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Commercial Company of Benadir (1898-1903)

Last modified: 2023-06-03 by bruce berry
Keywords: somalia | benadir |
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image by Jean-Marc Merklin, 14 May 2023

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The indirect colonisation of the Somali coast was initiated in 1890 by the President of the Council (PM) Giovanni Giolitti when he ordered the consul Vincenzo Filonardi, ambassador to the sultanates of the Somali coast, to found a trading company, the "V. Filonardi & Co.", through which Italy would negotiate concessions as well as the sale and political-administrative management of the territory with the local lords of Benadir.

In 1893, the company thus concluded an agreement giving it the management of issues related to trade, industry, commercial agriculture as well as the migrations of Italian settlers to the African coasts and the management of commercial stations in Benadir (Mogadiscio, Brava, Merca, Warsheikh). At the same time, the company ensures the political representation of the government of the Kingdom of Italy to the Sultanates.

However, in 1896, poor management by the company prompted the government not to renew the concession.

Creation of the Cie
The experience of indirect colonialism was then reproduced by a trust that took the name of "Compagnia Commerciale del Benadir" (Commercial Company of the Benadir) whose shareholders were the magnates of the Lombard textile industry Sanseverino, Mylius, Carminati and Benigno-Crespi who aimed to produce the raw materials of their sector in "Italian" territory and thus avoid excessive import costs. The agreement was signed in 1898 and became operational in 1900 with the installation of the Company's offices in Benadir, which contributed to the infiltration of the interior territories.

Attempts to penetrate southern Somalia led by the company's representatives came up against the manifest hostility of the landowners-slaves of the plain, the Arab-Indian merchants, the native mercantile petty bourgeoisie and the Islamic clergy; the revolt of the powerful Bimal slaver tribes following the opposition made by the Italian State to the slave trade led to the total failure of the policy of "pacification" as it had been theorized in Rome.

The contrasts between the leaders of the Company and the military, the revelations about the complicity of the administration in maintaining slavery in the peripheral territories, the excesses committed in the repressions and the negative balance sheets on the economic management of the colony (including speculation to the detriment of a healthy entrepreneurial mentality) in 1903 triggered a violent press campaign and a very lively parliamentary debate on the management model of Benadir. The results of the Chiesi-Travelli investigation promoted by the Company itself to verify the veracity of the reported facts revealed multiple embezzlements leading the Giolitti-Tittoni government to denounce the 1898 convention and withdraw the management of the colony from the Company.   (Source: L'Italia Coloniale website)
Jean-Marc Merklin, 14 May 2023

Commercial Company of Benadir flag

image sent by Jean-Marc Merklin, 14 May 2023

The website "L'Italia Coloniale" shows a photograph of the flag of the "Commercial Company of the Benadir" (Compagnia Commerciale del Benadir) which existed from 1898 to 1903. The flag is based on the Italian flag, in the centre of white stripe of which is the crowned symbol of the wyvern of Milan, city from which the majority of shareholders came from.

From the end of the 19th century until 1903, the Somali territories under Italian control, before being the object of direct colonisation starting from 1905, were the object of an indirect colonisation, entrusting the management administration to private companies to which the State granted concessions. One of them was the "Compagnia Commerciale del Benadir". Its failure, due in particular to the competitive opposition with the Arab-Indian comprador bourgeoisie trading essentially with British Somaliland, the opposition of the Islamic clergy and especially to the compromise with the slaver tribes Bimal and Intera, announced the real beginning of the "Italian Colony of Somalia", unifying the territorial concessions. The conflict against the Bimal resistance lasted until 1908 in an active way and, more sporadically around Merca until 1924.
Jean-Marc Merklin, 14 May 2023