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French West Africa



1944, CFA's.

The French West African colonies were grouped together by decree in 1895 and, again, in 1904, under a governor-general at Dakar, but continued to have administrative autonomy, including separate stamps until 1944. These were valid for use in all French West African colonies: Dahomey, French Guinea, French Sudan, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Upper Volta from December 1944 until 1959-60. The stamps were used until each colony was independent or had issued its own stamps. The last issue (21 March 1959) was inscribed DAKAR-ABIDJAN and was used in Ivory Coast and Senegal only.

Southern Cameroons




These stamps continued until 30 September 1961 when Southern Cameroons joined Cameroun (see below) by plebiscite. (They were also valid in Northern Cameroons, which opted to rejoin Nigeria). Their inscription U.K.T.T. stands for United Kingdom Trust Territory.



FIRST STAMPS French Occupation 1915.


1897, as Germany.
1915, as France also British Occupation CFA.

French mandate and after 1946 trust territory. Became independent republic 1 January 1960. By the plebiscite of 30 September 1961 incorporated Southern Cameroons and took the name of Federal Republic, altered in June 1972 to United Republic.

Stamp issues were continous from 1915 (see above German Cameroons: Allied Occupation).

Autonomous 28 November 1958, with full independence within the French Community 15 August 1960. Became 'People's Republic of the Congo' on 3 January 1970.

After extensive unrest, multi-party elections wee held in March 1992. Presdential elections were held in October 1992 and were won by the existing holder of the office, Paul Biya. In November, a new coalition government was formed which has held power ever since.

There have been armed clashes with Nigeria over the disputed Bakassi peninsula. This dispute is under consideration at the International Court of Justice.


FIRST STAMPS French Colonies General Issues from 1859 distinguished by a lozenge of dots with GOR or SEN.



1887, as France CFA.

Traders from Dieppe had trading posts from 1826, but the earliest French settlement, at St Louis, dated from 1659. In the 18th century the Senegal settlements were disputed between France and Britain, but were restored to France in 1817; Goree Island had remained French throughout. In 1854 penetration inland began and by 1891 Senegal was exercising control over a large area of West Africa from St Louis to Dakar.

The Vichy regime survived an abortive Allied attempt to take Dakar (23- 25 September 1940) until November 1942 when it became Free French. On 25 November 1958 Senegal accepted independence within the French Community, but joined with French Sudan on 4 April 1959 to form the Mali Federation. Senegal withdrew from this federation on 22 August 1960 and on 5 September became a republic within the French Community.

In 1842 Goree was given the first postal service in French West Africa; it was not an integral part of Senegal until 1859. The first mainland PO was at St Louis (c.1856). By 19.15, there were 55 POs in operation.

Senegal issues were also used in the region known as Rivieres du Sud (after 1892, part of French Guinea) where known POs include Conakry, Benty, Boffa, Boke, Dubreka and Victoria; also at Kaedi and Rosso (after 1906 part of Mauritania), and at Kita and Kayes (later in French Sudan). Used stamps of French West Africa from 1944-59.

President Diouf was re-elected in the first round of Presidential elections in February 1993. In August 1998, the National Assembly voted to remove the restriction that limited the President to only two 7 year terms and Diouf who was originally installed in 1981 has remained President ever since.

Senegal 1906
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1906, as France.
1973, 100 cents = 1 ouguiya (urn).

FIRST STAMPS Stamps of Senegal at Kaedi and Rosso only.


FIRST STAMPS after Independence 20 January 1960.

French influence spread north from Senegal and on 18 October 1904 Mauritania became a 'civil territory' dependency of French West Africa. Borders were pushed north in 1908-9, and colonial status was given on 1 January 1921. Administratively, Mauritania shared the same capital, St Louis, with Senegal. After two years of autonomy within the French Community, Mauritania became an independent Islamic republic on 28 November 1960. In 1976 it annexed the southern part of the former Spanish Sahara.

Before 1906 the only POs were at Kaedi and Rosso (closed before 1915), administered from Senegal, whose stamps were used. In 1915 there were 10 POs in the colony.

