Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (McGhee) to the Secretary of State and to the Under Secretary of State (Webb)


Subject: Summary of Conclusions and Recommendations Reached at Lourenco Marques Conference.1

The West and East African Regional Conference recently held in Lourenco Marques, Mozambique, under my direction as Chairman, was attended by officials of our missions in Ethiopia and Liberia and by our consular officers from the Gold Coast, Nigeria, Angola, the Belgian Congo, Mozambique, Tanganyika, Kenya, Madagascar and South Africa (to provide coverage of the Rhodesias, Nyasaland, South [Page 1515] West Africa, and the High Commission Territories2). The meeting concerned itself with problems confronting the United States in its political, economic, cultural and consular relations with the countries in Africa coming within the scope of the conference area; and also developed a preliminary statement regarding our attitudes, objectives and policy towards Africa.

Prior to the conference, position papers were prepared in the Department on the principal items appearing on the agenda of the meeting and were circulated to posts well in advance of the meeting.3 These served as a basis for discussions at the conference and resulted in the following conclusions and recommendations:


1. Cooperation Between Governments in Africa.

It was generally agreed that formal cooperation among the powers having interests in West, Central and East Africa has been limited almost entirely to the technical field, except for economic cooperation on an ad hoc basis now taking place under the stimulus of ECA. The conference discussed the feasibility of greater cooperation in the political field among the powers having interests in this area, but concluded that establishment of closer political cooperation could only take place on an effective basis on the initiative of the governing powers and that it would be unwise and ineffective for the United States to inject itself into this situation. On the other hand it was generally agreed that we were in a position to suggest closer cooperation in the economic field particularly in anticipation of the expiration of the ECA program.

The conference recommended that: (a) the appropriate agencies of the United States Government, under the direction of the Department of State, investigate the need for more formal cooperation in the economic field among powers having interests in West, Central and East Africa, particularly in anticipation of the expiration of the ECA program; and that they suggest any organization or means which might be needed to effectuate such cooperation and which the United States might properly support; and (b) the agencies of the United States Government administering the Point Pour program make every effort to bolster and support the permanent international commission which a Paris conference (January 14, 1950) of British, Belgian, French, Portuguese and South African representatives recommended be established for the purpose of coordinating the [Page 1516] technical and scientific undertakings of their governments in African territories.4 This support could take the form of providing the commission with Point Four technicians and by using its good offices, wherever and to the extent practicable, in Point Four business with the above-mentioned governments.

2. Regional and Interterritorial Cooperation in Africa.

The conference noted that regional cooperation in Africa is largely limited to interterritorial arrangements among British African territories of West, Central and East Africa. To date no regional body has been formed having international membership which would be charged with responsibility for considering problems on a regional basis, but this is primarily explained by basic differences in interest, policy and orientation.

After a careful review and appraisal of all factors involved in the consideration of this problem the conference concluded that: (a) a realistic appraisal of the needs and possibilities for regional technical cooperation in African areas be made, perhaps under the aegis of the new commission for technical and scientific cooperation in Africa South of the Sahara; (b) while support should be given to schemes for technical cooperation on a regional or interterritorial basis, the social and political implication of such schemes should be carefully considered; (c) while the United States is not in a position to formulate a policy on movements for closer political association among the territories of British West, Central and East Africa, the implication of such movements for social and political stability in these regions should be studied; and (d) the impact of the interterritorial scheme in British East Africa on Tanganyika’s status as a trust territory should be subject to periodic review.

3. Communist Influences in the Conference Area.

In the opinion of the conferees organized Communism has made little headway in the conference area, with the possible exceptions of Madagascar and French West Africa, and even in these territories it was not a major problem as yet. It was generally agreed, however, that conditions do exist in some dependencies which are conducive to making the area a fertile field for Communism. In some territories there is a growing spirit of nationalism on the part of the natives, which should not, however, be confused with Communism. A possible [Page 1517] danger exists that the unsympathetic and unprogressive attitude of some officials, coupled with the lack of understanding on the part of many Europeans towards Africans (and Indians in British East Africa), and parallel efforts to maintain white supremacy to the detriment of these peoples, will play into the hands of Communist agitators. It was recognized that a negative approach to the problem of Communist penetration should not be overemphasized; rather positive programs such as Point Four, ECA, and Educational Exchange, accompanied by intelligently prepared USIS material on objectives of these programs would be effective counter weapons.

