"a desire to get appointed to a trading-post where ivory was to be had, so that they could earn percentages"
Rubber and ivory at the state depot, Mobeko, Upper Congo (c. 1908)
Public DomainRubber and ivory at the state depot, Mobeko, Upper Congo (c. 1908) - Credit: Sir Harry Hamilton Johnston

King Leopold introduced a lucrative commission structure in 1890 to entice Europeans to staff his far-flung network of Congo river posts. Agents in the field received a cut of the ivory's market price, structured on a sliding scale: for ivory purchased in Africa at eight francs per kilo, an agent received 6% of the vastly higher European market price, climbing to 10% for ivory bought at four francs per kilo. This gave the European agents a powerful incentive to force Africans  – at gunpoint if necessary – to accept extremely low prices. In any case, Congolese elephant hunters were forbidden from selling or delivering ivory to anyone other than an agent of Leopold.