"To make money, of course"
Europeans at Stanleyville (c. 1902)
Public DomainEuropeans at Stanleyville (c. 1902) - Credit: Henry Wellington Wack

For a European agent it was not difficult to make money in the Congo Free State's ivory trade, thanks to a generous commission structure (see bookmark 'The only real feeling was a desire to get appointed to a trading-post') and a system built on the active exploitation of the African natives. In addition, station chiefs could levy whatever taxes they chose in labour, ivory or anything else.

In King Leopold's Ghost (1998), Adam Hoschschild notes that such get-rich-quick opportunities, combined with the promise of unchecked power, held a powerful lure:

Many who came out to work in the Congo were like the mercenaries who joined the French Foreign Legion or the fortune hunters who flocked to the two great gold rushes of the day, in South Africa and the Klondike. With its opportunities for both combat and riches, to Europeans the Congo was a gold rush and the Foreign Legion combined.