The conference recommended that action be taken along the following lines: (a) efforts to counter Communism assume positive character such as is found in Point Four, ECA, Educational Exchange and USIS; (b) every effort be made to distribute as widely as possible all appropriate and available material setting out the lasting benefits of the concept of the dignity and worth of the individual and pointing out that Communism is at complete variance with such a concept; (c) Consulates in the conference area receive the same documentation regarding political, economic and strategic aims and advancement of Soviet Communism as are sent to Missions; (d) that the keen interest of the Departments of State and Defense and CIA in Washington on Communist activities be borne in mind and that officers in the area be alert to report on genuine Communist activity, clearly distinguishing it, however, from activity with other motivations; and (e) that our officers seek cooperation from government authorities to prevent persons with Communist convictions from securing visas to the United States.

4. United Nations Activities Affecting Africa.

General dissatisfaction was expressed at the conference with the decision to return Italian Somaliland to Italy under the trusteeship system and to provide for independence at the end of ten years. It did not appear that the African point of view had been given full consideration in these decisions. Doubts were expressed that Somaliland would be able to stand on its own feet at the end of ten years and fears were voiced that if Somaliland became independent and the experiment failed the movement towards self-government in other parts of Africa might be set back many years. The Department’s representative from UNA5 explained to the conference the reasons which led to the decision to hand Somaliland back to Italy as a ten year trusteeship and pointed out that there was no other alternative at the time. Several officers pointed out that there was growing dissatisfaction on the part of colonial officials with the operations of the [Page 1518] Trusteeship Council and concern over the demands made by UN Visiting Missions to Trust Territories.6

In concluding its discussion on this subject the conference recommended that: (a) the appropriate organs of the United Nations should continue to be used by the Department, to the extent practicable, as a primary means of carrying out its traditional policy of supporting the political, economic, social, and educational advancement of the peoples of Africa towards ultimate self-government when they are ready for it; (b) the views of the British, French and Belgians, as responsible administering powers, should be given careful consideration by the Department in determining the position of the United States in United Nations voting on proposals affecting the interests of these three powers in Africa; and (c) the extension of the activities of the United Nations specialized agencies in Africa should be supported by the Department whenever appropriate.

5. Local Attitudes Toward U.S. Foreign Policy.

Country by country discussions revealed that American foreign policies are generally well regarded in Africa, but variations in knowledge of and interest in specific policies vary widely from country to country. A few generalizations may, however, be made. The U.S. anti-Communist crusade and its concomitants, the Atlantic Pact and the Military Assistance Program, are regarded by officials and Europeans in dependent areas in much the same light as in their respective metropolitan countries in Europe, i.e., with favor. Fear of Communism and of Soviet penetration is so strong in the area among the ruling group that there is little doubt of the area’s basic sympathy for this aspect of U.S. policy. As for Marshall Plan aid it was indicated that there is considerable interest in U.S. aid among officials and businessmen in places where actual deliveries of aid have occurred—an interest which also extends to neighboring countries as yet unaided. There is some misunderstanding as to the nature and scope of the Point Four program. Some suspicion of both programs is evident in some territories of Africa, it being feared that these programs may be entering wedges for American economic domination, but this feeling usually tends to give way to approval when the programs are adequately explained. Almost no current interest in U.S. Palestine policy was noted. The only aspect of our policy in the United Nations in which African territories are markedly interested is in the field of the trusteeship areas and of reports on non-self-governing territories. Among the colonial officials and European residents there is resentment of what is regarded as a United States [Page 1519] tendency to give too much aid and comfort to native nationalists. It was emphasized that one factor which must be borne constantly in mind is that the mass of indigenous people in Africa South of the Sahara know little about our foreign policies and probably care less.

