Zanzibar under Colonial Rule

By Abdul Sheriff; Ed Ferguson | Go to book overview

Three
The Struggle for Independence
1946-1963

B.D. BOWLES


1

The structure of Zanzibar's political economy during the colonial period had arisen not by accident, but out of the needs of colonial production. Zanzibar became an underdeveloped area as a result of this process. The process itself was unusual in that cloves and copra, the major exports, were not primarily raw materials for industries in the metropolis, Britain, but were exported mainly to the similarly underdeveloped areas of India and Indonesia. By the middle of the twentieth century such a trans-Indian Ocean trade had become an important supplementary part of the capitalist world trading system. Indeed, one can see India acting in some ways as a sub-metropole.

But all this does not detract from the fact that what happened in the world of trade was to a very large extent determined by the interests of British capital, that is, those in whose interests the colonial economy operated. But British capital operated in a situation created by history and not in a vacuum. Clove production was introduced by Zanzibar's first colonisers, the Arabs, and some of the earliest profits were made by merchants carrying on an entrepôt trade, in particular the slave trade. Production is always likely to be more important than trade, and the last remnants of the entrepôt trade were disappearing during the late colonial period. Clove and copra production became dominant. In spite of unsuccessful efforts by some colonial administrators to diversify Zanzibar's economy (only, as one would expect, into other export crops such as cocoa), even copra declined in importance and cloves became virtually a monoculture. This meant that the

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