In order to strengthen their hold on political and economic power, the white settlers of British-controlled Northern Rhodesia sought to unite the British colonial territories of Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia, and Nyasaland during the late 1930s and 1940s. This was a response to the growing strength of African organizations (e.g.
By 1924, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) was administered and occupied by the British government as an official British protectorate. While the Colonial Office headed administration, a group of interconnected companies financed by Britain, South Africa, and the United States came to control what became the ‘Copperbelt’ in Northern Rhodesia. Copper was becoming more valuable due to increased demand for electrical components and motors and regional deposits were easy to extract and profitably attracted investors.
Workers in the British colony of Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, bore an increased workload to support the war effort during WWII. As extraction of mineral resources increased, employees of Rhodesia Railways worked upward of 65 hours per week to transport the minerals to ports on the Indian Ocean. While white European railway workers had strong unions representing them, black African employees received inferior treatment and lower pay grades than whites.