Research Paper: Colonization of Africa

Pages: 23 (6753 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 15  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature - African  ·  Buy This Paper

Colonization of Africa:

The occupation and control of one nation by another is defined as colonialism. Various European countries have colonized many areas of the world including North and South America, Asia, Africa, Australia, and the small islands around the world. Africa was colonized by different European nations between the late 19th century and late 20th century. Prior to the colonization, Europeans had had contact with Africa for long such as through the Atlantic Slave Trade. It was not until the late 19th century that they imposed a formal rule of law over Africa. Regardless of their ideologies, and administrative systems, most of the colonial states justified themselves in the name of civilization and pacification ("Colonialism" par, 3).

In Europe, the 19th century was a time of industrialization as many factories needed raw materials to be manufactured into marketable products. As a matter of fact, European nations sought both the source of raw materials and market for manufactured products in Africa. The major role in the colonization of Africa was due to the economic motivation ("Colonial Exploration par, 4).

During this period, competition among European countries arose due to nationalism. Each of the European countries had national pride and wanted to be strongly identified. This competition between European nations, which usually resulted in wars, was demonstrated in the competition over colonial expansion in Africa. This is one of the causes of the Scramble for Africa in the late 19th century, which culminated in the colonization of all African countries within twenty five years (i.e. 1885-1910). None of the major European countries particularly Britain, Germany and France wanted to be without colonies.

In the 19th century, there was a spread of ideologies of racial superiority in Europe. Europeans saw themselves as the most advanced civilization in the world and some viewed it as their responsibility to civilize the rest of the world. At that time, there were many inaccurate and racialized stereotypes of Africans which were used as the reason to justify colonialism in Africa by European nations.

In addition, colonialism in Africa concurred with the growth of Christian missionary activity in Africa. From the beginning of Christianity as a religion, parts of Africa including Ethiopia and Egypt were already home to Christians. Though Christianity was introduced to the rest of Africa only in the modern era, Christian missionary activity started seriously in the 19th century. European countries were becoming more engaged in Africa during the same period of time. Though the relationship between Christian missionary activity and colonialism is still debatable amongst historians, evidence suggests that many missionaries were supporting the colonization of African countries. This is despite the fact that they opposed the harsher aspects of colonialism. Missionaries who were proponents of colonialism believed that Europeans control would provide a political atmosphere that would assist missionary activity in Africa. Their support for colonialism played a significant role in legitimizing the colonial venture among the citizens of the colonizing powers in Europe.

Certain areas of Africa became colonies of European nations in two main ways. First of all, some African leaders were willing to sign agreements with European nations for different reasons. Some of the leaders saw it was to their advantage to gain European allies while others didn't have a clear understanding of what the treaties were about or the consequences of the agreements. Secondly, in cases where there was a large amount of resistance to colonial rule, military force was used.

This treaty making and territory claiming by European nations caused a competitive dash for terrain in Africa known as the Scramble for Africa. As a result, the then chancellor of Germany, Otto von Bismarck, set off a conference in 1884 for European nations to control the dash for African regions (Nosotro par, 4). The conference's main purposes were to assure European nations of access to various important trade routes (particularly along the Niger and Congo River basins), to restrain the in-house slave trade that was on going in some parts of Africa, to ban the import firearms into Africa and to discuss the occupation of territories in Africa. As a result of this conference, a treaty known as the Treaty of Berlin was signed. Almost 90% of Africa was under European control by 1900.

