anm document

Rapports Commerciales du Cercle de Bamako (1903-1913),
in ANM 1 Q 44 fonds anciens

© 1999 by Jim Jones, Ph.D.

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Rapport Commerciale du Cercle de Bamako (1st quarter, 1903)

The following European merchants did business in Bamako from 1903 to 1905. The names of their representatives and the figures for their total business are taken from commercial reports for the first quarter of 1903, the first quarter of 1904, and the annual report for 1905.

Company name 1903
1903 revenue
1000s of francs
1904 revenue
1000s of francs
1905 revenue
1000s of francs
Devès et Chaumet Dabrigeon Dabrigeon 20 55 50
Maurer Sarraulte Stelwagen 15-18 20 45
Maurel et Prom Ribérand Brel 16 18 30
Société Commerciale du Soudan Français Henry Henry 15 15 20
Compagnie du Niger Soudan Sabathier Legrand 12-15 20 25
Ch. Peyrissac Zenib Zenib 10 ? 18
Compagnie Francaise Commerciale Africaine (COFCA) Pauguet Rouchard 8 25 35
Buhan et Teisseire Begat Bégat 6 18 18
V. Grilhaud Brel Boubakar Sémé 4 6 n

Rapport Commerciale du Cercle de Bamako (1st quarter, 1904)

This report described French expectations for the completed Chemin de Fer Kayes-Niger. When it reached Bamako, Bamako would "dethrone" Kayes-Mediné as the commercial center of the Soudan. Dioula caravans would come to Bamako instead.

However, in the first quarter of 1904, African commerce remained slow in Bamako because Sarakolé caravans did not arrive as usual. Salt prices rose to 35-42.5 francs/ barre.

Rapport Commerciale du Cercle de Bamako (3rd quarter, 1904)

The gare de Bamako opened on July 29, 1904 and business was much heavier in the 3rd quarter, which was usually a slow period, because European merchants in Kayes could send their goods directly to Bamako instead of waiting for the rains to stop.

The Compagnie Francais de l'Afrique Occidentale (CFAO) set up a comptoir in Bamako, as did M. Dupuis (formerly of the Société Commerciale du Soudan Fran‡ais in Kita and Mediné), M. Quesnel of the Association Cotonière, and La Société Dutheil de la Rochère et de la Fourmière, which heretofore had operated in the Niger Bend area.

The railroad delivered 570 tons of sea salt from Cap Vert (Dakar region) in sacks. They sold it immediately due to the shortage of salt from Tichit and Oualata caused by the failure of Sarakolé caravans to arrive. European merchants purchased sacks of salt for 5.60 francs each, and the first sacks to reach Bamako were sold for 21 francs each. By September, the price had stabilized at 12.5 francs per sack.

This is a list of the main export items by weight (in kilograms) for August and September from the Cercle of Bamako:

Item August 1904 September 1904
Rubber 47,619 34,642
Ivory 1,671 576
Gold 28.735 20.5
Wax 62 434
Other 520 630
Total 49,900.35 36,302.5

The main item imported to Bamako was kola, which brought by by Dioula traders. This table lists some imported items from Europe by weight (in kilograms) for August and September:

Item August 1904 September 1904
Salt 97,931 471,608
Cloth 53,447 78,338
Food 24,925 58,578
Construction materials 28,293 17,153
Hardware 5,051 11,001
Other 11,905 48,067
Total 221,546 684,745

Rapport Commerciale du Cercle de Bamako (4th quarter, 1904)

The only industry in the area around Bamako was barge construction (chalands), but that proceeded at great speed in the towns of Bamako and Koulikoro. The demand was high, so barges were expensive and usually found buyers even before they were completed.

Rapport Commerciale du Cercle de Bamako (1-(4th quarter, 1905)

In 1905, cowskin exports became large enough to join rubber, ivory and wax on the export list. Salt was still the most important import, followed by cloth.

Rapport Commerciale du Cercle de Bamako (1st quarter, 1906)

The town of Koulikoro was growing thanks to peanut and grain shipments. The number of comptoirs in Bamako nearly doubled in 1905 to 23. Most commercial firms also had representatives in Koulikoro. The main exports continued to be peanuts, ivory, wax, gold, skins and most recently, rice.

Trade was conducted by European merchants who purchased local produce with French coins and then immediately recovered those coins when Africans purchased supplies such as salt and cloth from them.

Rapport Commerciale du Cercle de Bamako (2nd quarter, 1906)

Due to the increased competition between firms, produce prices rose higher in Bamako than they did elsewhere in the Soudan, so Africans began to come from as far as Sikasso, Bougouni, Koutiala, Segou and even Kita to sell their produce.

