You are on page 1of 2


Between 1929 and 1932 world prices for sisal, coffee, maize and hides fell by 70 per cent
while cotton prices fell by over 60 per cent

To some extent the region benefited from efforts elsewhere to counter the depression. From
1932, Empire preference provided some shelter for producers of coffee and sisal

The abandonment of the gold standard by Britain in 1931 and by the USA in 1933 caused the
price of gold to rise by two-thirds between 1931 and 1935: this stimulated the exploitation of
East Africa's scattered deposits and by 1938 gold was the second largest export from both
Kenya and Tanganyika.

Meanwhile, some imports became cheaper. Despite imperial preference, East Africa was
prevented by the Congo Basin treaties from discriminating against cheap Japanese
manufactures, and these were now available in large quantities. In the course of the 1930s
Japan captured much of the East African market for cotton and silk goods, and for the great
mass of consumers this was clear gain

Governments, between 1929 and 1932 their revenues fell on average by 15 per cent but they
too had fixed debt charges to pay, and also pensions, so there were cut-backs in
administration and social services,

On reduced incomes, most Africans had to pay as much tax as before, while most European
farmers had large debts to service

Financial constraints reinforced the political arguments against any comprehensive scheme
for closer union in East Africa, though in 1930-1 the mainland governments agreed to
increase protective duties on imports, and in 1933 the postal and telegraph services were
unified in the interests of economy

Of all the East African territories, Tanganyika suffered most from the depression. Between
1929 and 1931 exports slumped from £3.8m to £1.7111, and government revenue (around
£2111 from 1925 to 1929) fell by a quarter

The government already spent one-quarter of its revenue on debt charges, but it had to
borrow heavily in 1932 from the British Treasury, which enforced stringent economies.

At the same time, the railway lost its share of the Katanga copper traffic (which in 1930-1
supplied half its freight earnings) to the new Benguela railway

In 1930 the Tanganyika Sisal Growers' Association was formed, mainly to reduce wages; its
president was the unofficial' leader in the legislative council, and in 1937 British settlers
dominated a government commission on labour

In 1932 the government launched a' plant more crops' campaign, but it was chiefly directed at
those areas in the north and north-west where export crop-production was already established

The persistent decline in coffee prices aggravated tensions between chiefs and other farmers.
On Kilimanjaro, the coffee farmers' trading association was taken over by the government in
1931, and in 1937 there were riots in protest against the way in which it was manipulated. In
the same year there were riots in Buhaya, provoked by new rules for coffee-growers,
government opposition to African middlemen, and the unpopular behaviour of certain chiefs.

Elsewhere, there had been efforts to organise coffee sales and beat down Indian buyers, but
finance was lacking to form true co-operatives

Resistance to economic crisis was least evident in food-growing areas, such as Bonde or

To be sure, the depression did evoke a popular response in several remote and impoverished
rural areas, but on the plane of ritual rather than political action. In 1933, the mchape cult of
witchcraft eradication briefly appeared in the far south-east and west, as in Central Africa, to
offer an answer to current misfortune where missionaries and colonial officials had clearly