The African and Eastern Trade Corporation was incorporated in Liverpool in 1919 and had establishments in several African Colonies. It served in the Congo side by side with the British Consulate as a semi-official representative for British trading interests in that Colony. Both Huileries du Congo Belge and the African and Eastern Trade Corporation employed a number of English-speaking employees of both European and African origin. A few years later the corporation merged with the Niger Company (both owned by Lever Brothers) forming a new trading enterprise, the United African Company Limited (UAC).

The cover has some interesting features in that instead of Australian stamps it has a single green ½d KGV UK stamp, and it was inadequate postage as shown by the red crayon ‘T 20′. The stamp was postmarked with a roller cancel of a boxed SYDNEY/ N.S.W./ 27 FEB/ 1933/ 11-PM/ POSTED IN/ PILLAR BOX as well as a slogan cancel MINIMUM LETTER RATE/ TO USA 3D/ ADDRESSEE PAYS / DOUBLE DEFICIENCY. The slogan has been crossed out in blue ink. In addition there are two examples of theLIVERPOOL/ 5.15P 28 FE 33/ =N.S.W= [Type 2B(T)]. The printed address is Secretary, African and Eastern Trade Corporation Limited, Royal Liver Buildings (crossed out, and with a purple handstamp ‘Mersey Street’), Liverpool, England (Figure 1).

The African and Eastern Trading Corporation was also a large share owner in the Ashanti goldfield in the Gold Coast, as well it had a shipping line. By 1830 the merged United African Company was having financial difficulty and had suffered large losses, mainly because of the African and Eastern Trade Corporation component being unable to bear its half-share of the UAC losses. By this time the parent company Lever Brothers had amalgamated with the Margarine Union to form the company known as Unilever. Unilever came to the rescue with millions of pounds, in return for which Unilever took over the conglomerate of companies.

At this time period the UAC held a large share of the African import and export trades, 50% in the Gold Coast and Nigeria and 35% in the Gambia, though in Sierra Leone the UAC was not the largest company, and in East Africa its share did not attract much attention. By 1938, attacks were made on the UAC from several quarters. The Gold Coast government complained that the company’s prices were too high. The Nigerian government reported that the company had been selling stockfish at low prices in order to embarrass an African importer. Several British export firms complained that the UAC was driving them out of business. Because of the company’s vigorous defence of its actions did not please the Colonial Office in London, a long list of charges against the UAC was produced.

The chairman of the UAC, Viscount Trenchard, replied to the Secretary of State in seventeen foolscap pages, concluding by expressing ‘the company’s deep sense of the Government’s prejudice against it.’ The company declared that the company’s prosperity was linked with that of the African inhabitants, and it appealed for ‘cordial co-operation of the colonial administration and business interests’. The Secretary of State wrote a judicious letter to the Governors of the affected Colonies urging harmonious interaction between the Colonies and the UAC. WWII intervened in 1939, and there was a period of close co-operation between the Colonial authorities and the established firms. In post-war tropical Africa, the decade turned out to be prosperous and there were cordial relations between private enterprise and other sections of the African community.

The Royal Liver Buildings (included in the printed address on the cover) is one of the most recognised buildings in the world. Situated on the Liverpool waterfront, beside the Mersey River, it is one in a collection of three buildings that are known as Liverpool’s Three Graces. It was named after the Liver Insurance Co. A photo of the building is seen in Figure 2.

Categories: Business