By 1900, after dividing Africa among themselves, European powers acquired colonies and concentrated on establishing their rule on Africans, who they recruited as soldiers, chiefs and clerks among other capacities of service in maintaining European rule.

Name the European powers that had acquired colonies in Africa by 1900.

  • Britain,
  • Germany,
  • France,
  • Italy,
  • Spain,
  • Portugal,

Describe the administrative systems set up by European powers that had acquired colonies in Africa.

  • Indirect Rule, which was a British policy of administration in which the African traditional chiefs were allowed to rule their people with instructions from British officials.
  • Direct Rule, which was another British system of administration whereby indigenous political and administrative institutions and leaders were replaced with European systems. In it, the British officials ruled directly without intermediaries.
  • Assimilation, which was a French system of administration in which the Africans were to be similar to the French in terms of their culture and other aspects of life.

Association, which was another French system of  administration that implied partnership, whereby the French government was to respect the culture of people in her colony and allow them to develop independently rather than force them to adopt the French culture and civilization.

European colonial powers governed their colonies through one or a combination of these four systems of administration to facilitate maximum exploitation of the human and natural resources in their respective territories.

The Germans ruled for only a short period, then their colonies in Africa were taken over by the League of Nations as Mandated Territories after the First World War. In their rule in Africa, the Germans applied Direct Rule, just like the Dutch and Italians.


                INDIRECT RULE

 Define Indirect Rule. (What was Indirect Rule?)

Indirect rule was a single Government system in which the native chiefs had clearly defined duties and an acknowledged status equal with British officials.

Trace the origin of indirect rule in Africa. (Explain the development of Indirect Rule in Africa. Or:

Explain how Indirect Rule started/was introduced in Africa.)

  • Indirect Rule was advanced by Sir Frederick Lugard: the British High Commissioner in the protectorate of Northern Nigeria from 1900-1906AD.
  • In it, the British felt that it was their task to preserve what was good in indigenous institutions while assisting the indigenous people to develop on their own lines.
  • In Kenya and West Africa, the indirect system of government entailed using traditional African rulers to administer at the Local Government level while European administrators occupied the senior positions in the administration of the colony.
  • Apart from ceding power to Africans, Indirect rule was purposed to modernize the traditional chiefs so that the British could use them to introduce some modern practices of governance to Africans without interfering or messing up with African political structures.
  • African cultural practices that were found to be repugnant by the British such as human sacrifice, slavery and slave trade, witchcraft, the murder of twins and mutilation of limbs had to be eliminated.

Explain why the British used/applied Indirect rule in Africa. (What were the reasons for use of Indirect Rule in Africa?)

  • It had succeeded in Uganda and India.
  • Extending Direct Rule over distant territories would have been expensive.
  • Britain lacked enough manpower to handle all the administrative responsibilities.
  • Africans under Direct Rule would most likely resist.
  • Britain was keener on her Indian colony than with her African possessions.
  • Traditional African rulers were enthusiastic about and were to acquire new responsibilities in addition to retaining their positions and almost all their powers.
  • British citizens were reluctant to serve in the tropics, which they perceived to be pron to diseases and other physical hardships.
  • Very little funding was set aside for colonial administration by the parent government.
  • Local systems of administration were already established in many African communities. ü Use of the existing traditional political systems helped to cut down on administrative costs.


Identify three administrative zones/regions that the Nigerian protectorate initially comprised. (Into what three administrative regions was the Nigerian protectorate first divided?) Initially, the Nigerian protectorate comprised three separately administered regions. These were:

  • The Lagos colony Protectorate, ü The Southern Nigeria Protectorate ü The Northern Nigeria Protectorate.

These entities were then amalgamated (merged or joined)  under one administration due to difficulties in administering them separately. In 1906, Lagos was integrated into Southern Nigeria. In 1914, the Northern and Southern protectorates were merged to form one Nigeria Protectorate.

  Explain why the British applied/used Indirect Rule in Nigeria.

  • Lack of enough European manpower to effectively control the vast Northern Nigeria protectorate.
  • The Indirect system of government was cost effective, for only a few British officials would be employed, leaving the African traditional leaders to do most of the administrative work at the local level.
  • Indirect Rule helped dilute African resistance to British rule as the local chiefs and elders who had governed during the pre-colonial period retained their positions at the local level.
  • Poor transport and communication network in the vast Nigeria protectorate prevented the few British personnel from carrying out their duties.
  • Indirect Rule had succeeded in Uganda and India.
  • In northern Nigeria, there already existed the well established system of government based on Islamic law.
  • African chiefs easily managed with the poor infrastructure.
  • The Dual Mandate policy was to encourage the development of the colony for its own good and that of Britain.


