This film is held by the BFI (ID: 765606).


Cinemagazine chronicling the change and progress taking place in the Gold Coast.

"Consists of the following items:- 'Number, Please!' The Story of the training of Telephone operators at the Central Telephone Exchange in Accra. Mass Education at Ho: a report of the activities of the Mass Education Teams at Ho, including a visit of the Chief Secretary to the Mass Education Teams at work in British Togoland. Accra Airport: a brief report on the work going on at Accra Airport, including the work done by the Meteorological Services. The item surveys the complex ground-organisation required to keep an international airport up to the standards required by modern civil aviation, and shows the large measure of responsibility carried by the African staff." (Gold Coast Film Unit Catalogue, 1954-1955).



Gold Coast Film Review was a one-reel cinemagazine designed, according to the Colonial Office, ‘to record progress and news in the country both for theatrical and non-theatrical distribution’ (‘Colonial Office List’, 1951, 159). Produced by the recently formed Gold Coast Film Unit, No. 2was the second of three cinemagazines produced by the Unit during 1949. The Colonial Office’s Annual report for Togoland in 1950 reported that both Gold Coast Review No. 1 and No.2 had been shown in the area during the year by the Public Relations Department (Togoland Report, 1950, 262).

This issue opens with a report on the telecommunications system at the General Post Office in Accra. Historians Francis K. A. Allotey and Felix K. Akorli have charted the development of the telecommunications system in the Gold Coast, from the installation of the first line – a ten-mile link installed in 1881 between the castle of the Governor in Cape Coast and Elmina – to the establishment of the first manual exchange in 1892 and the construction of the ‘backbone of the main trunk telephone routes’ during the 1910s. They recognise this development as an initiative by the colonial administration ‘mainly to facilitate the economic, social and political administration of the colony’, but growth stalled ‘due to the depressed global economy’ during the 1940s (Allotey and Akorli, 1999, 179). Although there were just over 6000 telephones connected to the telephone system by 1949, the Colonial Office’s report for the year explained that ‘the full demands of the public could not be met because of the continuing shortages of most types of telephone materials’. Training programmes were initiated however and 65 linemen and cable jointers were trained on three short courses at the Telecommunications Engineering School during 1949 (Annual Report on the Gold Coast, 1949, 52, 53). Further developments would follow over the next few years, with the installation of the first automated telephone exchange in Accra in 1953, which replaced the manual one erected over 60 years earlier.

The second item follows the Colonial Secretary Robert Scott’s visit to a mass education centre at Ho. Colonial Office reports explained that a social development team visited Togoland early in 1949 ‘with the object of offering instruction to educated young people in the technique and organisation of mass literacy campaigns, the improvement of choirs and bands, physical training games, hygiene and first aid, discussion groups and the presentation of plays’ (Annual Report on Gold Coast, 1949, 7). The development programmes within the Gold Coast were often seen as ‘potentially challenging by the colonial regime’ and credited with politicising and raising the critical consciousness of the public (Mayo, 2000, 92). A further fear, expressed by Robert Scott, was that the development programmes could cause massive social upheaval and unrest as had happened in Britain during the Industrial Revolution. Historian Jeff Grischow argued that the colonial administration had thus avoided development programmes in the Northern Territories, preferring a continuation of rule by chiefs, in the hope that this would ‘preclude the development of civil society and radical nationalists on southern lines’ (Africa, Summer 2008). However, by 1949 the colonial administration recognised the failure of the chiefs to bring about social and economic change, and now sought, in the words of the Colonial Office, to interest ‘the educated elite in social service and to emphasise a sense of obligation to the community’ (Annual Report for Togoland, 1949, v). This emphasis on loyalty and on training community leaders – the demonstration team in Togoland included a schoolmaster, a policeman, a medical assistant, and welfare officers – had a political function as well, as administrators hoped that incorporating an educated elite within a British doctrine of colonial development, would restrict the development of nationalist organisations within these areas (Grischow, 2006, 190).

These development programmes were expanded during 1949. The Colonial Office report explained that ‘a joint French and British mass education team ran courses at Palime and Blitta in French Togoland and at Ve Koloenu and Ho in British Togoland’. The report further emphasised that ‘an important feature of the scheme has been the combination of French and British in a joint team’ and the film notes that ‘the government of French Togoland was represented’ at Ho (Annual Report on Gold Coast, 1949, 35).

