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South Africa-Africans and Industrialization

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South Africa Index

African Enterprise

Africans participated actively in the new industrial economy. Thousands came to Kimberley in the early 1870s, some to obtain diamond claims, the majority to seek jobs in the mines and thereby to acquire the cash that would enable them to rebuild cattle herds depleted by drought, disease, and Boer raids. In the early 1870s, an average of 50,000 men a year migrated to work in the mines, usually for two to three months, returning home with guns purchased in Kimberley, as well as cattle and cash. Many who lived in the area of the diamond finds chose to sell agricultural surpluses, rather than their labor, and to invest their considerable profits in increasing production for the growing urban market. African farmers in British Basutoland (the British protectorate established in Lesotho), the Cape, and Natal also greatly expanded their production of foodstuffs to meet rising demand throughout southern Africa, and out of this development emerged a relatively prosperous peasantry supplying the new towns of the interior as well as the coastal ports. The growth of Kimberley and other towns also provided new economic opportunities for coloureds, many of whom were skilled tradesmen, and for Indians, who, once they had completed their contracts on the sugar plantations, established shops selling goods to African customers.

Data as of May 1996

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