Analyse application of Indirect Rule in Northern Nigeria. (Explain how Indirect Rule was applied in Northern Nigeria.)

Frederick Lugard: the British High Commissioner for northern Nigeria from  1900AD spearheaded application of Indirect rule in the Northern Nigeria region as follows:

  • The protectorate was under the British High Commissioner answerable to the colonial officer in charge of Northern Nigeria. This High commissioner used the centralized system of government under the Emir‟s rule. For effective rule, the region was divided into smaller administrative units.
  • Nigeria was divided into provinces, each under a British Resident or Provincial Commissioner.
  • The Province was divided into Districts under British District officers.
  • Under the District officers were the Emirs, who retained reasonable power and responsibilities.
  • In each province, a court of appeal was created, presided over by a Resident.
  • The British maintained a military force to suppress rebellion.
  • Frederick Lugard used the central government of the Emirs to administer the region, assisted by A few European officers.
  • The Emirs gladly cooperated with Lugard, especially after realizing that the British did not seek to completely replace them.

Explain the duties/responsibilities of the Emirs during Indirect rule in Northern Nigeria.

  • Imposed and collected tax.
  • Tried cases in their Muslim courts and had their own prisons to jail those convicted.
  • Maintained law and Order.
  • Had to eliminate the practices that the British could not condone.

After the merger of northern and southern Nigeria in 1914, Lugard tried but failed to establish Indirect Rule in southern Nigeria

Explain why Indirect rule failed in Southern Nigeria. (Explain the factors that undermined Indirect Rule in Southern Nigeria. Or:

Explain the setbacks to Indirect Rule in Southern Nigeria.)

  • Southern Nigeria did not have a centralized government suitable for the application of Indirect rule.
  • The Igbo community resisted introduction and payment of taxes.
  • The Mission-educated elites felt left out and opposed the practice of appointing illiterate traditionals as chiefs in the administration of their country.
  • Unlike Northern Nigeria, southern Nigeria had many ethnic groups with diverse cultures, languages and various political and religious systems, making it difficult to unite them under one ruler.
  • Lugard attempted but failed to appoint Igbo traditional chiefs with responsibilities like those of the Emirs in northern Nigeria.
  • The elders were offended further when Mission-educated young men were appointed to leadership.
  • Lugard‟s attempt to give more power to Yoruba traditional leaders (the Obas) than what they were entitled to under their traditions could not work. The people despised the new authority of these leaders and became so discontented with them that the leaders had to give up.
  • While Hausa was the language of administration in the North, the southern elite used English while the rest used local languages.
  • Most Southern Nigerian societies had Village-Government systems (the councils of elders), which did not suit Indirect rule. Indirect Rule suited the Niger-Delta states, where traditional authorities were strong.
  • Misuse of power by the warrant chiefs, who even collected tax for their own good. This drew great opposition, characterised by riots e.g. those of 1918 and 1929.
  • There was a lot of communication breakdown, since Southern Nigeria lacked a common language, which made it difficult to administer.

However, Lugard was so convinced of the general good of Indirect Rule that, where there  were no chiefs, he created some to ease tax collection, labour recruitment, etc.  among the Igbo, these chiefs were often attacked by discontented parties, which led to British study of traditional government among the Igbo and other Eastern Nigerian societies. Although the system was not changed, adjustments were made, which improved the situation.

In what ways did Governor Donald Cameron modernize Indirect rule in Nigeria? (Explain how Governor Donald Cameron reformed Indirect rule in Nigeria.)

In 1931, Donald Cameron was appointed governor of Nigeria. He tried to modernize Indirect Rule by:

  • Checking (limiting) the growing independence of the Emirs in the north.
  • Attempting to elevate the declining power of the Alafin in Yorubaland.
  • Stressing the development of institutions instead of preserving them. E.g. he appointed educated people to some chiefly councils in southern Nigeria.

However, these were mere adjustments that did not meet the changing needs of the society.

What were the weaknesses/disadvantages of Indirect Rule?