Vichy stamps of Mauritania have been seen used in Senegal in 1944. Used stamps of French West Africa 1945-59.

French Sudan
(Soudan Francais)


1894, as France.

FIRST STAMPS French Colonies General Issues at Kayes 1890.


French influence brought by explorer Faidherbe from the River Senegal to the Upper Niger was extended by conquest to the area of Tombouctou (1883) and stretched (without boundaries) as far as that influence could be maintained. The region was given the name Soudan Francais in 1891 with its capital at Kayes.

It was shrunk in 1899 by transferring 11 of the southern provinces to French Guinea, Ivory Coast and Dahomey (though two provinces were returned in 1900). The remainder was broken up into three military districts based on Tombouctou, Bobo Dioulasso and Zinder (Niger). The other territories became Upper Senegal and Middle Niger.

In 1902 the non-military zone became Senegambia and Niger and in 1904 Upper Senegal and Niger. The capital was moved to Bamako.

In 1911 Niger became the only military district and began to separate from the main colony. It became an independent colony in 1922.

Prior to that, in 1919, the colony of Upper Volta had been created by detaching six of the southern provinces from Upper Senegal and Niger and, in 1920, the remainder returned to the original name of French Sudan. When Upper Volta was abolished in 1933, parts of the original provinces reverted to French Sudan. On 4 April 1954, French Sudan joined Senegal to make the Mali Federation.

Upper Senegal and Middle Niger did not issue stamps. Stamps of French Sudan were used until 1903 when they were replaced by the stamps of Senegambia and Niger (q.v.).

In 1920 stamps of Upper Senegal and Niger (q .v.) were overprinted for use in French Sudan when it was reconstituted.

Used stamps of French West Africa 1944-59. Then became part of the Mali Federation.

Mauritania and Morocco occupied the Western Sahara Territory in February 1976 when Spain Formally relinquished control. After a three year war against POLISARIO, Mauritania gave up her claim to the southern sector of the former Spanish Territory.

There was a military coup in 1978 and Mauritania was ruled by a Military Committeeof National Salvation. In April 1991, President ould Tagu announced a politicalamnesty, followed by multi-party elections. The constitution was approved in July 1991. Since that date the country has remained stable.

French Sudan 1920
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Senegambia and Niger

FIRST STAMPS French Sudan to 1903.


Postmarks of the colony were also altered in 1903 to read 'Senegambie et Niger'.


1903, as France.

Upper Senegal and Niger

FIRST STAMPS French Sudan to 1903.



1906, as France.

Colony of French West Africa established in 1904 to replace Senegambia and Niger (q.v.). It absorbed the military districts except Niger, which became a separate military district in 1911 and independent in 1922.

Postmarks of the colony were worded 'Ht Senegal et Niger'; in Niger itself they were amended to read 'Territoire Militaire du Niger'. In 1915 there were 72 POs in the colony and 11 in the military territory of Niger. Stamps were overprinted for French Sudan when the name was changed again in 1920.

Mali Federation (Federation du Mali)

FIRST STAMPS ISSUED 7 November 1959.


1959, CFA.

Short-lived federation of French Sudan and Senegal from 4 April 1959, independent within the French Cornmunity from 20 June 1960 until 20 August 1960 when Senegal seceded.

Mali Republic (Republique du Mali)



1959, CFA, later francs Maliennes.

After Senegal seceded from the Mali Federation (q.v.), the former French Sudan declared complete independence as the Mali Republic, September 1960.

The regime of Modibo Keita was overthrown in 1968 by a group of army officers who formed a National Liberation Committee and appointed Moussa Traore as prime minister and head of state. A civil constitiution came into being in 1979.

President Traore was overthrown in March 1991 by troops led by Lt. Col. Toure. A transitional government was formed in April and a new constitution was approved by referendum in January 1992.

French Guinea

FIRST STAMPS French Colonies General Issues from 1881.



1892, as France.

Local protectorates established between 1848 and 1865; extended in 1889 as Etablissements des Rivi~res du Sud. Administered from Senegal but, after the fixing of boundaries, French Guinea became a separate colony on 17 December 1891. In 1899 it was extended inland by the transfer of a number of provinces from French Sudan. It Was under Vichy until November 1942, then Free French.

