‘Freedom. justice and commerce’ : some factors affecting Asian trading patterns in Southern Rhodesia, 1897-1942.
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Between the rhetoric of the British South Africa Company’s motto and the perceptive social comment of Kipling lies the dilemma of the minority trading group and its host community. In Africa the problem has been exacerbated by the fact that the rulers and the ruled have belonged to different races forming in effect separate societies. Until the 1960s the minority trading groups have had, in effect, to deal with two host communities, one of which controlled the legal and regulative process while the other constituted the internal market for goods and services. Nevertheless minority groups belonging neither to the dominant political group nor the subordinate majority group succeeded in dominating the distributive and retail trade in much of sub- Saharan Africa. For example, in 1965 85 per cent of general merchants in Liberia were Lebanese, while in the same year in Uganda 70 per cent were Asians. ^ The Tables in the Appendix to this article indicate that this pattern was not the case in Rhodesia, where even if the Jewish and Hellenic populations are excluded, the larger proportion of trade remained in the hands of the predominantly British settler elite. This difference arose from the historical influences which brought British control to Central Africa and established the differential pattern of white settlement.