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Miners in the colonial and post-colonial Africa

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  1. How the capitalists and the colonial state manipulated the West African labour force in order to increase their profit
  2. How mine work was seen by the African labour force as a negatively connoted job
  3. How mine work was more a temporary job for survival than a permanent job

After the abolition of the slave trade at the beginning of the nineteenth century, Europeans intensified their capital penetration in the African continent and 'established mercantile links between West Africa and Europe', as part of the 'legitimate' commerce. Indeed, natural resources of Africa attracted a large amount of capitalists. These capitalists employed the cheap West African labour force not only to extract the resources from the mines, but also to build the infrastructures necessary for the trade of ores (such as railways), and thus maximized their profit. So West Africans, who were farmers by a majority, were transformed 'from peasant to workers', either by choice, or by constraint (manipulated by the colonial state). Some historians describe these West African miners as a new kind of working class. But this essay will discuss an opposite point of view, that the miners were basically peasants obliged to work for a wage in order to both pay the taxes imposed by the colonial state and to overcome the unstable economic situation they had to face.

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