Profit margins for European merchants shrank as competition increased. Businesses had to become larger, better capitalized and more complicated. The number of Africans traders in Bamako dropped noticeably.

Rapport Commerciale du Cercle de Bamako (4th quarter, 1906)

A drop in world prices for rubber of average quality hurt Bamako business and further reduced their profit margins. Two European merchants specialized entirely in grain products that they exported via Kayes with great success.

European merchants in Bamako and Koulikoro were suppliers of European goods to Dioula traders from all over the Soudan. The "Sie. Soudan Niger" (NOTE: This may be a misspelling-- perhaps it refers to the "Cie. Soudan Niger") made chalk which it sold at stops along the Niger River below Bamako. Nyamina was a center for the production of blankets dyed with indigo, which were known locally as "Segou."

Rapport Commerciale du Cercle de Bamako (1st quarter, 1907)

Two new European comptoirs opened in Bamako, operated by Lacoste and Cochy. African merchants were reduced to acting as intermediaries between European merchants and African producers. Porterage persisted but was declining.

Rapport Commerciale, (2nd quarter, 1907)

Exports from Bamako included the following:

The franc was "l'unique bas d'échanges dans tout le Cercle de Bamako" but cowries were still used "comme monnaie fractionaire pour les menus achats." (This sentence appears to contradict itself, since it asserts that all transactions in the Cercle of Bamako were calculated in francs, but cowries were still in use..)

Rapport Commerciale du Cercle de Bamako (3rd quarter, 1907)

European merchants were heavily involved in grain trade. Railroad freight statistics show that Bamako imported 413 tons of rice and 438 tons of millet, and exported 112 tons of rice and 27 tons of millet. Most of the imports come from Mopti and almost all of the exports go to Kayes-Mediné, although a small amount goes up the Niger River to Haut Guinée (the easternmost part of Guinea near the Upper Niger River).

Due to its central location, Dioula traders and Moors come to trade at Bamako. Although Moors occasionally take their salt and animals on beyond Bamako (Siguiri), Dioula traders with kola always go directly to the Bamako market.

Here are expanded statistics on imports and exports (tons) for 1906-7:

Item 1906 imports 1907 import 1906 export 1907 export
cloth 104.5 75 n/a n/a
salt 532.5 521.5 n/a n/a
rice 0 412 0 112
mil 0 438 0 271
rubber 0 0 161 70
karité 0 0 0 150
ivory 0 0 1.8 5.5
divers 0 0 0 190

Rapport Commerciale du Cercle de Bamako (4th quarter, 1907)

Three new comptoirs opened in Koulikoro and one in Bamako.

Imports to the Cercle de Bamako included cloth, wine, guns, powder, liguids, 1865 tons of salt, wood, sugar, hardware, matches, chalk, copper, "tôle" (probably roofing material), cement, flour, 560 tons of rice, and 850 tons of millet.

Exports from Bamako included 60 tons of rice, 40 tons of millet, karité, animal skins, cola, ivory, rubber, wool, 91 horses, 852 cattle, 1,516 sheep, cloth, tobacco, hats and copper boxes.

Rapport Commerciale du Cercle de Bamako (1st quarter, 1908 (April 15, 1908)

"Le trafic du Chemin de Fer est le principal élément d'appréciation de l'activité économique du cercle." (The commercial activity associated with the railroad is the principal factor in economic growth of the region.) The railroad brought in 4,600 tons of imports in the fourth quarter of 1907 and 4,100 tons in the first quarter of 1908. The railroad carried 725 tons of exports in the fourth quarter of 1907 and 1,232 tons in the first quarter of 1908. The increases were due increases in the amount of salt and peanuts, while there was a large drop in the amounts of ivory, karité and rubber.

A total of 331 tons of imported merchandise went all the way from Kayes to Koulikoro, including 43.6 tons of cloth, 99.8 tons of salt, 27.1 tons of drinks ( vin/alcool/boissons), 44.9 tons of spices/flour/food, 19.9 tons of metal/machines/hardware, and 96.1 tons of construction materials.

Koulikoro exported 1,933 tons including 955 tons of rice, 579 tons of millet, 277.6 tons of peanuts, 52 tons of wool, 3.6 tons of skins, 0.2 tons of cotton, 4.5 tons of dried fish, 1.9 tons of rubber, and 57.9 tons of karité.

"Presque toutes ces marchandises proviennent des cercles de la vallée Nigérienne ou sont destinées à ces mˆmes régions. Ce ne sont donc que des marchandises de transit aussi ne les faisons nous pas figurer au tableau des importations et exportations." (In other words, the figures for the first quarter of 1908 in the table of Bamako imports and exports do not include the amount of goods that transited through Bamako. For the other quarters in that table, this is most likely not the case.)

