Rapports Commerciales du Cercle de Gao (1903-1913)
|© 1999 by Jim Jones, Ph.D.|
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There was little trade in the Cercle of Gao except for a few Dioula traders who came from Dori or Timbuktu. The people were poor, there was little money in circulation and the prices of imported goods were high. There was no local industry.
Dioula traders began to arrive in larger numbers. Some came from Bamba and Bourem because there were no longer any tirailleurs there (NOTE: tirailleurs received paychecks and provided a market). Two Dioula traders arrived from Fada Gourma and others arrived from Mossi.
Although there were no European merchants operating in Gao, several - Société Commerciale, Maison de la Fournière (Niamey) and Chichignond - sent chalands past Gao to Dori and Niamey.
A small market in Gao was supplied by villages within a 30- kilometer radius. They supplied rice, millet, canaries, chickens and mats. However, the market was only active during the first few days of each mnoth when the tirailleurs received their paychecks. There was still little money in circulation, and coins for tax payments had to come from Dori and Gotheč (Gotteč).
Goods were imported from Timbuktu, Ddori, Kayes, Bamba, Gotheč and Ouagadougou. They included blue and white guinée, točle, cotton bandes, pagnes, pearls, Pernod (24 liters), salt, karité, colas, peanuts, horses. Exports included "argent monnaire," cattle, donkeys, millet, rice, salt, blue guinée. The cash was exported towards Timbuktu (JJNOTE: in exchange for European goods) and the rest went towards Dori, Niamey, Bamba and Dounzou.
Two Moroccans came to buy ostrich feathers from Kounta hunters. People came to the Gao market from as far as Ansongo, but few people came from the north. The Commandant du Cercle de Gao called the northerners lazy and said that they had less grain, so the market didn't interest them.
The grain trade began to be significant at Gao.
M. Delanne of the Maison de la Fournière passed through Gao with merchandise for Dounzou. He left an African as the company representative in Gao. Another African represented Maurel et Prom, but he left for St. Louis with a herd of 100 cattle (80 cows with heifers).
The Gao market was located at the Dioula camp. A "droit de marché" cost 0.50 francs for a "quinzame" (15 days or a fortnight). The Commandant du Cercle de Gao informed local village chiefs that a market would be held on the "premier jour de chaque lune" (first day of each new moon).
Cattle were exported from Gao towards Dori, Kayes, Timbuktu and Gotheč.
Trade picked up between Gao and Dori because the route was secured from bandits. However, there were no European merchants in Gao and all European goods arrived from Timbuktu. There was almost no industry in Gao except for the weaving of crude blankets and mats for local use.
Crickets devastated local crops and gardens on September 12, 1906.
The route from Dori to Gao via Ansongo and the Niger River left bank was open thanks to French patrols in Oulleminden territory. However, the Dioula traders were unable to obtain supplies from Timbuktu because the steamboat had not yet arrived there.
M. Pottier made the first attempt to buy wool and animal skins in Gao. He did not get much, but he left an African representative behind to continue making purchases.
Nomads from the Adrar des Iforhas began to buy grain in the Gao market. In another development, the list of destinations for Gao exports no longer included Kayes. Timbuktu was the only destination to the west.
M. Galopaud opened a small comptoir in August for the purchase of ostrich feathers, animals and either giraffes or cloves (the French word is hard to read). Pottery was a new local industry, in addition to blanket and mat weaving.
Trade picked up thanks to the increase in the number of employees of the Service de la Navigation and the activity associated with the construction of the telegraph line. They provided a market for local rice.
Poor harvests in the neighboring cercles and a normal harvest in the Cercle de Gao led to increased trade, as did the activity of the Service de la Navigation, which reached a new peak. M. Legras planned to open a comptoir at the end of March and traded in rice and animals.
Mm. Delanne and Galopaud represented the Maison de la Fournière in Gao, but Legras did not show up to conduct business in Gao, despite his announced plans.
