Why were German colonies unprofitable?

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  • View of the Christ Church in Tsingtau (Kiautschou), around 1914

In the following list, "Income from the colony" means taxes, customs duties, other administrative income and extraordinary income. "Expenses for the colony" are understood to mean costs for civil and military administration, for the construction and maintenance of railroad and port facilities and for other infrastructure measures (schools, hospitals, etc.). With the colonial societies are meant the associations and organizations that demanded the economic promotion and further development of the existing colonial areas and the acquisition of further colonies with extensive journalism. These companies also took on humanitarian tasks on site, such as expanding medical care. The most important colonial societies included the "German Colonial Society" founded in 1882, the "German Colonial Society" from 1887, the "All-German Association" (1894) and the "German National Colonial Society" (1904). Unless otherwise noted, all information relates to the year 1912.

German South West Africa (today: Namibia), German colony from 1884 to 1918/19

  • Area: 835,100 km²
  • Population: 86,000 (including 12,135 Germans)
  • Population / km²: 0.1
  • Income from the colony: 24.180 million marks
  • Expenditures for the colony: 34.810 million marks
  • Total trade exports: 39.035 million marks; of which to Germany: 5.623 million marks (ores, precious stones, marble, corn, rubber, hides, etc.)
  • Total trade imports: 32,500 million marks; of which from Germany: 15.341 million marks (railway systems, machines and hardware, beer, grain, rice, cement, coal, cotton, etc.)

Cameroon, German colony from 1884 to 1918/19

  • Area: 495,000 km²
  • Population: 2,540 million (including 1,359 Germans)
  • Population / km²: 3.4
  • Number of German colonial societies (1913): 3
  • Capital of the German colonial companies (1913): 4.470 million marks
  • Income from the colony: 10.330 million marks
  • Expenditures for the colony: 10.950 million marks
  • Total trade exports: 23.336 million marks; of which to Germany: 17.964 million marks (rubber, palm kernels, cocoa, oil, corn, ebony, etc.)
  • Total trade imports: 34.242 million marks; of which from Germany: 11.407 million marks (railway systems, machines and iron goods, rice, beer, coniferous wood, cotton, gold and silver, etc.)

Togo, German colony from 1884 to 1918/19

  • Area: 87,200 sq km
  • Population: 1.003 million (including 316 Germans)
  • Population / sqkm: 11.5
  • Number of German colonial societies (1913): 2
  • Capital of the German colonial companies (1913): 1.390 million marks
  • Income from the colony: 3.510 million marks
  • Expenditures for the colony: 3.310 million marks
  • Total trade exports: 9.960 million marks; of which to Germany: 6.216 million marks (maize, palm kernels, cotton, rubber, ivory, etc.)
  • Total trade imports: 11.428 million marks; of which from Germany: 2.715 million marks (bridges and railways, gunpowder, sugar, cotton, etc.)

German East Africa (today: Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda), German colony from 1885 to 1918/19

  • Area: 995,000 square kilometers
  • Population: 7.511 million (including 3,579 Germans)
  • Population / sqkm: 7.5
  • Number of German colonial societies (1913): 7
  • Capital of the German colonial companies (1913): 18.120 million marks
  • Income from the colony: 15.580 million marks
  • Expenditures for the colony: 18.970 million marks
  • Total trade exports: 31.418 million marks; of which to Germany: 14.644 million marks (ivory, rubber, cotton, hemp, beeswax, coffee, peanuts, etc.)
  • Total trade imports: 50.309 million marks; of which from Germany: 17.433 million marks (railway systems, machines and hardware, cement, cotton, beer, sugar, gold and silver, etc.)

New Guinea (today: northern part of Papua New Guinea), German colony from 1884/85 to 1918/19

  • Area: 240,000 square kilometers
  • Population: 601,000 (including 665 Germans)
  • Population / km2: 2.5
  • Number of German colonial societies (1913): 1
  • Capital of the German colonial companies (1913): 7.500 million marks
  • Income from the colony (1911): 0.870 million marks
  • Expenditures for the colony (1911): 1.480 million marks
  • Total trade exports: 12.087 million marks (including the Marshall Islands, Carolines, Palau and Mariana Islands); of which to Germany: 6.367 million marks (copra [coconut kernels], rubber, lime etc.)
  • Total trade imports: 9.207 million marks (including the Marshall Islands, Carolines, Palau and Mariana Islands); of which from Germany: 1.790 million marks (equipment for telegraph construction, machines, beer, silver coins, etc.)

Marshall Islands, German colony from 1884/85 to 1918/19

  • Area: 400 square kilometers
  • Total trade exports: 5.164 million marks (products and trade with Germany: see New Guinea)
  • Total trade imports: 1.963 million marks (products and trade with Germany: see New Guinea)

Kiautschou (today: part of China), German colony from 1897/98 to 1918/19

  • Area: 515 sq km
  • Income from the colony: 7.750 million marks
  • Expenditures for the colony: 15.830 million marks
  • Total trade exports: 79.640 million marks; of which to Germany: 0.425 million marks (mainly peanuts and proteins)
  • Total trade imports: 121.254 million marks; of which from Germany: 2.240 million marks (railway systems, machines, cement, beer, etc.)

Caroline Islands, Palau and Mariana Islands (today: Micronesia), German colony from 1899 to 1918/19

  • Area: 2,376 sq km
  • Income from the colony (1911): 0.510 million marks (including the Marshall Islands)
  • Expenditures for the colony (1911): 0.700 million marks (including the Marshall Islands)
  • Total trade exports: 1.882 million marks (products and trade with Germany: see New Guinea)
  • Total trade imports: 1.372 million marks (products and trade with Germany: see New Guinea)

Samoa Islands (today: Western Samoa), German colony from 1899 to 1918/19

  • Area: 2,570 square kilometers
  • Population: 38,000 (including 294 Germans)
  • Population / sq km: 13.6
  • Number of German colonial societies (1913): 2
  • Capital of the German colonial companies (1913): 1.980 million marks
  • Income from the colony: 1.180 million marks
  • Expenditures for the colony: 1,000 million marks
  • Total trade exports: 5.045 million marks; of which to Germany: 1.659 million marks (mainly copra [coconut kernels] and cocoa)
  • Total trade imports: 4.994 million marks; of which from Germany: 0.500 million marks (railway systems, cotton, beer, etc.)