There was a noticeable drop in rubber and ivory trading, but grain trading increased. Even though European merchants operated comptoirs in the interior, Dioula traders still came all the way to Bamako to exchange salt and kola for European cloth, cows, sheep and horses.

Rapport Commerciale du Cercle de Bamako (2nd quarter, 1908)

Trade slowed as usual during the (2nd quarter, but the rubber industry was in a crisis. European merchants increased their buying of skins, grain and wool, but also tried to improve the quality of the rubber they obtained and to eliminate fraud in rubber sales.

There were no statistics available for imports on the railroad.

Rapport Commerciale du Cercle de Bamako (3rd quarter, 1908)

Francs were the sole money in use in Bamako and Koulikoro, but cowries were widely used in the rest of the Cercle.

Rapport Commerciale du Cercle de Bamako (4th quarter, 1908)

Trade to the Upper Niger river valley increased as mining companies began to set up operations in Siguiri. Nyamina still produced dyed indigo blankets that were favorites among African buyers. The Compagnie Niger-Soudan still produced chalk for sale.

The Cercle de Bamako received 70.665 tons of salt valued at 21,199.50 francs, and 120.811 tons of kola valued at 241,662 francs.

Rapport Commerciale du Cercle de Bamako (1st quarter, 1909)

Moors from Tichit complained that they were required to pay "les droits d'oussourou ... aux portes du Sahel." (NOTE: this was a caravan tax that was collected in Banamba; see below) That forced them to sell part of their salt for reduced prices in the north so that they could obtain francs with which to pay the tax. They asked to be permitted to pay the tax in Bamako. [See Rapport Special à Gouverneur du Haut-Sénégal- Niger and a letter from Moulay Idriss, notable de Tichit]

There were coin shortages in Bamako. Coins were widely used in Bamako, Koulikoro, Kati and Banamba, but little used elsewhere.

Rapport Commerciale du Cercle de Bamako (2nd quarter, 1909)

Trade slowed in the second quarter as it usually did due to the low water on the Senegal River, which prevented Europeans from importing goods, and the oncoming rainy season, which required Africans to work in their fields.

The main African industries in the Cercle de Bamako were pottery, iron-making, cotton weaving, gold mining and indigo dyeing.

Rapport Commerciale du Cercle de Bamako (3rd quarter, 1909)

Rubber exports were way down in the past year from 245 tons in the third quarter of 1908 to 100 tons in the third quarter of 1909. "Bamako etant devenu le centre comme éntrepot des grains que proviennent de la vallée Nigérienne, les maisons de commerce ont enmagasiné des stocks importants de mil et du riz." (Since Bamako had become the center of the grain trade for the Middle Niger Valley, commercial firms stockpiled millet and rice there.) However, the grain trade was slow because prices were very low.

The following prices were reported in the Bamako market:

Francs were the dominant currency in Kati, Bamako and Koulikoro, but cowries dominated elsewhere, especially in Bélédugu and along the right bank of the Niger River.

Rapport Commerciale du Cercle de Bamako (4th quarter, 1909)

The railroad carried 658 tons of exports to Kayes including 341 tons of rubber and 248 tons of rice. A year ago, Europeans bought rubber for 6 francs/kilogram, but by 1909, the price was back up to 7.5 francs/kilogram. The Compagnie Niger- Soudan moved its man from Koulikoro to Bamako to open a store near the Place de la Marche.

1,134,000 kolas reached Bamako. This was equivalent to 71.03 tons and valued by the French authorities at 142,060 francs (200 francs/ton).

Rapport Commerciale du Cercle de Bamako (1st quarter, 1910)

The railroad carried 300 tons of imports, up from 150 tons in the fourth quarter of 1909. It carried 750 tons of exports, up from 100 tons in the fourth quarter of 1909. The price of peanuts in Bamako and Kati was up to 50-124 francs/ton from 50-60 francs/ton a year earlier, thanks to a bad harvest in Cayor (Senegal). However, after the 1909 disaster, Africans planted fewer peanuts, and as a result, peanuts were in short supply in the market. This also helped to drive the prices higher.

The firms of Buhan & Teisseire, and Delmas, were especially heavily involved in the grain trade.

Rapport Commerciale du Cercle de Bamako (3rd quarter, 1910)

The Senegal River did not rise in 1910, so European merchants were unable to obtain their usual quantity of goods for trade. Large ships made only one trip to Kayes. Consequently, large amounts of cows and grain were shipped to the Upper Niger River valley.

The Maison Cochy & Gobinet Frères of Kankan opened a comptoir in Bamako.

