Courtesy Reuters

Dakar and the Strategy of West Africa

MUCH has been written in general terms about Dakar and the menace it might be to the United States if it should fall into German hands. Yet the American public knows little factually either about Dakar itself or about French West Africa, the area of which it is the capital.

French West Africa is a region of vast extent and magnificent distances, of varied climate and every sort of topography. Roughly, it includes the major portion of Africa lying south of the twentieth parallel of latitude and east of Lake Chad -- in size, something more than half of continental United States. Beginning on the seacoast at the north and proceeding down along the coast, the colonies which compose it are as follows: Mauritania, Senegal, Dakar (a sort of "District of Columbia"), French Guinea, the Ivory Coast, Togoland (a French mandate) and Dahomey. In the interior lie the French Sudan and the Niger Territory. Distances are enormous. Bamako is almost as distant from Dakar as Chicago is from New York. From east to west, French West Africa is roughly 2,200 miles in the widest section; and it is approximately 1,600 miles from north to south.

In spite of its large area, the population of French West Africa totals less than 15,000,000, and of these only a few thousand are white civilians, most of them members of the civil administration or officers and employees of the commercial houses and banks which are established there. In addition, France ordinarily has certain military forces in this territory--native troops with white officers and sometimes white noncommissioned officers. It is a tribute to the colonizing ability of the French that they have controlled and administered this huge territory with such a small number of white officials and officers. One reason why the population is sparse is that large areas are desert or semidesert, while others are practically uninhabitable on account of the tsetse fly.

Nevertheless, great parts of French West Africa possess much potential agricultural wealth. Thus before the

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