In spite of its success in Northern Nigeria, Indirect rule had the following disadvantages:

  • Poor or lack of communication between British officials and African chiefs due to language barrier.
  • The new duties of traditional leaders such as tax collection and recruitment of labour made these leaders very unpopular among their subjects.
  • Some regions lagged behind in terms of development due to opposition to change in lifestyles by local leaders such as the Emirs of northern Nigeria.
  • Local rulers individually lost their independence to the British.
  • The chiefs and their councils often disregarded what was unfamiliar to them e.g. Christianity and forced labour.
  • It needed a lot of adaptation where indigenous administration structures did not exist.
  • British officials lacked the long, patient and skilful effort needed for education of chiefs and councillors in modern ideas and therefore gave up easily.
  • Northern Nigeria was isolated from other parts of Nigeria, which had a negative effect on the general development of the north compared to the south.

What were the effects/results of Indirect Rule in Africa? (Explain the impact/consequences of Indirect Rule in Africa.)

  • Preservation of African cultures, unlike the case in Assimilation where they had to be replaced.
  • Enrichment of African chiefs, who accumulated wealth at the expense of their

They kept part of the tax they collected for their personal benefit.

  • Protection of people, particularly northern Nigerians by their leaders from any foreign ideas, regarded as too radical.
  • Suspicion and mistrust between the educated elite and the traditional chiefs appointed by British officials in southern Nigeria. The elites later reacted by forming political movements, which led to nationalism in Nigeria.
  • Modernization of the indigenous systems of administration, particularly in northern Nigeria.
  • Transformation of the role of traditional African leaders for the purpose of tax collection as well as provision of labour and soldiers to the colonial government.
  • Introduction of British systems of administration and justice, with the hope of modernizing (though it undermined) existing ones.
  • Slow development in Northern Nigeria as the Muslims in the north were conservative and did not appreciate new ideas. Education, Western civilization and Christianity gained root slowly and administrative jobs in the north were taken up by the educated (elite) from southern Nigeria.
  • Introduction of economic exploitative policies e.g. land-alienation, taxation and forced labour.
  • Some local rulers lost their independence to the British Governors.



What was Direct Rule? (Define Direct Rule.).

  • Direct Rule was a system of administration where indigenous political and administrative institutions and leaders were replaced with European systems.
  • It was a system of government whereby European officers ruled directly without using any intermediaries (go-betweens).

Almost all powers used Direct Rule as a method of administration to some extent.



Analyse establishment of British colonial rule in Zimbabwe. (Trace the origin of   British colonial rule in Zimbabwe.)

  • British colonial rule was introduced in Zimbabwe in 1899, when British settlers under Cecil Rhodes‟ British South Africa Company entrenched themselves economically and politically after their arrival in Mashonaland.
  • Together with Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Nyasaland (Malawi),, southern Rhodesia (as Zimbabwe was known at that time) formed British Central Africa.
  • Cecil Rhodes used his great wealth to settle Europeans in Mashonaland. He firmly established Company rule in spite of resistance by the indigenous people.
  • British South Africa Company officials were stationed all over Zimbabwe. The presence of many European settlers meant that the administrative vacancies in the colony could easily be filled. For this reason, Zimbabwe was named Rhodesia (after Cecil Rhodes himself).
  • Individual settlers were appointed as administrators and were given free land by the British South Africa Company.

What were the characteristics of Direct Rule in Zimbabwe? (Describe the features of Direct Rule in Zimbabwe).

  • A large number of European settlers, whose population kept rising.
  • Attitude and belief that Zimbabwe was pre-ordained to be a White settler colony. ü Administration by a commercial company (the British South Africa Company)
  • A long chain of European civil servants, headed by the administrator for the British South Africa Company.
  • Application of the direct method of administration on Africans.
  • A Legislative Council, which comprised company nominees and elected settler representatives.
  • European acquisition of large tracts of land.
  • Adoption of measures that compelled Africans to provide labour.

Explain the reasons for adoption of Direct rule in Zimbabwe. (Why did the British use/apply direct rule in Zimbabwe?)

The British decided to use the system of Direct Rule in Zimbabwe because:

  • They wanted to acquire full control of the economy and to exploit the resources such as minerals and farmland for their own benefit.
  • The traditional system of administration and indigenous political institutions such as the Indunas had been disrupted or destroyed during the British conquest of Zimbabwe.
  • They wanted to ensure complete control over the African communities as a way of eliminating resistance.
  • The British South Africa Company officials and the settlers who were familiar with the British system of administration helped to put in place the required administrative structures. There wasn‟t the problem of lack of manpower.
  • The British South Africa Company had enough funds to pay the administrators.
  • The 1896-1897 Chimurenga uprising eroded British confidence in using traditional chiefs in the administration of the colony.

