anm document

William Ponty à Lt. Gouverneur du Soudan Français, "Djenné, son commerce" (October 6, 1898)
in ANM 1 Q 50 fonds anciens

© 1999 by Jim Jones, Ph.D.

Go to Table of Content Read Disclaimer

This 30-page report discusses the commercial opportunities in Dejenné in detail.

(p1) Djenné had 8,000 people inside a tata (wall) that was three kilometers in circumference.

(p2) Pirogue (canoe) building was a major industry. They constructed pirogues that could transport 20-25 tons. (The report goes on for three pages with construction details.) Djenné was an island for 6 months of the year.

(p4) Djenné was connected to the Niger River by the 40 kilometer marigot de Kouakourou (creek) and to the Bani River by the 5 kilometer marigot de Sanioma. Chalands (barges) travel up the Bani River as far as Sanioma, where goods were transhipped to Djenné by pirogue (canoe).

(p9) During the period when the river was high, pirogues can make several trips to Timbuktu or Koulikoro and back. They also go to other markets at Kaka, Baramandougou, etc. European merchants went overland from Bamako as far as Tongué market (south of Ke-Macina and Saro, west of Djenné)

(p10) Donkeys were available for purchase for 25 francs in the "pays de Aquibou" (Macina) and sold for 40 francs in Djenné. These donkeys were small, but tough, and could carry up to 60 kilograms. Oxen ( vache-porteur) carry 80 kilograms and cost 100-120 francs.

(p11) There was a kind of tough fiber sack called a "béré" that was produced locally and used for packaging grain. They came in 60, 25 or 20 kilogram sizes and cost between 0.07 and 0.12 francs each according to their size.

(p12) Most exports from Djenné go to Timbuktu. Rice sold for 80-115 francs/ton depending on the season, and was shipped to destinations in every direction. Only Bambara farmers grew millet, so the quantities available for sale were smaller. Millet sold for 60-100 francs/ton.

(p13) Baobab flour came from the Baobab fruit, lnown locally as "pain de singe" ("monkey bread"). A 40 kilogram sack of Baobab flour was equivalent to one barre of salt, which was in turn worth 6-8 francs.

(p14) Cowskins sold for 3-3.50 francs each. They were used in Timbuktu to make leather straps for fastening salt barres to camels.

(p15) A 12-15 kilogram roll of 15-centimeter wide woven cotton cloth sold for 0.15 francs/meter in Djenné, but the price was twice as high in Timbuktu. Similar cotton cloth from Mossi was inferior and only sold for 0.08 francs/meter.

(p16) Wool blankets from Macina called Kasas cost 3 francs each.

(p17) An embroidered boubou cost 50 francs in Djenné, and 80 francs in Bamako.

(p18) Macina sheep cost 3-5 francs each and provided meat that was far superior to that of sheep from the Sahel. Meat cattle cost 40-80 francs each depending on their size. In 1897, Djenné exported 115 cattle, 165 horses and 255 donkeys.

(p19) Quotation concerning the posssibilities for commercial cotton exports from Djenné: "Le coton en floches pourra être dirigé sur la France et pourra peut être un jour tenir à tête aux productions d'Egypte et d'Amerique qui seules actuellement approvisionnent les filateurs." (Cotton exports could be directed towards France, and might one day rival the production of Egypt and the Americas.)

(p20) "Importations" to Djenné in 1898: From the Soudan (mostly Timbuktu), Djenné imported 30 kilogram barres of Taoudenni salt that was whiter and less crumbly ("friable") than the salt that arrived from Tichit via the French posts in the Sahel. A barre that cost 15 francs in Timbuktu sold for at least 40 francs in Djenné. Each pirogue carried 100 barres of salt at a transportation cost of 30 francs, so the profits in the salt trade were enormous (1,420 francs per pirogue load).

(p21) In 1897, 9,000 salt barres were brought to Djenné. Djenné also received Touat tobacco at 5 francs/kilogram, antimony for eye makeup, cloves for stringing onto necklaces, metal ornaments from Morocco and wheat for bread. Before April 1893, all cloth, glass beads, amber, etc. came via Timbuktu. Now it arrives from the coastal colonies.

(p22) A little bit of gold comes from Lobi and sells for 8-10 francs "le gros" which was about 3.83 grams. Iron was imported in elliptical 1-kilogram plaques from Bandiagara that sold for 1-1.25 francs each. Djenné also imported marble bracelets from Hombouri, copper bowls and cloth from Mossi. Kola came from Bougouni and Sikasso and sold for 50-150 francs per 1000, depending on how saturated the market was. On the other hand, European imports were relatively insignificant in the Djenné market.

(p23) A few Dioulas imported cloth from Mediné and the Lower Senegal Valley. There were also a few African merchants (agents indigènes) who brought in cloth from European commercial houses based in Bamako and Kita.

(p24) English-made cotton cloth was imported by the French and sold for 0.80 francs/meter. In 1897, 1,100 pieces of white cotton cloth were imported to Djenné.

(p25) Printed colored cotton cloth from England and Germany sold for 1.25 francs/meter.

(p26) Guinée (trade) cloth sold for 9.20 francs/15 meter piece, and 2,300 peices were imported in 1897. Other types of trade cloth ( guinée de Paris, for example), sold for between 13 and 16.5 francs per 15-meter piece. Bazin cloth sold for 1.75 francs/meter and was much valued for the fabrication of boubous. In addition, a pair of "cardes à coton" from England cost 5 francs. Swedish matches cost 1.25 francs for a packet of 12 boxes.

(pp26-28) Other European items included glass beads, glass "pearls," sugar, and textile dyes, handkerchiefs from England and Bombay, silk and satin, black and red ink and paper (used by marabouts), tea, plus Moroccan teapots and cups made of copper, and pottery.

(p29) Europeans could live cheaply and well in Djenné. Mutton cost about 300 francs/ton. Fresh fish was available, as were chickens for 15 centimes, and 2 eggs for 5 centimes. Milk and butter were also available daily.

(p30) In a conclusion aimed at Europeans who were interested in trading possibilities in Djenné, the author stated tha Djenné would always be an important commercial center even without European trade. In any case, there was no need to import alcohol or absinthe in order to generate trade activity.