Africa and The Fight for Imperialism

How did a competition between individuals, class, nations, and cultures stimulate and permeate the Scramble for Africa and support for imperialism after 1860? Was imperialism, such as Leopold’s control over the Congo, or Danny and Peachy taking over Kafiristan, and Rhodes dominating Southern Africa Inevitable?

The scramble for Africa was a period of incursion, annexation, and colonization of the African continent by European nations. Many states in the world experienced imperialism during European invasion and subsequent colonization.  The motive for colonialism was to gain and control a supply of raw materials, labor and markets for their industries. The weaker nations with abundant natural resources were therefore colonized. Imperialist were often brutal and ruthless to the indigenous African population. The industrial revolution in Europe led to improved farming methods which resulted in increased food production and population. Widespread Industrialization created a high demand for raw materials and market among the nations in Europe leading to colonization of Africa to acquire resources for their industries. The industrial revolution coupled with technological advancement boosted European and American confidence and national pride. They felt that they had cultivated a superior culture and they had a duty to civilize the dark continent. France and Britain perceived colonization as a way of civilizing the African societies while other imperialists believed that colonization was essential for their nation’s economic development.

Imperialist motivations in Africa was advanced by the expansion of competitive trade links in Europe. They aimed at establishing and securing commercial link with African nations and protect them from their counterparts. The industrial revolution had profound economic impacts.  There was mass production of goods caused by scientific inventions in various fields of agriculture. The European nations were therefore continually searching for new markets for surplus production ( Besides, Europeans nations also required labour and raw materials, such as cotton, palm oil and iron for their industries. Competition between nations was accompanied by a concentration of capital, labour force, and companies within specific sectors. This under consumption led to industries a nation to search for new trading opportunities in Africa in exchange for tropical goods. For instance, Britain wanted to acquire palm oil from the Gambia and was used to create industrial lubricants. Powerful capitalistic welfares pushed European powers to send punitive expeditions in Africa.

African imperialism also resulted from European rivalries, where Britain and France had been in a dispute. France was believed to be the most powerful European nation before the Franco Prussian war. However, after the war, France was defeated in the hands of a small nation, Germany, under the unification of Sir Bismarck. Humiliated by this defeat, and the loss of her rich mineral provinces, Alsace and Lorrain, France turned her attention to West Africa where she acquired eight territories. Militarism also fanned imperialism in Africa. Military officers in Europe sought promotion and glory which could only be acquired by defeating African nations. The colonial expansionist war gave them such chances to be promoted and knighted. For instance, British armies such as Wolseley Kitchener reinforced the expansion of the British territory in African and was later promoted to General Kitchener (KOPONEN).

Public opinion also led to the scramble of Africa. During the 18th century, most European nation had become democratic and thus gave in to public demand. The public demanded that they wanted overseas colonies, and for the government to remain in power they had to acquire the colonies. For instance, due to public demand, the French assembly was obliged to sanction De Brazza’s accord with chief Makoko thereby establishing the French colony in Congo.  In Britain, the public demanded that Britain must uphold her leading position in acquiring territories in Africa. Influential men in Europe also financed their mother nations during their invasion and colonization of Africa.

European nations adopted the theory of Charles Darwin and coined it social Darwinism. The whites believed that they had cultivated a superior culture and thus it was their duty to civilize the dark continent. The scramble for Africa was stimulated by European perception of spreading western civilization, culture, and education in the dark continent. Africans were regarded as backward people and illiterate. King Leopold professed that his main purpose of occupying Congo is to spread the light of European culture in the territory.   African culture was regarded as barbaric and their faith as primitive. The missionaries were sent to respective colonies to convert Africans to Christianity. However, the missionaries acted as wider colonial agents by reporting what they explored in Africa.

The spirit of nationalism spread in Europe during the 19th century. Nations developed a spirit of national pride in acquiring overseas colonies for national prestige. Having conquered France, Germany wanted to show her newly acquired power through the acquisition of territories in Africa. Thus, powerful European nations pursed African territories for fame and prestige. During the 19th century, the affluent of exploration was activated to a greater degree by the creation of the African Association by wealthy influential men. Henry Morton was hired by King Leopold of Belgium to sign treaties with the local chiefs along River Congo with an aim of establishing his territory. Stanley’s mission triggered a rush response from European explores such as Karl Peters to do the same for their mother countries.  The industrial revolution resulted in increased pupation. The immense growth of the European population forced governments to search for new outlets to resettle the surplus population.  For instance, Britain settled some of her citizens in America.

Humanitarians in Europe such as William Wilberforce travelled to Africa with an aim of replacing slave trade with legitimate trade. However, after their campaign against slavery, many European nations remained in various parts of Africa and established their dominion. In addition, unemployment in Europe motivated scramble of Africa. The inventions of machines replaced humans labour thus rendering most people jobless. Consequently, European nations started to search for territories where they could begin industries and employ their citizens to limit the issue of unemployment. Besides, mass production results in increased profit among the industrializing powers. The nations, therefore, necessitated outlets to invest the surplus capital. Africa served as the most appropriate region to invest since there existed cheap raw materials and limited competition.

Imperialism in Congo by Leopold was investable. Free trade was to be developed in the Congo Basins and there was to be free navigation both in Congo and Niger (JOHNSON).  The Berlin conference eased the process of colonization by avoiding war outbreak between the conflicting powers.  The annexation of Congo dispensed a future political and economic subversion. Congo turned to be entirely beleaguered by poverty and political tyranny. Cecil Rhodes believed that the Englishmen were the greatest human specimen in the world and that his rule would be a benefit to all. He expanding the British empire as a God-given task. The notion about the existence of deep pockets of minerals in South Africa forced Rhodes to sigh mining treaties with the local chiefs leading to the subsequent colonization.

Works Cited


KOPONEN, JUHANI. “The Partition of Africa: A Scramble for a Mirage.” Nordic Journal of African Studies 2(1): 117–135 (1993) (1993): 1-19. Scramble for Africa: How the African continent became divided. November 2012. 2018.

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