While concluding that the reactions of a large part of Africa to American foreign policies are determined primarily by the attitudes of European metropolitan powers, the conference nevertheless recommended that U.S. foreign policies be depicted in Africa in terms of African interests, African limitations, and the capacities of African channels of mass communication. Policy presentations keyed to European interests and levels of sophistication have only a limited appeal in Africa. Similarly, the conference believed it unnecessary in Africa to belabor the whole range of our foreign policies and recommended that “full treatment” be given only to policies which are of direct interest to Africa and which need African support in order to be effective.

6. Possibilities of European Settlement in Africa.

Discussion of this problem revealed that prospects for increased European settlement in the African regions falling within the conference area, which are considered habitable for Europeans, appear to be sharply limited by such barriers as poor soil, inadequate water resources, insects, pests and disease, the land supply available to European enterprise, limited availability of markets for agricultural products, inadequate transportation facilities, the high cost of European settlement, limited opportunities for urban and industrial employment, and the inability of Europeans to compete with the natives due to the necessity imposed on the white man to maintain a relatively high standard of living. It was recognized that there are also serious social, political and policy considerations which militate against extensive European settlement in all conference territories.

The conference, therefore recommended that a careful scrutiny of the potentialities for European settlement in the territories in the area be made before a policy in support of European settlement is advanced, and before any pressures by our Government, acting in support of governments interested in settling surplus populations in the territories under consideration, is exerted on the governments of these territories. In the meantime, it must be assumed that political factors are an overriding consideration demanding immediate action and that these favor the above-mentioned recommendation.


U.S. Information and Educational Exchange as an Instrument of U.S. Foreign Policy.

Officers attending the conference stressed the need for preparing and presenting informational materials in terms which the African peoples [Page 1520] can understand. This necessity for greater adaptation of U.S.I.E. materials to local cultures was underscored by the observation that Africa’s illiterate and semiliterate peoples would be more receptive to a U.S.I.E. program that stressed America’s homelier virtues and simpler ways of doing things, in preference to a display of financial power and technical might that only tends to confuse, dismay, and sometimes antagonize the people of Africa. It was also observed that the techniques of “selling the American way of life” must include actual assistance through the medium of public health, education, agriculture and other fields in which the need among the Africans is almost universally acute.

In pursuing the work of the U.S.I.S. in Africa the conference recommended that: (a) the media divisions acquire and prepare a larger portion of materials better adapted to local comprehension and experience and needs; (b) more attention be given to the exchange of leaders and specialists in the fields of public health; education; agriculture, etc.; (c) in each country U.S.I.S. should work with elements of stability in a process of orderly and peaceful change; and (d) U.S.I.S. should recognize local cultural values and seek through an affirmative approach to emphasize our friendship, understanding and cooperation with the people of Africa.


1. The Point Four Program in Africa.

One of the significant points made at the conference was that governments of colonial areas do not realize, in many cases, the purpose or the scope of the Point Four Program. The need for more active educational work pointing up the program and its adaptation to Africa was stressed. Other points made in this discussion included the need for backstopping Point Four programs in the field on a regional basis and for coordinating with UN and ECA efforts at that level; the need for unified direction to assure that the total local program will be well integrated, without attempting to interfere with technical guidance; and that emphasis be placed on programs which will be of direct benefit to the native peoples rather than on programs which are only indirectly beneficial. It was generally recognized that even though the technical assistance program may be successfully carried out in colonial areas the flow of private American capital into such areas will probably be limited by political and economic considerations so long as present conditions exist.

