3.1- From the end of the XIX century to the First world war: the explorers and the pioneers


The travellers, and afterwards, the missionaries of the XIX century, even if they ventured to many other regions of Africa, did not show a great interest in the territories of south-east Africa. Their activities and commerce were concentrated, in fact, in those areas that were to become Italian colonies: Libya, Eritrea, Somalia and Ethiopia (Cfr. Del Boca, 1992, pages. 3-29).

The only exception is probably Gaetano Casati (3) who, after a series of misadventures including arrest, succeeded in 1888 in meeting Stanley who was nearly at the end of his last expedition. The following year, after a trip of about nine months from Lake Albert across the territories of Tanganyika, Casati, together with Stanley, reached the harbour of Bagamoyo in December 1889 (Richards-Place, 1960, pages 214-230).

Table 3.1 - Italian population in Zanzibar and in Tanganyika (1891 - 1924)

       Year          Tanganyika       Zanzibar     

       1881             n.a.              3        

       1891             n.a.              6        

       1901              30               5        

       1904              35              10        

       1911             n.a.             10        

       1913              65             n.a.       

       1924                 n.a.          3        

Source: Briani (1980), MAE (1906), MAE (1967) and Tanganyika Territory (1932).

Around the same period, Italy had its first official contacts with the other territories that currently represent the United Republic of Tanzania, namely the then Sultanate of Zanzibar. The first treaty of commerce with Zanzibar was signed on 28 May 1886 by the Representative of the King of Italy and by the Representative of the Sultan of Zanzibar (4).

Among the prominent Italians of this period worthy of mention, was Vincenzo Filonardi, owner of a well-known commercial firm in Zanzibar named after him. He was later appointed Italian Consul in Zanzibar (5). It was Filonardi, as Italian Consul, who in May 1888 asked Sultan Seyyid Khalifa Said for the concession of the province of Chisimaio (6).

Vincenzo Filonardi

Other Treaties, always of a commercial nature, were signed in those years (7). According to the available estimates the Italians present in Zanzibar at the end of the XIX century and in the first decade of the XX century (Table 3.1) were a very insignificant number. This was due substantially to the limited opportunity of employment on the island.

The situation at the beginning of the XX century was different in Tanganyika (German East Africa). According to what was reported in August 1901 by Mr. Burgarella, Charge' of the Italian Royal Consulate in Zanzibar "In the nearby German colony of Eastern Africa, and more precisely in the district of Tanga, a number of Italian workers, thirty approximately, were working on the construction of the railway trunk line that links the harbour of Tanga with Korogwe town (about 90 kilometers). But, since the Reichstag has refused finance for the continuation of the line, the work is now suspended, and finding employment is increasingly difficult: for this reason not only has the number of new arrivals diminished, but some of those who were already here have had to repatriate or go elsewhere. [...] Italian emigration in these regions is mostly temporary but there are some cases, especially in British East Africa and in the German colony, of settled resident Italians and in a good financial position. Anyway, our emigration, although not limited by any restrictive law, does not find very favourable conditions in this country." In 1903 the German government granted the funds for the continuation of the Tanga-Korogwe line, but because of the many workers that were already there on hand, the Italian Authorities dissuaded their fellow-countrymen from going there to seek jobs. In these first years of the century the Italian community, concentrated in Tanga and in Dar Salaam, was composed of 30-35 persons (Cfr. Table 3.1). In the following years the Italians also took part in the construction of the railway line Dar es Salaam-Tabora - Ujiji. Furthermore in the first decade of this century a few Italians were active in farming in some districts of Tanganyika including Pangani, Morogoro and Moshi. There were also representative agents of Italian commercial companies in many other zones for instance Dar es Salaam, Dodoma, Mwanza, Tanga, Mpanda, Kigoma and Bukoba (8). At the outbreak of World War One a number of Italians enlisted in the German army, deceived by the political alliances preceding the conflict. Others were interned in the prisoner-of-war camps of Tabora, Kilimatinde and Buigiri and suffered the temporary loss of their properties (9).

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