Explain the steps taken to ensure effective British occupation of Zimbabwe. (What steps did the British take to ensure their full occupation of Zimbabwe?)

  • The British took over the gold workings in Mashonaland and stopped trade between Africans and the Portuguese.
  • The British South Africa Company was empowered to impose a Hut tax and establish a Native department to control the whole colony.
  • Reserves were created for Africans while passes for livestock, minerals and forced labour were introduced.
  • A Legislative council consisting of five elected and four nominated members was established.
  • A resident Commissioner and a Commandant General were appointed in 1898 by the British government.
  • A Labour Board for Rhodesia was established by the Company to supply settlers in Matebeleland with workers to add onto that supplied by the Native department.
  • Native land was brought under the British crown to the advantage of white settlers, who took the land to themselves when Company rule later ended. Up to this day, land is a contentious issue in Zimbabwe.

Describe Company administrative structure in Southern Rhodesia. (Analyse the structure of Company administration in Southern Rhodesia.)

  • From her conquest by the British in the 1890s, up to 1923 when she became a Crown Colony, Zimbabwe was administered by the British South Africa Company, headed by the Resident Commissioner who was appointed by the company and was stationed at what is now Harare.
  • Under the Resident Commissioner were various District Commissioners, all of who were Europeans.
  • Under the District Commissioners were the African chiefs, who collected taxes, recruited labour and maintained law and order.
  • By 1901, the white settlers, whose population had grown larger, had a significant bearing on the constitutional and administrative developments  in southern Rhodesia. E.g. the British South Africa Company demarcated separate reserves for Africans in both Mashonaland and Matebeleland apart from giving grants of up to 3000 ecar pieces of land to the pioneer settlers.
  • By 1920, the settlers had acquired power so immensely that they began considering themselves as the real owners of Southern Rhodesia.

Analyse Crown Colony rule in Zimbabwe (1923-1953). (Describe Crown Colony rule in Zimbabwe (1923-1953).)

Because company officials were gradually outnumbered by the European settlers, the British South Africa Company decided to give up control over Southern Rhodesia, which was left with an option of either becoming a Crown Colony or merging with South Africa.

  • Through a vote, majority of the settlers chose to become a Crown Colony. They feared Afrikaner domination if they merged with South Africa and were worried that their economic interests would be neglected in favour of those of the Afrikaners.
  • In 1923, southern Rhodesia became a Crown Colony.
  • After these changes, the government formulated a new policy: the Two-Pyramid ( (parallel) development policy to run the colony. In this way, the white settlers had entrenched themselves even more firmly in Southern Rhodesia.
  • In 1925, the Government set up a commission to make recommendation on the future of unallotted land in the colony. As a result, the land Apportionment act was passed in 1930.

It became the Greater Charter (Magna Carter) of southern Rhodesia.

  • In 1934, the Industrial Conciliation Act was passed. This act was designed to protect white workers from African competition. For example, it empowered the government to prohibit Africans from setting up trade unions.
  • Alarmed by continuing African political agitation, the government invited more and more settlers, who in turn agitated for formation of a federation comprising the three central African territories i.e. Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Nyasaland (Malawi). They hoped that if all the settlers in the three territories ganged up, they could wield more power at the expense of the African communities.

What were the results/consequences of Crown Colony rule in Zimbabwe? (Explain the impact/effects of Crown Colony rule in Zimbabwe.)

  • A new constitution was drawn up.
  • A Governor was appointed to represent the Queen of England.
  • The settlers were given more freedom in running the economy.
  • The British government was empowered by the constitution to veto any legislation that would discriminate against Africans. However, this clause was never honoured.

Define the Two Pyramid policy as practised in Zimbabwe during Crown Colony rule.

The Two Pyramid policy was a racist policy, similar to Apartheid policy as adopted by the South African regime, characterised by discrimination against Africans.

Describe two pillars of the Two Pyramid policy. (What two pillars made up the Two Pyramid policy?)

The Two-Pyramid policy comprised two main pillars i.e.:

  • The Land Apportionment Act of 1930, which became the Greater Charter of southern Rhodesia.
  • The Industrial Conciliation Act of 1934, which was designed to protect white workers from African competition.

What were the provisions of the Land Apportionment act (1930) in Zimbabwe?

  • It introduced rigid territorial segregation whereby land and other valuables were apportioned or divided into Whites‟ and Africans‟ portions.
  • Africans could no longer acquire land outside their segregated areas. Sadly, the minority whites took up half of the best arable land as Africans were settled in the harsh areas infested with Tsetse flies and mosquitoes.
  • It categorized land into segregated areas.