The final item shows work at Accra Airport and at the headquarters of the British West African Meteorological services in Accra. 



All of the items within Gold Coast Review No. 2 endorse a rhetoric of development and progress and highlight the training programmes and responsibilities established for African workers.

The newsreel is framed by items highlighting modern technological advances within the city of Accra. In the opening item, the British commentator explains that Accra is the ‘nerve centre’ of the Gold Coast’s ‘postal and telecommunications network’ and ‘is one of the largest and most efficient in West Africa’. The item highlights the scale and efficiency of the organisation – represented by shots of engineers connecting and maintaining ‘thousands of miles of wires’ and by women on the switchboard handling ‘thousands of phone calls’ everyday – and emphasises the continuing developments through the ‘newly inaugurated’ London to Accra radio service. It also recognises the importance of these telecommunication systems in the development of the colony on a national and global front, as they ‘link the far distant villages of the hinterland with the towns and the world overseas’. The final item on Accra Airport follows a very similar message. Accra Airport serves in ‘keeping the Gold Coast within a few flying hours of the rest of the world’ and is used by ‘all major international airliners… day and night’. These items thus position the Gold Coast as a modern, urban centre, now closely connected to the rest of the Empire.

Both items also highlight the increased responsibility and opportunities now provided for the African workers, and the skilled work performed by them. At the Post Office, workers require ‘quick thinking and accuracy’ within this ‘exacting job’, while at Accra Airport, the duty control officer controls all traffic so that ‘no plane may land or leave without his permission’. Here, ‘highly trained European and African ground engineers and trippers’ carry out checks on the planes, illustrating racial collaboration, while the African trainees are taught and supervised at the Post Office as they ‘learn the intricacies of their new calling’.

While the middle item also emphasises training and development, it differs in representing regional, rural social development programmes within Togoland and in, more explicitly, emphasising the governmental involvement here, as the Colonial Secretary meets the local chiefs. In contrast to the modern urban life depicted elsewhere, this item shows traditional pageantry, literary programmes and a first aid course which includes ‘elementary hygiene’. It again highlights the mingling of European and African influences, as the choristers sing both local songs and English folk songs, while also emphasising a process of self-development – the team of ‘experts’ is recruited ‘almost exclusively from Togoland’. This also illustrates one of the programme’s functions in incorporating the local ‘educated elite’ within this colonial initiative. Indeed, the commentator emphasises the local support towards the programme – the chiefs ‘have given strong support to the work of mass education’ – while also stressing the ‘importance of cooperation between the people and the government in the effort now being made in community development’. Emphasising the local support and endorsement for the scheme is obviously an important means of generating support for the project amongst the film’s intended local African audience. It also serves a political function, as the colonial administration sought to maintain social order by incorporating and aligning both the chiefs and the ‘educated elite’ within its development programmes.

Tom Rice (March 2009)


Works Cited

Allotey, Francis K. A. and Felix K. Akorli, ‘Ghana’, Telecommunications in Africa, ed. Eli M. Noan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).

Colonial Office, Annual Report on the Gold Coast, 1949 (London: H.M.S.O., 1949).

Colonial Office, Report by His Majesty’s government in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the General Assembly of the United Nations on the administration of Togoland under United Kingdom Trusteeship for the year 1949 (London: H.M.S.O., 1949).

Colonial Office, Report by His Majesty’s government in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the General Assembly of the United Nations on the administration of Togoland under United Kingdom Trusteeship for the year 1950 (London: H.M.S.O., 1950).

Colonial Office, The Colonial Office List (London: H.M.S.O., 1951).

Grischow, Jeff D., Shaping Tradition: Civil Society, Community and Development in Colonial Northern Ghana, 1899-1957 (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2006

Mayo, Marjorie, Cultures, Communities, Identities: Cultural Strategies for Participation and Empowerment (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2000).

Tonah, Steve, ‘Jeff D. Grischow, Shaping Tradition: Civil Society, Community and Development in Colonial Northern Ghana, 1899-1957’, Africa, Summer, 2008.

See also

Robert Scott, ‘Community Development and Local Development Committees’, 19 September 1949, NRG8/1/49, NAGT.



Series Title:

Technical Data

Running Time:
8 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
16mm Film
285 ft

Production Credits

Production Company
Gold Coast Film Unit







Production Organisations