With respect to the Point Four program the conference recommended that: (a) paramount consideration should be given to the needs of the peoples of Africa in the negotiation and execution of [Page 1521] technical assistance and investment programs and that the allocation of funds reflect this principle; (b) care should be taken to overcome any doubts or suspicion by recipient governments regarding U.S. intentions and programs with political implications should be avoided; (c) where the programs are extensive in scope and involve technicians from more than one agency, it should be the general policy to place a qualified director in charge of the field administration and program coordination leaving technical guidance to the substantive agencies in Washington; (d) consideration should be given to providing funds to supplement local governments’ resources for construction of facilities for such activities as education and health, where these are inadequate; (e) consideration be given to establishing an Institute of African Technical Cooperation in Washington for the purpose of coordinating and integrating U.S. technical assistance, educational and cultural activities in Africa (It was proposed that the substantive agencies of the U.S. Government should be members of the Institute and that the Institute would coordinate its activities with those of the UN and ECA.); and (f) coordination of ECA and Point Four activities vis-à-vis the European countries be done by the O.T.C. in Paris.

2. E.C.A. Programs in Africa.

The ECA representative at the conference7 reviewed the major aspects of ECA’s past and contemplated programs of assistance to the territories of Africa to which ECA agreements extend. He pointed out that a special ECA reserve fund of $20 million had been tentatively earmarked during the current fiscal year for aid to economic development projects in all dependent overseas territories of ERP countries (chiefly Africa). It was emphasized, however, that ECA aid to colonial areas in Africa, originating in requests from the metropolitan governments, is necessarily marginal in character and is designed to facilitate and accelerate key economic developments within the framework of extensive development plans. Criteria governing the selection of such projects for assistance were briefly summarized at the conference. The terms of a working agreement between the State Department and ECA respecting relations between ECA and Point Four programs were also reviewed. The conference noted with approval the steps already taken to ensure full informational exchange and collaboration between ECA and the State Department personnel in the field as well as in Washington, and agreed that such cooperation should be continued and extended.

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Recommendations made by the conference with respect to ECA were that: (a) ECA personnel who visit any dependent area be instructed to see that U.S. Foreign Service establishments are notified in advance of their coming and that such representatives be instructed to work in close harmony and consultation with the consular officers in each area; (b) that ECA personnel will in turn receive full assistance and cooperation from the Consulates concerned; (c) that the Public Relations officers of the Consulates assist in improving public understanding of the ECA program in their area by disseminating local information with respect to ECA aid programs and policies within their respective area; (d) that in view of the generally recognized shortage of technical personnel in certain fields that consideration be given, in appropriate instances, to recruiting competent specialists in European and other areas as well; and (e) presently available facilities for informing potential private investors regarding opportunities for investment, under equitable terms, in the dependent areas of Africa be augmented.

3. Import Trade Opportunities.

The conference noted that Africa has a present and a potential production of raw, semi-finished and finished products which are important to the domestic economy of the United States. It was recognized, however, that an increase of exports to the United States is dependent upon a better understanding on the part of local producers and government officials as to U.S. requirements and upon economic incentives which the governments may offer to induce exporters to seek our market as an outlet for their product.

Officers attending the conference felt that they would be better equipped to assist in increasing imports into the U.S. if the Department of Commerce would provide them with current information on commodities having U.S. import possibilities. Our officers, on the other hand, stated that they would undertake to encourage exports from their areas to the U.S. by supplying information to appropriate persons regarding our market demands.

4. U.S. Commercial and Economic Rights in the Conventional Congo Basin and Trust Territories.

Discussion of this topic indicated that in the Belgian Congo, Ethiopia, Angola and Mozambique there have been no significant violations of our right of equal economic treatment, but in some territories, notably British East Africa, and to some extent Northern Rhodesia, there has been a tendency to seize upon the shortage of dollar exchange as providing an opportunity for favoring the economic [Page 1523] interests of the United Kingdom and to discriminate against United States trade with these territories. The apparent tendency, in certain British territories in Africa, to consider the Treaty of St. Germain-en-Laye8 as being outmoded resulting in some disregard of our right of equal economic treatment was also pointed out by officers resident in these territories. The Consul General at Leopoldville9 reported that the Belgians do not desire any revision of the treaty of St. Germain-en-Laye at this time. It was the general consensus that it would not be desirable to open, at this time, the question of the revision of this treaty.