Into what four areas did the 1930 Land Apportionment act categorize land in Zimbabwe? (With regard to the 1930 Land Apportionment act, identify four areas into which land in Zimbabwe was divided.)

  • Native Reserve areas i.e. land set aside for the African population, which was inadequate for the large African population.
  • Native Purchase area, also land set aside for the Africans, from where Africans could buy land. This area experienced harsh climatic conditions.
  • The European area. This was exclusively for the whites.
  • The Unassigned area, which was set aside for expansion of government buildings and other uses.

In what ways did the 1930 Land Apportionment act negatively affect Africans in Zimbabwe? (Explain how the 1930 Land Apportionment act impacted negatively on Africans in Zimbabwe.)

  • Many Africans were forced to become migrant labourers due to land unproductivity.
  • Alienation of more Africans.
  • Widespread poverty among Africans.
  • Disruption of social roles in the Reserves as African men moved to towns and settler farms.
  • Racial segregation in the provision of services in urban centres.
  • Expropriation of land became the most serious grievance held by the African population. ü Imposition of taxation on Africans to compel them to provide labour for the Europeans.

What were the results of the Industrial Conciliation act (1934) in Zimbabwe? (In what ways was the 1934 Industrial Conciliation act in Zimbabwe designed to protect white workers from African competition? Or:

How did the 1934 Industrial Conciliation act impact negatively on Africans in Zimbabwe?) ü It empowered the government to prohibit Africans from setting up trade unions.

  • Africans from beyond the borders of Southern Rhodesia were imported to provide labour at very low wages.
  • Due to this act, Africans were pushed to the lowest level in the racially segregated society.
  • Skilled jobs were set aside for the Europeans while Africans provided cheap manual labour.


In 1953, the British government approved the formation of a Central African Federation

 Name the states/territories that formed/constituted the Central African Federation as approved by the British government in 1953.

  • Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe),
  • Northern Rhodesia (Zambia),
  • Nyasaland (Malawi).

Describe the organization of the Central African Federation as approved by the British government in 1953.

The Central African federation approved by the British government in 1953 was organized as follows:

  • Each territory had its own government, responsible for local administration.
  • Each territorial government was responsible for all aspects of native affairs within its boundary.
  • The British government was directly involved in the administration of the two northern protectorates.
  • An African Affairs Board was established to ensure that no racist legislation against the Africans was passed in the federal parliament.
  • The federal parliament was given powers to deal with all matters involving more than one territory.

Identify the changes that characterised the spirit of reform among the leadership of white Rhodesian settlers in the early years of the Central African Federation.

In the early years of the Central African federation, there was a spirit of reform among the leadership of white Rhodesian settlers. The settlers opposed the efforts of Prime Minister Garfield Todd to conciliate Africans for they did not want Africans to compete with them in economic life. But the leadership carried on with the reforms through the following changes:

  • A bill was introduced which recognized African trade unions.
  • Government expenditure on African agriculture was increased.
  • Attention was paid to provision of African education.
  • The electoral system was reformed to give more Africans the vote.

Discuss political developments in the Central African Federation after 1953. (Assess the Central African Federation after 1953. or:

Discuss political developments in Zimbabwe after 1953.)

  • In 1958, Todd was forced out of office by his cabinet colleagues and was succeeded by Sir Edgar Whitehead, who abolished Todd‟s reforms and started an era of repression, in which Africans were exploited.
  • Whitehead was succeeded by Ian Smith.
  • In 1963, the Central African Federation was dissolved. Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland became politically independent while Southern Rhodesia remained a self governing colony.
  • In 1965, Ian Smith proclaimed Southern Rhodesia‟s independence from Britain, but, on Britain‟s request, the United Nations Organization (UNO) imposed trade sanctions on southern Rhodesia in certain goods, but South Africa and Portugal continued to trade with Southern Rhodesia, which prevented Southern Rhodesia‟s complete isolation by Britain.
  • With the new constitution of 1969, African rights were ignored and the white minority was more dictatorial.
  • In 1970, Southern Rhodesia broke completely from Britain as it was declared a republic by Ian Smith‟s government. By that time, what was Northern Rhodesia had become Zambia while what was Nyasaland had become Malawi, leaving what was Southern Rhodesia to be simply known as Rhodesia.
  • In 1971, Britain announced a settlement with the minority whites in Rhodesia, which stated that Black rule would be achieved in Rhodesia as more and more of the African majority qualified to vote and that Britain was to grant legal independence to Rhodesia if the settlement was implemented and if a majority of the Africans accepted it. Africans were not included in the negotiations to reach the settlement. Furthermore, new property qualifications were introduced which kept the number of African voters low to avoid an African majority in the voting system.

