DARC Ethiophile Chronicles
On November 15, 1884 The Colonization of Africa was organized at an
international conference in Berlin.
In 1884 at the request of Portugal, German chancellor Otto von Bismark
called together the major western powers of the world to negotiate
questions and end confusion over the control of Africa. Bismark
appreciated the opportunity to expand Germany's sphere of influence
over Africa and desired to force Germany's rivals to struggle with one
another for territory.
Know as The Berlin Conference, the summit lasted until February 26,
1885 - a three month period where colonial powers haggled over
geometric boundaries in the interior of the continent, disregarding the
cultural and linguistic boundaries already established by the
indigenous African population.
At the time of the conference, 80% of Africa remained under traditional
and local control. What ultimately resulted was a hodgepodge of
geometric boundaries that divided Africa into fifty irregular
countries. This new map of the continent was superimposed over the one
thousand indigenous cultures and regions of Africa. The new countries
lacked rhyme or reason and divided coherent groups of people and merged
together disparate groups who really did not get along.
Fourteen countries were represented by a plethora of ambassadors when
the conference opened in Berlin on November 15, 1884. The countries
represented at the time included Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Denmark,
France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal,
Russia, Spain, Sweden-Norway (unified from 1814-1905), Turkey, and the
United States of America. Of these fourteen nations, France, Germany,
Great Britain, and Portugal were the major players in the conference,
controlling most of colonial Africa at the time.
The European imperialist push into Africa was motivated by three main
factors, economic, political, and social. It developed in the
nineteenth century following the collapse of the profitability of the
slave trade, its abolition and suppression, as well as the expansion of
the European capitalist Industrial Revolution. The imperatives of
capitalist industrialization—including the demand for assured sources
of raw materials, the search for guaranteed markets and profitable
investment outlets—spurred the European scramble and the partition and
eventual conquest of Africa.
By the early twentieth century, all of Africa, except Ethiopia, had
been colonized by European powers.
By 1914, the conference participants had fully divided Africa among
themselves into fifty countries.
The attached map will provide a glimpse into the colonization scramble
Major colonial holdings included:
• Great Britain desired a Cape-to-Cairo collection of colonies and
almost succeeded though their control of Egypt, Sudan
(Anglo-Egyptian Sudan), Uganda, Kenya (British East Africa), South
Africa, and Zambia, Zimbabwe (Rhodesia), and Botswana. The British also
controlled Nigeria and Ghana (Gold Coast).
• France took much of western Africa, from Mauritania to Chad (French
West Africa) and Gabon and the Republic of Congo (French Equatorial
• Belgium and King Leopold II controlled the Democratic Republic of
Congo (Belgian Congo).
• Portugal took Mozambique in the east and Angola in the west.
• Italy's holdings were Somalia (Italian Somaliland) and Eritrea.
• Germany took Namibia (German Southwest Africa) and Tanzania (German
• Spain claimed the smallest territory - Equatorial Guinea (Rio Muni).