Reasons For Adoption Of Policy Of Association In French West Africa

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Reasons For Adoption Of Policy Of Association

Following the weakness and failure of the policy of assimilation, France conceived the idea of the policy of association to replace assimilation. Association was the policy by which Africans associated with France in the political and economic realms, not as Frenchified Africans, but as a people with their own distinct culture and traditions. It was the French form of indirect rule.

The policy of association preserved the culture, religion, customs and political units of the various colonies. It accorded traditional rulers necessary regarded in the affairs of the colonial government.

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Reasons For Adoption Of Association Policy

There were certain political developments within and outside France that led to the shift from assimilation to association policy. They include:

  • Growth of conservative ideas
  • Expansion
  • Criticism
  • High cost of administration
  • Interest groups
  • Independence of Ghana, Tunisia and Morocco
  • Muslim
  • French businessmen

1 – Growth of Conservative Ideas in France

The rise of conservative elements in the French society and the emergence of the ultra-conservative French Third Republic (1870 – 1940) propelled increased French nationalism and demand that if Africans were different people, then they should be allowed some level of self-govemment and self-determination. In other words, the nationalists argued that centralized administration, a major ingredient of assimiiation was no longer necessary.

2 – Expansion in the size of French Empire

The growth in the size of the French empire made it difficult to administer the different French African colonial territories from a central point at Dakar and this called for the decentralization of government.

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3 – Criticism of Assimilation Policy

The policy of assimilation was severely criticized all over the world for its very harsh, brutal repressive and inhuman nature. This led to the initial reform and ultimate abandonment of assimilation.

4 – High Cost of Administration

It was very expensive to operate the policy of assimilation as Europeans had to be recruited in large numbers to work in the colonial territories, and African chiefs had to be paid for their services. All these increased the cost of administration, which was increasingly becoming difficult for the French Government to bear.

5 – Develoment of Interest Groups

By the turn of the 20th century, several interest groups (e.g tattle unions, youth groups, political parties and humanitarian associations) had started to develop in French West Africa. These groups later served as training ground for nationalist leaders and a platform to struggle for self-determination.

6 – Independence of Ghana

The granting of independence by Britain to Ghana in 1957 and the unabated nationalist agitation in British West Africa also encouraged nationalist movements in French West Africa.

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7 – Grant of Independence to French Territories of Tunisia and Morocco

The French authorities granted independence to Tunisia and Morocco in the 1950s and this gave impetus to nationalists in French West Africa to demand for independence.

8 – Opposition of Muslim Leaders to Assimilation

There was strong opposition from Muslim leaders who saw the assimilation policy as a way of suppressing Islamic culture and simultaneously promoting Christianity.

9 – Fear of French Businessmen

French businessmen also harboured fears that assimilated Africans would pose a threat to their trade monopoly.


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