In early 1972, a commission under Lord Pearce was sent from London to find out African feelings about the 1971 settlement, but it was rejected, so Rhodesia remained illegally independent.

White minority domination of Rhodesia continued up to 1980 when Rhodesia attained her independence under Prime Minister Robert Mugabe as its first African leader. It was from that time that the country became known as Zimbabwe.

 What were the effects/results of direct British rule in Zimbabwe? (Explain the impact/consequences of direct British rule in Zimbabwe. Or:

Discuss the legacy of British colonial rule in Zimbabwe.)

  • African nationalism. The Africans, fed up with British exploitation, demanded independence.
  • Forced labour for Africans.
  • Subjection of Africans to land alienation for white settlement. The Africans were pushed to Reserves.
  • Enhancement of white settler production of cash crops on large white-owned plantation farms that were developed using African labour.
  • Intense economic exploitation of Africans e.g. through payment of taxes and forced labour.
  • Loss of political power and independence by indigenous African rulers.
  • Disruption of African cultural practices. For instance, family members were separated as they left their homes to look for means of livelihood.
  • Disruption of the African Traditional economy as the Africans had to work in  European farms.
  • The British South Africa Company was given too much power in the administration of the Economy
  • Economic developments were undertaken as per the terms of the Berlin Conference (1884-1885. Transport, trade and industry were developed in the Settler regions.
  • Colonial rule,, which generally cause poverty among the Africans due to exploitation.



What is Assimilation? (Define Assimilation.)  Assimilation means to cause to resemble.

Explain why the French adopted Assimilation as a policy of administration. (Why did the French use Assimilation as a policy of administration? Or:

Explain why the French used Assimilation in administering their colonies.)

  • The French Revolution of 1789, which emphasized the equality of all men. Therefore, every inhabitant of a French colony had a right to French citizenship.
  • The French and other countries that practised Assimilation believed that their culture and civilization were superior to those of the Africans. They therefore imposed this standard on other nations, whose civilization they considered Inferior, hoping to fully assimilate them into French culture.
  • The Mulattoe population (children of mixed (European and African) parentage) in West Africa readily accepted the French culture.
  • Africans in the Quatre communes were familiar with traders, colonial administrators and missionaries due to their long period of interaction with them.

A high percentage of the population in the Quatre communes had already been converted to Christianity.

The policy of Assimilation was perfected by Lewis Faidherbe in Senegal from 18541865AD. The colony therefore became an integral part of the mother country rather than a separate state. France felt she had a mission to educate her colonial people in her rich heritage.

                       THE FRENCH IN SENEGAL

Describe French structure of administration in West Africa. (Analyse/discuss French system of administration in West Africa. Or:

Describe French administration in West Africa.)

  • French system of administration in west Africa was highly centralized, since the French believed in efficiency and uniformity.
  • It had eight colonies, all of which were grouped into or formed the Federation of French West Africa, whose capital was Dakar: Senegal.
  • The Federation was headed by a Governor General, who was answerable to the French Minister for Colonies in Paris.
  • Under the Governor General were Lieutenant Governors, who were in charge of constituent colonies.
  • Each colony was divided into Cercles (Provinces), each of which was headed by a Commandant De
  • A Cercle was further divided into small districts, each of which was headed by a Chef De Subdivision. If outstanding in performance, the Chef De subdivision would be elevated or promoted to Chef de Province (equivalent to Paramount Chief in the British system).
  • Each district was divided into  Cantons (equivalent to locations), each under  a Chef De Canton.
  • Under the Chef De Canton were Chef De Village (village elders), each of which headed a sub location.
  • From the Districts to Villages were African chiefs.
  • Each colony elected a Deputy to the French Chamber of Deputies in Paris.
  • The people of West Africa were to be transformed into Frenchmen in all aspects of their lives. French and an African were given the same consideration under French colonization.
  • French colonies and their societies were to be moulded in the image of France.
  • Most of the French colonial officials were inefficient since many of them were military officers, who lacked high education, but were rewarded with senior administrative positions for their role in the colonial conquest.

In Senegal itself, assimilation was only applied in the Quatre (four communes i.e. Saint Louis, Goree, Rufisque and Dakar, outside of which Africans were ruled through local chiefs.