Trade was up, thanks to the creation of the "village des Dioulas" and the new market. Anothr European merchant, M. Mercier, arrived with plans to ship catle to In Salah (Algerian Sahara).
NOTE: Mercier shows up in many of the subsequent reports. Each time, he tries to ship cattle to a different destination and fails. By the time of the last report in which he is mentioned, he lives a fairly poor existence in Gao by dealing in cloth shipped by postal service, but the Commandant du Cercle doesn't really consider him to be a commeráant at that point.)
Trade increased at the beginning of 1909. A weekly Monday market existed in addition to the monthly trade fair. However, the Commandant du Cercle de Gao warned other Europeans not to expect too much out of Gao. If competition remained constant, the existing European merchants could all earn a profit, but Gao's real prosperity still lay in the future. The Commandant du Cercle considered rice and animals to offer the best possibilities for European commerce.
The Maison de la Fournière (of Niamey) is the only remaining European merchant. Mercier was off in Senegal with a herd of cows. Rice sold for 70 francs/ton, and millet for 30 francs/ton.
Maison Salamon opened a comptoir and the Maison de la Fournière asked for land to build permanent concessions in Gao and Ansongo.
The rice trade increased and the price reached 1150 francs/ton. Five Dioula traders built banco houses in Gao, which the Commandant du Cercle thought was evidence the community's of stability and the growth of trade. The Société du Moyen Niger set up comptoirs at Gao and Ansongo.
Mercier's experiment with cattle sales in Senegal did not work. In 1910, he wanted to try cattle sales to Coumassi (Kumasi) in the Gold Coast.
Pottery became an important industry, especially in the village of Gorom-Gorom, west of Gao in the Gourma country.
Mercier took 280 cattle to Dakar in Setpember 1909, but didn't think the trip was worth repeating in 1910. Instead, he left with 90 cattle south towards Kumasi on October 8, 1910 and expected to be back in three months.
Both Mercier and Maison de la Fournière were gone from Gao, so there was no European trade. M. de la Fournière went to Kayes, leaving an African representative, but with very few goods to sell. African trade was slow as well because Dioula traders stayed away. Local industry was also slow - only a few blacksmiths operated in Gao.
M. Kreutzberger of Timbuktu bought a "patente provisional" to enable him to buy grain in Gao for sale in Timbuktu.
European goods arrive mostly from Timbuktu, although a small quantity arrived from Nigeria with Hausa traders. Guinée cloth sells for 12 francs/piece, kola sells for 150 francs/1000, and salt sells 20 francs/barre.
Kreutzberger, de la Fournière, and Mercier were all trading in Gao. Mercier's trip to sell cattle in the Gold Coast failed, so he limited himself to selling guinée cloth. Kreutzberger bought grain to sell in Timbuktu, but de la Fournière liquidated his stocks in Gao.
By late 1911, only the Société du Moyen Niger retained a comptoir in Gao, but they planned to make Gao their base. The comptoir was run by M. Toursel, who bought mainly rice and salt.
European commerce in Gao was nil.
M. Paranneau, representing Deves et Chaumet, brought European goods to open a comptoir. He sold enough to cover his costs, then returned to Timbuktu. Otherwise, there were few Europeans and almost no European goods in CerGao. (NOTE: Paranneau said he covered his losses, but European merchants were notorious for hiding profits from the administration).
European trade was nil. Only Mercier, Maison de la Fournière and the Société Moyen Niger (Société Agricole et Commerciale du Moyen Niger) were operating in Gao. The main trade items were rice, guinée cloth and goods produced by Africans.
There were no European merchants in Gao, but M. Paranneau bought a patente for one week of trade at the Gao market.
A bad harvest hurt trade in CerGao. Only the Hausa traders did well by buying animals at low prices for sale in Nigeria. In Gao, grain sold for 500 francs/ton.
NOTE: By this time, most Africans traded towards Dori, Tillabey and Niamey, while European trade went towards Timbuktu.