King's College London
Exhibitions & Conferences
Hidden voices of Empire

Requesting development

A more general narrative of transitioning from tradition to acceptance of development was published in the Uganda review in 1952. Entitled ‘Community development in Uganda’ and written by JC Dakin it reads:

Many parents refused to send their children to school. New crops like cotton and coffee were unpopular. Chiefs and government officers had persistently to urge the people to plant these crops. Now things are greatly changed. People often complain that the coffee seedlings and cotton seed issued to them are not sufficient. Everywhere the people want more schools and dispensaries.

Photographic scene of a city in Nigeria lit up by electricityIbadan is a university city crazy on electricityThis also highlights another common feature of positive African attitudes towards development – requests for more. Several questions in If you ask me… attest to this:

  • ‘Why can’t we have our own factories?’
  • ‘Are you doing as much as you should to industrialise the colonies?’
  • ‘Why wasn’t the whole of the last Colonial Development and Welfare grant spent when there is such an urgent need for development in so many colonies?’

There are two alternative, though not mutually exclusive, possible interpretations of these questions.

Firstly, development was thought of as a good thing in the colonies, supporting the idea that positivity existed.  On the other hand, the frequent requests for more also demonstrates that development was not going far enough. These questions amount to accusations of under-development, whether deliberately or not.

The image reproduced above accompanies a 1955 article in the West African annual and points at the vitality and energy of the developing Nigerian city of Ibadan.

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