Explain the benefits enjoyed by the assimilated Africans in French West Africa.

  • They were allowed to send representatives to the French chamber of deputies;
  • They could vote, just like Frenchmen;
  • They were provided with education opportunities like Frenchmen;
  • They were excempted from forced labour, taxation and arbitrary arrest; Ø They enjoyed trading rights;
  • They enjoyed the services of the French judicial system;
  • They were employed as civil servants;
  • They operated local Authority structures like Frenchmen.

Explain the role/duties of African chiefs in French West Africa.

  • Collected taxes,
  • Maintained law and order,
  • Organized forced labour,
  • Assisted in conscription of Africans into the army.

Into what three grades were local chiefs in French West Africa categorized? (Identify three grades into which local chiefs in French West Africa were divided/classified. Or:

Describe three grades of local chiefs in French West Africa.)

  • Chefs De Province, who were equivalent to Paramount chiefs and were usually the successors of pre-colonial chiefs,.
  • Chefs De Canton. Cantons were equivalent to locations. Mostly, such chiefs were ordinary people of ability appointed by French officials.
  • Chefs De Village (village heads or elders). These were usually traditional Community heads.


  • The role/duties of Chefs De Cantons in French West Africa.
  • Chefs De Village in French West Africa.


Cantons were equivalent to locations. Mostly, Chefs De Canton were ordinary people of ability appointed by French officials. Their duties included:

  • Keeping a Tax-payers register in the Canton.
  • Helping the government in the conscription of Africans into the army.
  • Assisting the government in the mobilization of forced labour among Africans.


Chefs De Village (village heads or elders) were usually traditional Community heads. Among their duties were:

  • Maintenance of roads in their areas.
  • Maintenance of law and order.
  • Collection of taxes.
  • Organizing relief, e.g. during floods.

 Into what three phases was French rule in west Africa divided? (Describe three phases into which French rule in West Africa was divided.)

French rule in west Africa was in three phases. These were:

  • That which began from the earliest days of French administration in the urban coastal region of Senegal (the four communes of Saint Louis, Goree, Rufisque and Dakar) and went on up to mid 19th Inhabitants of the region were detribalized and assimilated into French culture.
  • The governorship of Lewis Faidherbe (1854-1865), whereby the French subdued and controlled the Africans of the interior of Senegal, to whom the French were new, but, it was hoped, would be assimilated into French culture and become French citizens just like the coastal inhabitants.
  • The period from 1880 onwards, when the French conquered and controlled the west African interior and portions of the coast of Guinea.

Explain the characteristics of Assimilation. (Describe the features of the French system of Assimilation.)

The French system of Assimilation had several features. These include:

  • Administrative Assimilation, whereby French colonies were regarded as overseas provinces or departments of France.
  • Political assimilation, which entailed a close political identity between the colonies and France, whereby the colonies were represented in the French chamber of Deputies i.e. the Lower House of the French parliament.
  • Economic Assimilation i.e. economic integration of the French economy with that of her colonies. The French currency was used in the colonies to strengthen economic ties.
  • Personal Assimilation i.e. acquisition of French citizenship. This was mainly experienced between France and the Communes in Senegal, where Africans were given French citizenship and other privileges enjoyed by French citizens.

Explain the conditions that Africans in French west Africa had to fulfil to qualify for French citizenship. (Identify the requirements met by Africans in French West Africa before they attained the as simile status.)

To qualify for full French citizenship, an indigenous African in French West Africa had to:

  • Become a Christian.
  • Speak French.
  • Attain French education.
  • Serve in the civic service.

Explain why Assimilation succeeded in Senegal. (What were the reasons for the success of Assimilation in Senegal?)

  • High percentage of children of mixed (African and European) parentage in the four communes.
  • Africans in the four communes were familiar and interacted with European traders, colonial administrators and Missionaries.
  • Most of the population in the four communes accepted the policy as they had been converted to Christianity.

 Explain the factors that undermined Assimilation. (Explain why Assimilation failed. Or: Identify the setbacks/hindrances to Assimilation in French West Africa.) Ø It became increasingly expensive as the French colonial empire expanded.

