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The Brazzaville Conference of 1944

The Brazzaville Conference was organized in 1944, during the Second World War, by the French to determine a new direction in their relationship with their Overseas Territories and what development strategy to adopt moving forward.

One of the reasons why the conference was convened was that at that stage in world history, many people and organizations had started frowning on colonial rule. They were not especially happy about how policies like the 'indigenat' and forced labour had kept the subjects, especially in perpetually inhuman conditions. There was, therefore, clarion calls for the colonialists to grant independence to the colonies.

Another reason was that France was faced with a very dangerous situation during the Second World War when Adolf Hitler was almost taking over Europe. French Africans had contributed immensely to France's fight to ward off Germany. The contributions of the Africans, in the form of soldiers on the war front and in food supply to support the war effort was not lost on the French. The general consensus was, therefore, that the Africans deserved to be granted some freedom.

The ‘indegenat’
It was recommended that the humiliating 'indegenat' should be abolished. It was envisaged that the abolishment was going to be effective after the second world war.

Forced labour
It was also recommended that the forced labour be removed. It was agreed that removing the forced labour was not going to be an abrupt thing but was going to take some time to fully implement. In other words, a gradual approach was recommended.

The conference also recommended that the highly centralized French administrative structure must be changed. In other words, political power must be decentralized. Some decisions that were hitherto taken in France must be taken at the territorial level.

Civil Service Reforms
The conference recommended the Africanization of the Overseas Civil Service. In other words, more Africans must be engaged to work in the Overseas Civil Service.

Granted French citizenship
The granting of blanket French to everybody in the territories was also recommended. Before this time, the population was separated. There were French citizens and there were subjects who were denied all the rights accorded to the French Africans.

Political reforms
The Conference recommended African representation in the French political institutions should be increased. As part of the recommendation, the Overseas Territories were to elect their own representatives into the French National Assembly and the Senate. 

Educational reforms
The Conference further recommended that education. which before this time was limited to the four communes and a few places should be extended to the villages to give access to more people in the territories to get educated.

Investment Fund
One sterling recommendation of the establishment was the establishment of an Investment Fund. this was to help in the  Economic and Social Development of the territories. It was called Investment Fund economic and Social Development (FIDES). Its main aim was to help facilitate the funding of important projects in the areas of health, education, agriculture, etc.

Absence of Africans
Critics of the Conference and what it stood for questioned why there were no black African representatives were present at the conference. The critics contend that since the conference was meant to better the lot of the Africans in the territories, the people involved were not included in the deliberations. 

Delays in implementation
The impressions gathered at the conference in 1944 and beyond was that the recommendations were going to take immediate effect. This was not, however, to be so. Some of the recommendations were not implemented until 1946 and beyond.

Subject/citizens identity 
Though the Conference recommended that citizenship must be granted to everybody who by that time was not yet a French citizen, there were still discrimination between those who were French citizens before the Brazzaville Conference and those after.

Limited constitutional reforms
In spite of the fact that constitutional reforms were recommended at the Brazzaville Conference not much was implemented for a long time. It took about two years before the franchise was extended. The establishment of the proposed Territorial Assembly and the Executive Council.

Delay of nationalist activities 
The effect of the late implementation of the Brazzaville Conference recommendations were that the Africans in the overseas territories were not allowed to form political associations until after 1946. This delayed nationalist activities in French West Africa.

Strengthened the French economy
Critics argue that the whole mantra of the Brazzaville Conference was just a facade. They said, in the end, the recommendations only sought to strengthen the French economy.

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