By referendum, it was declared a republic under the name Republic of Guinea outside the French Community on 2 October 1958.

Initially used the French Colonies General Issues, which can be recognized by postmarks. Stamps of Senegal were used 1887-92 before the colonial standard issue in November 1892.

In 1915 there were 35 POs in the colony. Used stamps of French West Africa 1944-59.

French Guinea c1906
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Republic of Guinea



1959, as France.
1973, 100 cawry = 1 syli.

Independent republic based on the colony of French Guinea. By referendum, elected to leave the French Community in October 1958. Sekou Toure became head of the new Government on independence until his death in 1984. This was followed by a military coup. A new constitution provided for the end of Military rule in 1990. In January 1991, the military committee was dissolved and a joint Transitional Committee was formed. Civil disturbances followed in 1991 causing the Government to introduce a multi-party system in April 1992, since when the country seems to have returned to comparative stability.

Ivory Coast
(Cote d'Ivoire)

FIRST STAMPS French Colonies General Issues at Assinie in 1862-71 (distinguishable by ASI in a lozenge of dots).

FIRST STAMPS ISSUED November 1892. As an autonomous republic 1 October 1959.


1892, as France CFA.

French trading posts were established briefly in 1700-7 and again from 1842. They were abandoned from 1871 to 1878 but reclaimed as Etablissements de la Cote d'Or. After expeditions into the interior, a French colony was declared on 10 March 1893. About 1900 the capital was moved from Grand-Bassam to Bingerville (formerly Adjame) after a severe outbreak of yellow fever. In 1934 the capital was again transferred, this time to Abidjan, the terminus of the railway.

On 1 January 1933 Upper Volta ceased to exist and six provinces were added to Ivory Coast. They remained part of the colony until Upper Volta was re-created in 1947. Ivory Coast became an autonomous republic within the French Community on 4 December 1958. Became independent on 7 August 1960.

Initially used the French Colonies General Issues at Assinie in 1862-71, and after the return special datestamps were used at Jacqueville, GrandBassam, and Assinie from 1889 inscribed 'Cote d'Or d'Afrique' (also, after 1892, at Grand Lahou).

By 1915 there were 38 POs in the colony and this number was increased in 1933 when certain provinces of Upper Volta were added to the colony. Used stamps of French West Africa from 1944-59. The Democratic Party of Cote d'Ivoire (PDCI) won multi-party elections in November 1990. The President, Houphouet-Boigny, who had been the incumbent since 1960, died in 1993 and was replaced by the Parliamentary Speaker. The PDCI maintained a full majority in Parliament. In 1999, an attempted coup by military officers showed the discontent with the existing Parliamentary control, but was crushed after a short period.

Ivory Coast c1906
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FIRST STAMPS French Colonies General Issues at Porto Novo from 1888.



As France to 1894.

Treaty of 1851 gave France possession of Whydah (Ouidah); control was extended to Grand-Popo in 1857, Porto Novo by 1863 and Cotonou by 1883.

Placed first under Gabon, then transferred to Senegal in 1886 under the name of Etablissements Francais du Golfe de Benin. They were incorporated into Dahomey (see below) in 1899.

Cancellations inscribed BENIN are known from Aquoua, Kotonou (later Cotonou), Grand-Popo, Porto Novo and Whydah.




1899, as France CFA.

Originally an independent African kingdom inland of the Benin settlements, subdued by the French in 1892-4. Ouidah was formally annexed 3 December 1892 and the rest of Dahomey was made a colony in 1894. In 1899 it absorbed the Etablissements Francais du Golfe de Benin and two provinces from French Sudan. These last were returned to the new colony of Upper Senegal and Middle Niger in 1900.

Dahomey remained within the French Community after autonomy was granted 4 December 1958, but left it at independence on 1 August 1960. Changed name to the People's Republic of Benin (see below) on 30 November 1975.

