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OGIRISI: a New Journal of African Studies

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Rivers and ports in transport history of Cameroon, 1916-1961

Walter Gam Nkwi

Abstract


In direct contrast to Europe, Asia and North America, Africa has very few navigable rivers. This paper focuses on the preponderant role played by water transport in the form of rivers and ports during the colonial period. Although not blessed with much navigable rivers and natural deep ports, the Colonial administration as well as the population of Cameroon depended so much on rivers and ports for their physical mobility, transportation of bulky goods, mails migration and above all European consumer goods which came in from Europe and were head loaded into the hinterlands. Therefore rivers and ports played economic, social and political roles. Despite these important roles, the place of rivers and ports has been relegated to footnotes in historical narratives of Cameroon. This paper therefore, aims at lifting rivers and ports from the footnotes of Cameroon history into the text. It confronts the importance of such a technological system to both the colonial administration and the indigenous population. What were the type of goods that were transported via rivers and ports? More crucial to the essay is the importance of the ports in the development of the cities and the migration of people into areas where ports were found. In what ways do we linked the ports and rivers to the global mobility of goods and modernity?




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