  • Some cultures of some communities across Africa were still intact due to little or lack of contact with Europeans. These proved difficult for French colonial administrators to handle.
  • Racial discrimination against the indigenous people, which undermined the system.
  • Traditional African rulers resisted the system as they did not want to lose their authority over the Assimiles.
  • France was motivated mainly by economic rather than social or political factors in establishing colonies in Africa.
  • The French citizens in the motherland opposed the policy as they feared being outnumbered in the Chamber of Deputies.
  • Some European Frenchmen feared that assimilated Africans would become serious economic rivals as they would have equal rights with Frenchmen.
  • Muslims seriously resisted French attempts to convert them to Christianity.
  • At the turn of the 19th century, the French began to reject Senegalese demands and to abolish the civil rights they enjoyed.
  • Assimilation undermined French colonization as it would not be possible to exploit Africans who attained the Assimile status.

It was difficult for  Africans to abandon their cultures in favour of the French

Explain the impact/results of Assimilation in French West Africa. (What were the effects/consequences of Assimilation in French West Africa.

  • Participation of Africans in the political matters of France. E.g. Blaise Diagne from Senegal was elected Deputy in the French Parliament.
  • Disruption of African culture as many Africans embraced French way of life.
  • Divisions occurred between the assimilated Africans who became French citizens and the noncitizens, who paid taxes and were subjected to forced labour.
  • Senegal was incorporated into the French Republic and regarded as an overseas province of France.
  • Great frustration to the spread of Islam, especially in the communes due to introduction of and conversion of many Africans to Christianity.
  • The authority of traditional African leaders was undermined and eroded as they were replaced by the assimilated Africans.
  • Introduction of and conversion by some Africans to Christianity in Senegal.
  • Introduction and modelling of education on the French system. The Assimilated Africans acquired French education and had to serve in the French Civil Service.
  • Introduction and use of French language in west and other parts of Africa.
  • French realization that Assimilation was dangerous and unwise.
  • The failure of Assimilation which was replaced by the new policy of Association, whereby Africans were allowed to develop along their own lines but in close association with the French.
  • Subjection of Africans (particularly those not yet assimilated) to taxation and forced labour.



Define Association as a French colonial administrative structure. (Define Association as applied in French West Africa.)

Association was a policy of administration whereby the French colonial government was to respect the cultures of her colonial peoples and allow them to develop independently instead of forcing them to adopt French civilization and culture. It had already been developed and applied by Savorgnan De Brazza in Central Africa.

Explain how Africans were regarded in French West Africa under Association. (Explain how the policy of Association was applied in French West Africa. Or:

Describe the French system of Association.)

  • With this new policy, assimilated Africans were regarded as French citizens, but other Africans in French colonies were treated as subjects or Second-class citizens, to who French civil and criminal law did not apply.
  • Unlike the assimilated Africans, subjects retained their cultural practices e.g. Islam and Polygamy.

Explain the differences between French and British colonial systems of administration.

(Identify the contrasts between French and British colonial systems of administration. Or:

Contrast the French and British colonial administrative structures.)

The main difference was that while the British adopted Indirect and Direct Rule in their colonies, the French were keen on destroying the African traditional administrative systems by giving every inhabitant in their colonies the right to become a French citizen.  Other differences between French and British systems of administration were as follows:

  • British colonies were administered separately by a governor accountable in Britain while the French colonies were governed as a federation and were regarded as overseas provinces or departments of France.
  • Indirect Rule preserved African cultures while Assimilation undermined or eroded them.
  • The French administration mostly used military officers while the British used a mixture of amateurs and professionals.
  • The British were keen to appoint traditional rulers as chiefs, but the French simply handpicked individuals who met their qualifications.
  • Laws applied in French colonies were legislated in France while those in British colonies were enacted by the Legislative Councils in particular areas of concern.
  • The British gave the traditional rulers a lot of power, but the French worked to undermine African Chieftaincies.
  • British rule was varied as both Direct and Indirect Rule were applied. But the French had a uniform policy of Assimilation and  only changed to Association when Assimilation failed.
  • Africans in the French colonies became French citizens with full rights. However, the elites in the British colonies remained subjects.
  • French colonies elected their representatives to the Chamber of Deputies in France, but the British colonies had Legislative Councils where policies were made for the colonies.

British colonies were not represented in the House Of Commons.

Explain the similarities between the French and British colonial systems of administration. (Identify the common features in British and French colonial systems of administration. Or:

State the common features in British and French colonial administrative structures.)

  • In both, European administrators took up senior positions in government during colonial administration.
  • In both, the Africans were subjected to oppressive colonial laws and were denied the right to vote.
  • Both caused massive economic exploitation of Africans. European officials developed the colony for their own good while Africans were subjected to land alienation, taxation and forced labour.
  • In both, the position of chiefs was created and their authority established where there were no central authorities.
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