The coffee industry of Angola in the nineteenth century

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Seleti, Yonah
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The relations between the Mbundu of Northern Angola and the Portuguese, which for centuries had been dominated by the slave trade, were transformed in the nineteenth century. The emergence of the Coffee industry in Kwanza North affords an opportunity to study the transition from the Portuguese control of the slave trade to the control of commodity production. When the development of capitalism in Europe undermined the slave trade, some enlightened Portuguese authorities in Angola saw that the future of the colony lay in the land. Through their efforts the coffee industry emerged as a local reaction to the economic crisis. Coffee grew wild in Angola and was not introduced by missionaries as stated by David Livingstone. Initially the Mbundu and moradores dominated the industry as they foraged the forests for coffee berries. The abolition of the slave trade in all Portuguese colonies in 1836 added impetus to the growth of the coffee industry, and. increasing number of Portuguese turned to its exploitation, in this way the Portuguese moved from the control of trade to the control of production, it was official policy to encourage European settlement in Angola but for most of the period they did not have settlement plans. The Portuguese authorities desired to develop their African colonies without the required resources. In this way they maintained oppressive labour policies which exploited the Mbundu,in order to promote European settlement the Government of Angola capitulated to settle*"demands for more labour allowing the perpetuation of slavery and forced labour. The lack of capital continued to hamper the development of the industry until in 186^ when the Banco Nacional Ultramarino (B.N.U.) was formed for the exploitation of the colonies. The Bank quickly identified the coffee industry as a potential area of investment. The credits advanced to settler planters helped in expanding their enterprises and assisted during droughts and epidemics. But owing to the frequency of droughts and epidemics many planters found themselves in liquidation and their plantations taken over by the B.N.U. The Bank controlled not only the coffee industry by the end of the nineteenth century, but also river transport from Dondo to Luanda. The development of the coffee industry undermined Mbundu economy through land and labour spoilation. AS the forces deriving their strength from the development of capitalism encroached on the Mbundu, they came in conflict with demands of Mbundu society and eventually led to the subjugation of the Mbundu. The mono-economy of Kwanza North was fragile in that the fluctuations of the coffee price contributed to the growth and decline of the industry. In the period before 1895 the ^steady price of coffee led to increased production whilst the fall of the price led to the decline and stagnation of the industry* Efforts to diversify the economy were realised only in the twentieth century.
Coffee -- Angola