anm document

Evacuation par fleuve.
Correspondences avec Méssafric (1947-1948)
in ANM 1 Q 192 fonds recents

© 1999 by Jim Jones, Ph.D.

Go to Table of Contents Read Disclaimer


"Convention pour l'Affermage du Service de la Navigation et l'Exploitation des transports sur le Niger" (1936)

This is the document from the agreement that created the Société Fermière. Among the signers, Gouverneur du Soudan Française Alfassa, Governeur Général de l'AOF Brévie, Inspecteur Général des Finances du Chassin and the representative of the Société des Messageries Africaines Johanes Volle.


"Arrêté n° ____ de Gouverneur du Soudan Française fixant les horaires des bateaux courriers
pour la campagne 1946-47"
(Koulouba, July 11, 1946)

This was the schedule for the vapeurs couriers Mage, Galliéni and Bonnier on the Middle Niger River in July and August. The rest of the year, postal pirogues and passenger barges maintained the service. Postal pirogues operated all year round between Gao and Ansongo, and weekly on the Upper Niger.


Directeur de la Société des Messageries Africaines to Directeur des Affaires Économiques du Soudan Français, n°D2/49 "Programme des transports fluviaux pour l'hivernage 1947" (Koulikoro, June 20, 1947)

This was a detailed plan for the use of the ships of the Société des Messageries Africaines to move the harvest to Koulikoro. It planned for the movement of 15,000 tons of goods downstream from Koulikoro (out of a total 18,120 tons downstream freight) and 25,446 tons of freight upstream from above Mopti to Koulikoro (out of 38,441 tons upstream freight). The upstream freight broke down like this:

Departure point Tons Item(s)
Tamani 340 millet, peanuts
Ségou 14,371 various produce
Markala 650 bricks, tiles, etc.
Niono 900 rice
Kolongo 6,000 rice
Dioro 1,000 rice
Sama 600 millet
Diafarabé 25 millet, rice
Mopti 8,000 rice millet etc
San 2,865 millet peanuts kapock karité
Niafunké 400 various items
Diré 380 cotton, gum
Gao 350 various items

All of this was scheduled to take place between June 15 and December. 22,300 tons would move during June-July-August, another 23,100 tons in September-October, and 9,000 tons in December.


Directeur de la Société des Méssageries Africaine to Directeur du Bureau des Affaires Économiques, n°D2/90 (Koulikoro, August 20, 1947)

The Société des Méssageries Africaine had the following ships in service for the 1947 season:


Directeur de la Société des Messageries Africaines to Gouverneur du Soudan Française,
n°2/108 (Koulikoro, September 18, 1947)

Until September 1947, prisoners were used to load and unload boats and railcars at Koulikoro. After the government took them away, they offered forced labor from the 2ième portion in exchange. However, forced laborers were much less productive than the prisoners (average 1.131 tons per man-day vs. 2.775 tons per man-day for prisoners).


"Programme des transports fluviaux à la monté sur le bief nord
pour la campagne 1947-1948"

There were 12,550 tons to be hauled from Koulikoro downstream, and 25,970 tons to haul upstream. Of those, 21,010 came from the region of Ségou and 11,670 of those were grain.


Directeur de la Société des Messageries Africaines Ch. Savre to Gouverneur du Soudan Française, letter n° D2/122 (Koulikoro, November 3, 1947)

As soon as the railroad raised its rates on October 1, 1947, the Société des Messageries Africaines wanted to follow suit in order to offset the increased price of fuel, lubricants, building materials, and cost of living.


Directeur Général de la Société des Messageries Africaines to
Chef du Service de Travaux Publics, letter n°D2/149
"Analyse: tarifs de transports fluviaux pour 1948" (Bamako, January 2, 1948)

The director of the river service explained his case for raising river rates. He claimed that the railroad strike settlement affected wages on the river as well. "J'ai fait ressortir que si les Messageries Africaines, conscients de l'intéret qu'il y avait pour l'économie du pays à maintenir des tarifs de transport le plus bas possible, ne demandient pas à suivre la hausse de 50% appliquée aux tarifs ferroviaires, il était à craindre que pour 1948, il nous soit nécessaires de demander un relèvement des tarifs fluviales." ("It is obvious that if the Messageries Africaines, who recognize the benefit of low transport rates for the local economy, do not respond to the increase in railroad transportation rates, they will have to ask for an increase next year.")

In 1946, the deficit of the Société des Messageries Africaines was 1,319,640 francs and their costs went up in 1947. For example, the price of fuel wood increased from 64 to 100 francs/stère and they were no longer allowed to cut wood between Kabara and Gao. The price of diesel fuel went up from 1,368 to 1,875 francs for 200 liters.

The cost of living went up as well, and African salaries needed to increase 30% to keep up. The total of all these increases required that river rates increase by 33%.


"Programme des transports fluviaux à la monté sur le bief nord
pour la campagne 1948-1949"

The administration calculated the demand for upstream freight shipments (towards Bamako) from each of the following towns in the Middle Niger Valley:

Origin Estimated tons
Ségou 21,010
Mopti 300
San 3,420
Niafunké 100
Diré 353
Kabara 290
Gao 500
total 25,973

The administration also calculated the demand for downstream freight shipments (from Bamako) to each of the following towns in the Middle Niger Valley:

Destination Estimated tons Item
Gao 1,700 fuel
beyond Mopti 70 fuel
Mopti 500 fuel
San 200 fuel
Ségou and Office du Niger 1,000 fuel
Various locations 5,000 cement and construction materials
Various locations 680 sugar
Various locations 2,000 salt
Office du Niger 400 fertilizer
Various locations 1,000 various
All locations 12,550 Total

Despite the railroad strike, the port at Koulikoro still moved 32,600 tons upstream (38,400 planned) and 10,700 tons downstream (18,100 planned). They also received three new 150- ton barges and three new 85-ton barges.


"Cercle de Ségou, Bulletin Commerciale Semestriel,
4ième trimestre 1947 - 1ière trimestre 1948"
(Ségou, April 27, 1948)

The completion of the dam at Sansanding reduced the river level downstream and caused problems for freight pirogues. This affected trade.


Directeur Général Adjutant de la Société des Messageries Africaines to Gouverneur du Soudan Française, letter n°D2/250 (Bamako, May 22, 1948)

Due to the 1947-1948 railroad strike, the Société des Messageries Africaines lost revenue because they couldn't ship export freight, and the strike settlement raised railroad rates. The devaluation of the French franc aggravated the problem.


Directeur de la Société des Messageries Africaines to President de la Chambre de Commerce de Bamako, letter n°D11/2 (Bamako, August 2, 1948)

This letter mentions the Société Fermière that was created in 1936 out of the Société Messageries Africaines and the Service de la Navigation. Each held 2/3 and 1/3 of the shares respectively. Deficits were charged to the Budget Local. (In other words, a private and public corporation joined together into a "private" company that was underwritten by the government.)


Directeur de la Service Économique Gilbert Duval to Chef du Service de Travaux Publics, letter n°1536 AE2 (Koulouba, August 5, 1948)

This letter discussed the seasonal problems associated with river navigation, but concluded that the alternatives were unattractive. Constructing a railroad to Ségou would not be profitable as long as it only carried export traffic, and increased reliance on road transport did not eliminate the bottleneck that occurred when goods were transshipped (to the railroad for transport to the coast).