Due to colonialism, African borders shifted. In fact, the modern borders of African countries were imposed from the outside by European nations. Once these borders were drawn and territories claimed, European nations came up with plans for how to rule their acquired colonies. These plans by European nations to rule African territories are divided into four main ways in which European nations ruled African colonies:

Economic Companies:

European nations allowed the development of private companies, which were granted huge territories to manage Africa in the early days of colonialism. Businessmen who were attracted in utilizing the natural resources of the regions they were allowed to govern founded these companies. These private companies set up their own systems of taxation and labor recruitment. The European powers in return provided license for these companies because the companies were responsible for all the expenses related to setting up and governing the colonies. As a result, the European countries had the political benefit of having more colonies in Africa but not the expense. For example, the British East Africa Company colonized Kenya on behalf of Britain This Company, which was established in 1888, governed Kenya until 1893. Another example is the British South Africa Company, which was formed in 1887 and lasted longer than the British East African Company colonized three territories i.e. Nyasaland (Malawi), Northern Rhodesia (Zambia), and Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). The Company governed the three colonies until 1923.

However, these companies were ultimately unsuccessful because they were unable to generate steady profits for their shareholders. The cruel nature of company rule was met with opposition from Africans and missionaries and thus governing a colony was expensive. By 1924, most of the companies had withdrawn and this type of rule was replaced by diverse forms of European colonial governance.

Direct Rule:

This is one model of colonial rule used by France, Belgium, Germany, and Portugal in governing their African colonies. The policy of assimilation was used by these European powers which had centralized administrations that were usually located in urban centers. This policy meant that the colonialists were civilizing African societies so that they would be more like Europe. The European powers were therefore not negotiating governance with local African rulers and governments. The local authorities had an inferior position in these administrations. This type of rule (i.e. direct rule) also used the policy of divide and rule by putting into practice plans that intentionally weakened indigenous power networks and institutions.

Indirect Rule:

This system of governance, which was primarily used by Britain, used indigenous African rulers within the colonial administration. Though the local leaders maintained an inferior role, it was a more cooperative model than direct rule. Indirect rule understood that all Africans were organized as tribes with chiefs although not always the case. As a result, it increased divisions between ethnic groups and gave power to certain men.

Settler Rule:

This system of governance was used by colonialists in southern Africa. Settler rule encouraged European settlers to impose direct rule on their colonies. It also differed from other colonies in Africa because many European immigrants (who were not like missionaries or European colonial officials) settled in their colonies. The settlers had the intention of making the African colonies their permanent home. The settlers demanded special political and economic rights and protection in order to flourish in the colonies. The security and prosperity of the settlers depended on the economic development and political domination of the African population who outnumbered the settlers. This type of rule was exemplified by its unkind policies toward the native African population.

It was common in South Africa, Zimbabwe (formerly Southern Rhodesia), Zambia formerly Northern Rhodesia), Angola, Mozambique and Namibia (formerly South West Africa). These areas were colonized by settlers from Holland, Britain, Germany, and Portugal. It was also practiced in Kenya by Britain and in Algeria by France.

Despite the fact that Africa was geographically close to Europe as compared to all the other European colonies, it was the last to be colonized. This is because Africa is bordered by some of the harshest deserts on earth i.e. The Sahara in the north and Namib and Kalahari in the south. The most spectacular landscapes on earth are found in the Great Rift Valley, East of Africa, many of which are impenetrable. The Equatorial zone is covered by extensive rainforest and jungle ("The Dark Continent" par, 3). While seeking the coast, African rivers tend to be fast moving creating many impassable rapids and waterfalls because of the large plateau in the interior of Africa. Finally, Africa is also plagued by fascinating and horrific diseases. As a result of these situations, European colonies initially had an incredibly difficult time in penetrating into the interior of Africa until the 20th century's technological… [END OF PREVIEW]

South Africa Economy History Research Paper


Africa My Favorite Place in the World Essay


Colonialism in Africa Term Paper


Problems With Colonial Presence in Africa Essay


Colonization in India From English Term Paper


View 296 other related papers  >>

Cite This Research Paper:

APA Format

Colonization of Africa.  (2010, March 16).  Retrieved August 17, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/colonization-africa/395293

MLA Format

"Colonization of Africa."  16 March 2010.  Web.  17 August 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/colonization-africa/395293>.

Chicago Format

"Colonization of Africa."  Essaytown.com.  March 16, 2010.  Accessed August 17, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/colonization-africa/395293.