- The African Lakes Corporation plc, 1878-1993;
- Central Africa Mining Company, 1901-1911;
- Scottish Exploration Company Ltd, 1889-1890.
Records of The African Lakes Corporation plc, importers and exporters of goods including automobiles, tobacco and tea, 1878-2007, Glasgow, Scotland and Blantyre, Malawi
Scope and Content
Administrative / Biographical History
The African Lakes Corporation plc was established in Glasgow, Scotland in 1878 as The Livingstonia Central Africa Company. It was established by a number of philanthropic gentlemen who had been impressed by Dr. David Livingstone's plea for the establishment of regular trade routes and the introduction of lawful commerce whereby the slave trade, dominated by Arab slavers, might be exterminated and security obtained for the life and property of the native inhabitants of Central Africa. The first directors of the company were James Stevenson, chemical manufacturer; John Stephen, shipbuilder; James White; James "Paraffin" Young, and James S Napier, merchant. Other distinguished men later on directed the destinies of the company and among these were Sir John N Cuthbertson, Professor Henry Drummond, Mr. Alexander Mitchell, Mr A Low Bruce, Mr. William Ewing, Mr. Robert S Allan and Mr. John G Stephen. The brothers John Moir and Fred Moir, who had contemplated starting a similar company, were appointed joint managers and sent out to Africa in 1878 to start the work in Nyasaland (Malawi) by founding stations, initiating steamboat and other transport facilities, and also trading arrangements. The company faced strong opposition from Swahili slavers, who resented interference with their nefarious traffic, and also from the Portuguese, established on the coast and inland, who regarded the operations of the new company with territorial jealousy. The result was a war with the Swahili traders, the expense of which made a serious inroad upon the finances of the company, and the two Moirs were wounded in the fighting. Ultimately, however, it led to the suppression of the slave trade and the pacification of the country.
For a period the company acted as administrators of the country and in 1891 the country, forming the principal arena of the activities of the company, was brought under the British Government, whose rule had proved eminently beneficial to the local populace. A notable feature of the company is that it was probably the only trading or transport business ever formed not for the express purpose of making money, but rather to fulfil the humanitarian objectives of its initiators – namely, the abolition of the slave trade and the bestowal of freedom and safety on the natives of Nyasaland. Although the subscribed capital with which the company started in 1878 was the modest one of £120 000, nevertheless the company had been successful in earning dividends for its shareholders and its share capital remained intact. By 1938 , the company had a chain of branches throughout Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia (Zambia), with a European staff of well over 100 and a record of achievement of which the company felt justly proud. In 1881 the company changed its name to The African Lakes Company Ltd , then became The African Lakes Trading Corporation Ltd in 1893 , and changing again to The African Lakes Corporation Ltd in 1894 . The company's shares were acquired by the British South Africa Company in the 1930s , which later absorbed its businesses.
The company's main offices were in Glasgow but in 1966 they moved to Edinburgh. A London office was also maintained. In the late 1970s , the Edinburgh office closed and London became the main office although all annual general meetings were still held in Edinburgh. Many of the company's staff derived from the central belt and the bulk of the company's suppliers were Glasgow or Scottish based. Notable suppliers included Glasgow shipyards and engineering firms. Initially, the company trade centred on Nyasaland (modern day Malawi). The company undertook various trades and activities including: • Commissioning Glasgow built flat pack, flat-bottomed ships that were then rebuilt in Nyasaland for use on the Zambezi to transport people and commodities • Operated rubber, tea, coffee, cotton and tobacco plantations and also agricultural land • Exported automobiles from the UK, acting as agents for Ford, Nissan, Austin Morris (until the 1970s ) • Operated local hotels, building companies, insurance agents and as electronics suppliers in Africa .
In the 1970s , the company looked to expand into Ethiopia through automobile sales and this later expanded into agricultural trading and production. The company had a social element, trying to give infrastructure to communities and build amenities including schools, clinics and housing. They were involved in setting up a co-operative for their workers' wives to produce clay tapping cups. The company then bought the cups for use on their rubber plantations. As much as possible, the company took long-term investment views, developing land for agriculture and plantation, planting forests and improving its work force. In later years, the company sold off its various interests, including its agricultural investments and rubber plantation (the only one in Southern Africa). The company diversified into electronics, communications and the internet but this ultimately led to the company's demise. The company ceased trading in c2004 and went into liquidation in 2007 .
Arranged chronologically within record series.
Conditions Governing Access
Open subject to restriction to protect personal confidentiality.
Gift: Donald MacKenzie : August 2008 : ACCN3224
Other Finding Aids
Digital file level list available in searchroom.
Alternative Form Available
No known copies
Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements
None which affect the use of this material
Conditions Governing Use
Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the Archivist.
Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents. UGC 193/1/14/14 must be referred to University of Edinburgh.
This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 0248 procedures.
The collection remained with The African Lakes Company plc from its foundation in 1878 until it's liquidation in 2007. The company records were bought at an auction by the former Chief Executive, Mr Donald MacKenzie and subsequently donated to Glasgow University Archive Services.
Location of Originals
This material is original apart from UGC 193/1/14/1
Description compiled in line with the following international standards: International Council on Archives, ISAD(G) Second Edition, September 1999 and National Council on Archives, Rules for the construction of personal, place and corporate names
Scotland is the location of all place names in the administrative/biographical history element, unless otherwise stated.
Fonds level description compiled by Paul Lihoma, Information Management and Preservation placement student, October 2008. Lower level descriptions compiled by Paul Lihoma, Information Management and Preservation placement student, October 2008, with some additions by Laura Stevens, Archives Assistant, July 2009, Elva McLean, Archives Volunteer, and members of Glasgow University Archive Service staff. Lower levels converted to EAD by Laura Stevens, Archive Assistant, July 2009, and Glasgow University Archive Services staff, July 2010. Fuller descriptions for photographs and negatives added by Mabvuto Kamulayike, Information Management and Preservation placement student, 2011. Catalogue edited by Michelle Kaye, Archives Assistant, 24 September 2012.