1906 the native laborers ordinance of 1918 and the registration ordinance of 1921.

5. Africans were sometimes prohibited to cultivate cash crops.

6. Through the formation of labor bureaus such as the sisal which was responsible [SILABU] recruiting laborers.

7. Through the creation of labour agents of which MANAMBA was an instance of such labor seeking or searching agent.

8. Through the introduction of money economy i.e. money was made to be the medium of exchange during colonial period.

9. Through regionalization i.e. the colonial state divide the colonies into productive regions and labour reserved area or zones.

The pattern of colonial infrastructure railways, road and ports e.g. mainland Tanzania Showing how they facilitated the exploitation of the country.
In the colonial East Africa most roads and railways run perpendicular to the coast The reasons were as follows
1. The aim of the Europeans was to exploit Africa’s natural and human resources; they provided some basic, social and economic infrastructural facilities these included transport and communication services such as roads, railways, harbors and telecommunications.

2. The patterns of colonial infrastructure. They established reliable communication and transport systems to ensure through exploitation of the colonies they established and also constructed roads railways and harbors.

3. Tele communication lines Most of the railway lines, roads, and telecommunication were
constructed to serve the commodities’ producing areas [productive zones] they ran perpendicular to the coast. Harbors and ports were established to link the interior coast and the metropolitan countries.


4. Most of the rural areas which were not productive were completely neglected and forgotten.

1. To transport raw materials.

2. To transport researchers.

3. To transport laborers.

4. To transport agents of civilization for example the traders and missionaries.

5. To transport the colonial administration.

6. To transport soldiers.

7. The colonial government developed feeder road as they did not want the road traffic to complete with the railway transport.

8. The roads and the railways ran perpendicular to the coast in order to ensure market for the manufactured goods from Europeans. Also were used to connect the productive centers with transportation and exportation centers i.e. Tanga-Moshi, mwanza, [sisal, coffee] Dar es Salaam, Tabora- Mwanza.

The purpose, difficulties and results of constructing the Kenya – Uganda railway.

The construction of the Kenya – Uganda railway started in 1896 and reached Nairobi in 1899 and in 1901 it reached Jinja in 1928 and Kampala in 1913. The construction work provided employment to 32000 Indians it cost Britain and 8 million pound.

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