After World War II, French and British administrations in the African continent were in theory obliged to end forced labour. According to the rhetoric, compulsory labour practices disappeared altogether. However, the scrutiny of processes on the ground, comparing French Equatorial Africa and Northern Rhodesia under British rule, shows that the practicalities of the abolition of such labour practices were far more complex. In the French case, colonial officials actively planned for the reorganization of compulsory labour through the back door, mainly through the battle against “vagrancy” and “African laziness”. British administrators continued with practices organized by “native chiefs”, and attempted to maintain involuntary labour through a generous definition of “emergency situations”. In both cases, more profound analysis of the late colonial mind shows interesting continuities in the commitment of European officials to forced labour, which are likely to have been transferred, in part, into the views of the agents of postcolonial states.