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British West Africa (BWA) is a colony of the Imperial Commonwealth Federation (former British Empire) in western Africa. BWA consists of the Colony of the Gold Coast, Colony and Protectorate of Sierra Leone and Colony and Protectorate of Gambia.
BWA had previously existed has British West African Territories (1821-1850) and British West African Settlements (1866-1888).
Colonial administration and government
BWA is administered by a Governor-General, who is assisted by the Executive Council and the Legislative Council. The Executive Council is a small advisory body of European officials that recommends laws and votes taxes, subject to the governor's approval. The Legislative Council includes the members of the Executive Council and unofficial members initially chosen from British commercial interests. After 1900 native chiefs and other Africans were added to the Legislative Council, these being chosen from the Europeanized communities of BWA. the Governor-General names all Governor and administrative staff of the BWA.
The gradual emergence of centralized colonial government brought about unified control over local services, although the actual administration of these services was still delegated to local authorities. British authorities adopted a system of indirect rule for colonial administration, wherein traditional chiefs maintained power but took instructions from their European supervisors. Indirect rule was cost-effective (by reducing the number of European officials needed), minimized local opposition to European rule, and guaranteed law and order. Many chiefs, who were rewarded with honors, decorations, and knighthood by government commissioners, came to regard themselves as a ruling aristocracy.
Specific duties and responsibilities came to be clearly delineated, and the role of traditional states in local administration was also clarified. The structure of local government had its roots in traditional patterns of government. Village councils of chiefs and elders were responsible for the immediate needs of individual localities, including traditional law and order and the general welfare. The councils ruled by consent rather than by right: though chosen by the ruling class, a chief continued to rule because he was accepted by his people.
In 1925 provincial councils of chiefs were established in all three territories of the colony, partly to give the chiefs a colony-wide function. The Native Administration Ordinance clarified and regulated the powers and areas of jurisdiction of chiefs and councils.
The territories of BWA are:
|Territory||Administrative center||Languages||Area (km2)||Notes|
|The Gambia||Bathurst||English, Krio and Mandinka||10,689||Colony and Protectorate|
|Sierra Leone||Freetown||English, Krio, Tenme and Mende||71,740||Protectorate|
|Gold Coast||Accra||English, Akan and Krio||238,535||Colony and Protectorate|
Each territory is divided in regions (colony) or territories (protectorate), however this distinction is only formal. Both regions and territories are subdivided in provinces, districts and town councils.
The economy of BWA is mainly agricultural. The main crops are rice, cassava, sorghum, maize, millet, sweet potato and groundnut. The main industrial production is cacao.
The Gold Coast's earnings are increased further from the export of timber, and gold. Sierra Leone has one of the world's largest deposits of rutile, a titanium ore and a major producer of diamonds.
The West African Currency Board (WACB, headquartered in London) acts as the central bank and issues the British West African pound, also used in British Nigeria.
Transport and communications
The Airship Base of Bathurst is operated by the Imperial Airship Services, later Imperial Airway.
The British West African School Boards is in charge of administrating primary and secondary schools, teacher training and the curriculum. Its declared goals are primary education for every African boy and girl; a training college for teachers in every province; better salaries for teachers; and ultimately, a 'Royal College' .
The Krio language is the main lingua franca and de facto national language spoken throughout BWA. It became lingua franca through its encouragement by colonial administration for official affairs, usage in large urban centers and the migration of workers through out the territories of the BWA. Finally being officially promoted as instruction medium in the educational system. The Akan language is the other main lingua franca and de facto national language, but mainly in Gold Coast.
The Fourah Bay College (founded on 18 February, 1827 in Freetown, Sierra Leone) is the main public university of BWA. It is the oldest university in West Africa and the first western-style university built in West Africa.
The Royal West African Frontier Force (RWAFF) is the army group, that has joint command in Nigeria, Gold Coast, Sierra Leone and Gambia. is organized in 4 regiments and Volunteer Corps. British officers and noncommissioned officers organize, train, and equip regiments of the RWAFF.