Greed placed over Humanity.
The Berlin Conference of 1884, which regulated European colonization and trade in Africa, is usually referred to as the starting point of the Conquest of Africa. During this period, the land was divided amongst the European elite, without one African representative present. Original African nations was divided in the name of “progress”.
Consequent to the political and economic rivalries among the European empires in the last quarter of the 19th century, the partitioning of Africa was how the Europeans avoided warring amongst themselves over Africa.
The “Scramble for Africa” was the invasion, occupation, colonization and annexation of African territory by European powers during the period of New Imperialism, between 1881 and 1914. It is also called the Partition of Africa and the Conquest of Africa. In 1870, only 10 percent of Africa was under European control; by 1914 it had increased to 90 percent of the continent, with only Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and Liberia still being independent. The only colony the United States had claim to was Liberia which was established by the American Colonization Society on January 7, 1822.
The occupation of Egypt, and the acquisition of the Congo were the first major moves in what came to be a precipitous scramble for African territory. In 1884, Otto von Bismarck convened the 1884–85 Berlin Conference to discuss the African problem. The diplomats put on a humanitarian façade by condemning the slave trade, prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages and firearms in certain regions, and by expressing concern for missionary activities. More importantly, the diplomats in Berlin laid down the rules of competition by which the great powers were to be guided in seeking colonies. They also agreed that the area along the Congo River was to be administered by Léopold II of Belgium as a neutral area, known as the Congo Free State, in which trade and navigation were to be free. No nation was to stake claims in Africa without notifying other powers of its intentions. No territory could be formally claimed prior to being effectively occupied. However, the competitors ignored the rules when convenient and on several occasions war was only narrowly avoided.
Africa and global markets:
The latter years of the 19th century saw the transition from “informal imperialism” (hegemony), by military influence and economic dominance, to the direct rule of a people which brought about colonial imperialism.
Sub-Saharan Africa, one of the last regions of the world largely untouched by “informal imperialism”, was also attractive to Europe’s ruling elites for economic, political and social reasons. During a time when Britain’s balance of trade showed a growing deficit, with shrinking and increasingly protectionist continental markets due to the Long Depression (1873–96), Africa offered Britain, Germany, France, and other countries an open market that would garner them a trade surplus: a market that bought more from the colonial power than it sold overall. Britain, like most other industrial countries, had long since begun to run an unfavorable balance of trade (which was increasingly offset, however, by the income from overseas investments).
In addition, surplus capital was often more profitably invested overseas, where cheap materials, limited competition, and abundant raw materials made a greater premium possible. Another inducement for imperialism arose from the demand for raw materials unavailable in Europe, especially copper, cotton, rubber, palm oil,cocoa, diamonds, tea, and tin, to which European consumers had grown accustomed and upon which European industry had grown dependent. Additionally, Britain wanted the southern and eastern coasts of Africa for stopover ports on the route to Asia and its empire in India.
However, in Africa – excluding the area which became the Union of South Africa in 1910 – the amount of capital investment by Europeans was relatively small, compared to other continents. Consequently, the companies involved in tropical African commerce were relatively small, apart from Cecil Rhodes‘s De Beers Mining Company. Rhodes had carved out Rhodesia for himself; Léopold II of Belgium later, and with considerable brutality, exploited the Congo Free State. These events might detract from the pro-imperialist arguments of colonial lobbies such as the Alldeutscher Verband, Francesco Crispi and Jules Ferry, who argued that sheltered overseas markets in Africa would solve the problems of low prices and over-production caused by shrinking continental markets.
William Easterly of New York University, however, disagrees with the link made between capitalism and imperialism, arguing that colonialism is used mostly to promote state-led development rather than “corporate” development. He has stated that “imperialism is not so clearly linked to capitalism and free markets… historically there has been a closer link between colonialism/imperialism and state-led approaches to development.”
What’s terribly sad about this is that it still has an enormous effect on the current political climate in Africa, they’ve never truly recovered. – Noah Kelly
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