The conference recommended that (a) each officer in the area be alert for violations of our right of equal economic treatment under treaties in force; (b) that if local efforts to remove or minimize such violations are not successful then a careful and complete record of all such cases be forwarded to the Department for consideration; and (c) a careful study be made of those violations which have already been reported to the Department with a view to bringing pressure to bear on the governments concerned to rectify the position and to make known to them our insistence of our treaty rights, in so far as such action would not be inconsistent with existing commitments with the governments concerned.

A committee, serving under my chairmanship, and composed of Ambassadors Merrell and Dudley and Mr. Bourgerie drafted a preliminary statement of United States attitudes, objectives and policies towards Africa. It is intended that this statement will serve as the basis for further discussions in the Department the purpose of which will be the formulation of a more definite policy towards West, Central and East Africa. At such time as this statement is in more definite form it will be sent to your office.10

A detailed report on the proceedings of the Lourenco Marques conference is being prepared for circulation to offices in the field and to interested officials in Washington.11

  1. The West and East African Regional Conference of U.S. Diplomatic and Consular Officers, held at Lourenço Marques, Mozambique, February 27–March 2, was one of the regular regional conferences held by the U.S. Foreign Service in various parts of the world. The conclusions and recommendations constituting the main body of this memorandum are identical with the conclusions and recommendations set forth in the 122-page official record of the conference, not printed (120.4353C/3–250). Details of the physical arrangements, security, and local press coverage of the conference were reported upon in the 19-page despatch 985, May 4, from Cairo, not printed (120.4353C/5–450). Forty-two officials from various missions in Southern and Central Africa, from the Department of State, from the Departments of Commerce and Agriculture, and from the Economic Cooperation Administration participated in the conference. Department of State officials included Assistant Secretary of State McGhee (as Chairman), Director-General of the Foreign Service Richard P. Butriek, Deputy Director of the Office of African and Near Eastern Affairs Elmer H. Bourgerie, Leo G. Cyr, Officer in Charge of Southern African Affairs, and the Acting Director of the Office of Dependent Area Affairs D. Vernon McKay. Ambassador to Ethiopia George R. Merrell and Ambassador to Liberia Edward R. Dudley attended the conference. For the statement issued to the press by the Department of State on February 27 announcing the convening of the conference and the list of participants, see Department of State Bulletin, March 13, 1950, p. 420. For the statement made by Assistant Secretary of State McGhee to the press in Lourengo Marques on March 2 on the conclusion and results of the conference (issued to the press in Washington on March 4), see ibid., pp. 420–421. For a photograph of conference participants together with a brief sketch of social aspects of the conference, see The American Foreign Service Journal, May 1950, p. 24.
  2. The reference here is to the Territories of Basutoland, Bechuanaland, and Swaziland.
  3. Documentation on the preparations for the Lourenço Marques Conference is included in block 120.43530 of the Central Files of the Department of State.
  4. In accordance with an agreement reached in September 1949 among the governments of Belgium, France, Portugal, the Union of South Africa, Southern Rhodesia, and the United Kingdom, representatives from those six governments met in Paris, January 11–13, 1950, to establish the Commission for Technical Cooperation in Africa South of the Sahara (C.C.T.A.). A report on the founding of the Commission and copies of documents issued by the Commission were transmitted to the Department of State in despatch 765, February 15, 1950, from London, not printed.
  5. Donald V. McKay, Acting Director of the Office of Dependent Area Affairs, Bureau of United Nations Affairs (UNA).
  6. For documentation on matters arising under Chapters XI, XII, and XIII of the Charter of the United Nations (Trusteeship and Non-Self-Governing Territories), see vol. ii, pp. 434 ff.
  7. Harry Price, Chief of the Dependent Areas Branch, Economic Cooperation Administration.
  8. The reference here is to the convention on trade and commerce in Africa, signed at St. Germain-en-Laye, September 10, 1919; for text, see League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. vii, p. 27.
  9. William H. Beach.
  10. The draft preliminary statement on Africa referred to here has not been found in the files of the Department of State, but see the paper prepared by the Bureau of Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs, FM D D–4, April 18, infra.
  11. Regarding the detailed report under reference here, see footnote 1, p. 1514.