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These Were the First White Collar Jobs Africans Were Allowed to do in the Colonial Days

After the Europeans had fully settled in Africa through colonisation and the slave trade, they began to restructure African societies to fit their standard way of living. This had a large effect on African societies as Africans had to forcefully adjust to the new systems that the Europeans brought with them.

Much of the lands were sold to the Europeans by greedy chiefs and landowners while a larger part of the lands was forcefully taken to build their castles, homes and forts. But the proper settling of Europeans meant that more structures to run businesses, operation and offices needed to be built. This started the introduction of white collar jobs into Africa.

After years of resisting the influences of the Western cultures, many Africans realised the need to advance with the western societies to fit in and make progress in life. Much of their land and trade had been taken away, and not everyone could serve as a member of their forces. As education was being introduced, white collar jobs became a norm in the society.

Here is a list of the first white-collar jobs that Africans were allowed to do in the colonial era.

Interpreters and secretaries

This is probably the earliest of white collar jobs that Africans picked full-time Due to the considerable language barrier, the Europeans had no choice but to ally with some willing Africans to help with proper communication. Interpreters usually made extra money for their essential role. With the whites settling in Africa and establishing education, the work of the Interpreter slowly developed into a prestigious job. They were often nicely dressed in white tops and khaki imitating the dressing style of their White masters. They started to work closely with the governors, lawyers and traders who paid them per hour or per day. Some of the interpreters soon saw the extra benefit of learning to read and write. Interpreters who could read and write were quickly given more priority as they could document court proceedings, speeches and draft letters.

Tax collectors

As the Europeans established government rule in Africa, they started to collect taxes from Africans. To appeal to the people and make them believe that the money was going into development for their benefit, they employed fellow Africans who were trained and sent out to collect tax money and document in the tax payer’s books. The Governor appointed tax collectors after the local chiefs submitted a list of persons they believed could do the work. Tax collectors had to be good with money and in mathematics even before training.


Post mail workers

Before the building of post offices, Europeans employed post runners who would run miles and miles to deliver and receive letters from ships at the post for their white masters. With the establishment of several institutions. Post runners soon advanced into mail workers. Some worked at the harbour sorting out the letters while others worked as delivery workers. Post mail workers were respected for their integrity in delivering documents with highly confidential information. They were often made to swear an oath of secrecy.


Clerks worked in offices performing day to day activities to help quicken progress with work. These were often full-time jobs that demanded proper training and skills to help maintain an office. Clerks were in charge of filing records, discarding of useless information, running a day to day errands between offices and scheduling meetings for their masters. After a while due to the need for an eye of detail and maintenance, the position began to attract more female workers than male workers.


Copy typist

Special documents, files and letters needed to be typed and white masters in top offices do not have time to do such work due to their busy schedules in court and critical meetings. Africans who could read and write or identify alphabets were trained to use typewriters and employed as copy typists. A typist could make good money depending on their speed, efficiency and confidentiality.

Court Assistants

Africans were employed as court assistants working as middlemen between the local and central government and the local chiefs and the governors. During court sittings, they helped keep the necessary files needed for court hearings. They were also trained to take down minutes and record and save court hearing for future use. Court assistants were made to swear secrecy and were paid a lot of money for their work. This job was one of the most well paid and prestigious jobs as they were often referred to as lawyers by the local people and were invited to give advise or settle disputes among locals who could not afford to go to court.


Written by How Africa

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