Rapport Commerciale du Cercle de Bamako (4th quarter, 1910)

393 tons of peanuts were purchased in Bamako, but only 13 tons was exported towards Kayes, and only 3.16 tons of that went by railroad.

Rapport Commerciale du Cercle de Bamako (1st quarter, 1911)

Caravans from Adrar and Taoudenni brought salt through Bamako and went as far as the Ivory Coast. Cattle from Banamba and Macina were sold in Bamako, Kati and Koulikoro. Only 170 tons of rubber sold in the Bamako market in the first quarter of 1912, compared to 300 tons in the first quarter of 1910. In general, Africans rememberrf the low prices of a year ago and brought less to sell in Bamako. European merchants wound up with more cash on hand than they could use.

Rapport Commerciale du Cercle de Bamako (2nd quarter, 1911)

The railroad brought in 182 tons of imported goods, compared to 200 tons in first quarter of 1911 and 179 tons a year earlier. The railroad carried 560 tons of exports, up from 500 tons in the previous quarter.

A tax on Soudanese grains at Siguiri reduced the flow from the French Soudan towards Guinea. European merchants in Bamako bought grain, but prices remained relatively high and stable.

European merchants complained that they couldn't find enough African laborers. They urged the colonial administration to requisition laborers for their use. They also complained about the state of repair of the Voie Decauville (a narrow gauge railroad erected by the Chambre de Commerce to connect the train station to the river bank about 1908). Apparently the switches were frequently damaged and repaired, but it continued to deteriorate. The Commandant du Cercle de Bamako attributed the damage to overloading of rail cars by merchants and the failure of African laborers to follow other rules concerning its use.

Rapport Commerciale du Cercle de Bamako (4th quarter, 1911)

Cohen Frères of Guinea opened a comptoir in Bamako. The rubber trade had nearly ceased. European merchants in Bamako had higher prices than comptoirs in Kouroussa, so African traders stayed away from Bamako.

Rapport Commerciale du Cercle de Bamako (1st quarter, 1912)

The railroad carried 393 tons of imports and 631 tons of exports. However, European merchants were in trouble because of the competition from cheaper prices in Kouroussa. In Bamako, millet sold for 150 francs/ton, and rice for 250-300 francs/ton. The market in Koulikoro had the lowest prices in the Cercle.

Rapport Commerciale du Cercle de Bamako (2nd quarter, 1912)

The firm of Dabrigeon et Carrie intended to increase the production of karité. They returned from France to the Soudan with a specialized machine for shelling karité nuts. They were awaiting an order for a tug boat and 30 barges to be used hauling karité up river to Koulikoro.

Rapport Commerciale du Cercle de Bamako (3rd quarter, 1912)

Of the 70,650 francs worth of goods exported from the Cercle de Bamako, only 17,450 francs worth of goods went to Europe. Most went to Guinea and Ivory Coast.

The bad harvest in 1911 slowed trade in 1912. The Senegal River did not rise completely, so only Maurel et Prom and the Société Commerciale were able to import enough trade goods for the season.

Approximately 700 tons of Roumanian and Serbian salt reached Kayes and Bamako. This was exported towards Guinea and the interior, so Bamako's export statistics were inflated.

Since Patentes de Dioula were no longer required, trade statistics were not available.

Rapport Commerciale du Cercle de Bamako (1st quarter, 1913)

Deves et Chaumet launched a petrol tanker on the Niger called the "Fram." Carrie et Dabrigeon received their karité barges and launched their own steamer. Each was capable of pulling 150 tons.

European goods continued to enter the Soudan via Siguiri, thanks to the lower prices at Koussoura. This did not affect the volume of freight imported by the railroad.

About 500 Africans provided "une huitaine de jours" (approximately eight days) of prestation (requisitioned) labor in February 1913 in Bamako. "81 d'entr'eux ont touché ici leur première mise" which I think means that this was the first time they'd ever worked for the French. If so, then that means that 419 had already worked for the French in some capacity.

Peanuts sold for 125-150 francs/ton in Bamako. Commerce by Moorish traders was reduced due to the competition from European salt.

Rapport Commerciale du Cercle de Bamako (2nd quarter, 1913)

The railroad carried 772 tons of exports towards Kayes. Peanuts made up 600 tons of the total, while rubber was only 25 tons. The karité commerce seemed to be growing, but hadn't produced enormous results yet.

An African interpreter, Moussa Travelé, returned from France with some millet grinders that he hoped to sell for 12-30 francs each.

Rapport Commerciale du Cercle de Bamako (3rd quarter, 1913)

The Senegal River failed to flood again.

Rapport Commerciale du Cercle de Bamako (4th quarter, 1913)

The railroad carried a total of 4,000 tons of freight valued at 5 million francs, of which 4 million francs were imports.