It is probable that only military offices existed up-country before 1899, but the provinces of French Sudan were issued with postmarks in 1899-1900 worded 'Haut Dahomey', which continued to be used after the provinces were detached. By 1915 there were 30 POs in the colony.

The stamps of French West Africa were used 1944-60. The first stamps issued as an independent republic were in 1960. Between 1963 and 1972 successive Governments were overthrown by the military and a coup d'etat in 1972 brought to power a Marxist-Leninist military government. The name was changed to the People's Republic of Benin.

Dahomey pre 1920
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Republic of Benin

FIRST STAMPS ISSUED inscribed Republique du Benin March 1990


1990 - 100 centimes = 1 CFA

Successor to the People's Republic of Benin created in March 1990. It now has a pluralist constitution and has remained stable since the change in ideology.

Upper Volta (Haute Volte)

FIRST STAMPS French Sudan from 1894.

FIRST STAMPS ISSUED December 1920 (withdrawn 31 December 1932).


1920, as France CFA.

Separate French colony created from the south-eastern part of Upper Senegal and Niger on 1 March 1919. Ceased to exist on 1 January 1933, when its provinces were divided between French Sudan, Ivory Coast and Niger. Revived in 1947, and on 10 December 1958 became an autonomous republic within the French Community. This it left on 5 August 1960 when it became independent. The name was changed to Burkina Faso in 1984.

Originally used the stamps of French Sudan (1894-1902), Senegambia and Niger (1902-4), Upper Senegal and Niger (1904-20). Postmarks changed on each occasion. When Upper Volta was broken up in 1933, the postmarks for each town were again changed to that of the colony to which they were transferred.

When Upper Volta was revived in 1947, the stamps of French West Africa were used until 1960. The first issue as an autonomous republic was on 11 August 1960. Upper Volta stamps continued to be used after the change of name in 1984 until new stamps were issued.

Burkina Faso

FIRST STAMPS see Upper Volta.



1948, as Upper Volta.

Formerly Upper Volta, the name was changed in July 1984. Continued to use the stamps of Upper Volta until new stamps were released in October. Following a number of military coups, Captain Blaise Compaore seized power in 1987. A new constitution was adopted in 1998.


FIRST STAMPS French Sudan on 3 August 1894.



1921, as France.

A French zone of influence and area of exploration extending east from the River Niger. It became a 'military territory' in 1900, based on Zinder, and part of French West Africa in 1904. It was administered as part of French Sudan and its successors until 1911 when it became the military territory of Niger. On 4 December 1920 became a separate territory, and a colony on 13 October 1922. In 1924 the capital was moved from Zinder to Niamey. Niger became an autonomous republic within the French Community on 18 December 1958 and an independent republic on 3 August 1960. In 1974 following a coup d'etat a supreme military council was set up under President Kountche.

Used the stamps of French Sudan, Senegambia and Niger and Upper Senegal and Niger from 1894 to 1921.

In 1915 there were 11 POs in the military territory.

Used the stamps of French West Africa 1944-59. The first stamps as an autonomous republic were issued in 1959. President Kountche died in 1987 and was succeeded by his cousin Colonel Ali Saibou. Legislative elections were held in February 1993, but the presidential election was gained by Mahamane Ousmane in march of the year. The defection of one of the main coalition partners from the government led to parliamentary elections in January 1995, which, in turn, resulted in a new administration. On 27 January 1996, the President and Government were overthrown in a military coup led by Colonel Mainassura. Power was assumed by a National Salvation Council, which suspended the constitution, appointed a civilian cabinet and created a Transitional Legislature until new elections could be held. A new constitution was put into effect on 12 May 1996 and the ban on political parties was lifted. Mainassura was elected President on 8 July 1996. However, discord continued, the President dismissed the Government led by Boubakar Cisse on the grounds of incompetence and appointed a new Government under Ibrahim Mayaki. The President was assassinated on 9 April 1999. On 11 April, Major Mallam Wanke, head of the Presidential Guard responsible for the assassination was named the country's new President (shades of the Praetorian Guard!). New elections were held in November 1999 and the new President was confirmed in power. Howver, there is little sign at present of political stability.

French West Africa 1906
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French West Africa 1933
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