Was colonization useful to the Africans

The colonization of Africa

In the 15th century the world changed forever. Seafarers and inventors who manufactured new navigation devices played a part in this. The ships were also built to be more stable and suitable for the ocean. With these modern ships and devices, Portuguese sailors were able to explore other parts of the world. It was only a stone's throw from Portugal to Africa. The Portuguese sailed along the west coast of Africa. What was your goal? They wanted to explore the sea route to India to buy gold, spices and silk. The most famous and courageous sailors were Bartolomeo Diaz, who came to the Cape of Good Hope, and Vasco da Gama, whom you can see in the picture on the left. Vasco da Gama was the first European to reach India! The seafarers were followed by traders and adventurers who set up trading posts on the African coasts.

Adventurers and missionaries explore the interior of the continent

Missionaries set foot on African soil in the 16th and 17th centuries. Most stayed on the coast and built churches and schools. Some penetrated into the interior of the continent along the rivers. The Christian missionaries set about converting southern Africa to Christianity. They built churches and schools, and forced the locals to send the children to their schools. In schools they should learn everything about the new religion and the Christian God and learn to calculate and write. In this way they made the children future helpers of their colonial interests. Part of the population resisted the new rulers, another part wanted to acquire the new language and western knowledge. Because whoever could build such ships, owned firearms and developed railways ruled the world. But the knowledge gap between the Europeans and the Africans was too great. So it came about that three hundred years later a large part of Africa was ruled by Europeans.

The race for Africa

By 1880 the Portuguese, Spaniards, English and French had expanded their African trading posts into colonies. The industrial revolution sparked an insatiable hunger for raw materials. The resource-rich countries were particularly sought-after, which is why bitter fighting between the French and the British broke out on African soil. Whoever had access to gold, copper and other precious metals, ivory, rubber, coffee or precious woods became the new world power. Most sought after were the "gold countries" in the west of Africa, including Mali and Ghana, as well as Congo and the areas in southern Africa because of ivory, rubber and precious woods. In East Africa, Kenya and Tanzania were coveted countries for their agricultural wealth. When Germany, Belgium and Italy also claimed colonial territories, a real race for Africa began.

Africa is being divided

1884 was a fateful year for Africa. It was decided on German soil how Africa should be divided among Europeans. In 1884, the German Chancellor, Count Otto von Bismarck, invited all European leaders to a conference in Berlin. The divided Europeans should peacefully divide the African continent among themselves. They demarcated the areas on the map with a ruler and decided which country got which African areas. The politicians ignored the fact that many African peoples were torn apart. Not a single African was present at this "Congo Conference" and could do something about it!

The colonies

On the map on the left you can see that all blue areas belonged to France and all red areas to Great Britain. They were the greatest colonial powers. They drew a large part of their wealth from the colonies. Germany's areas are shown in brown: they were large areas in today's Cameroon, Tanzania and Namibia. The huge Congo area in the middle of the continent was claimed by the Belgian king. He ruled the most terrible rule over African peoples. Two African countries were not colonized: Abyssinia, today's Ethiopia, and Liberia.


The special case of Ethiopia

In 1935, Italian troops under Benuto Mussolini marched into Ethiopia, which was then called Abyssinia. In the so-called Abyssinia War, the capital Addis Ababa quickly fell into Italian hands. The Italian king took over the Ethiopian imperial title. The Italian army only conquered part of the country. Especially the inaccessible mountain regions remained under Ethiopian rule. The Ethiopians therefore regard Italian rule as only a temporary occupation. To this day they claim that their country, as the only one on the continent, was never a colony. In reality, however, the Italian colonial powers ruled the empire for several decades. Therefore, this area is not completely light green, but striped light green. The Italian colonial powers locked resistance fighters in concentration camps and committed terrible atrocities against the population.

 More about Ethiopia

Why Liberia Wasn't Colonized

Liberia is the small, white spot on the west coast of Africa. The country has only existed since slavery was abolished. The area once belonged to the colony of Sierra Leone. When the slaves were freed in America, the question arose where the freed should settle. This is where the American Colonization Society comes into play. This society wanted to enable freed slaves to return to Africa. To do this, she bought part of Sierra Leone from the British colonial rulers. Exactly the area that is on the coast. Liberated slaves could settle here. In 1821 they founded the city of Monrovia, and soon other settlements and towns sprang up. The country was called Liberia, which means "the land of the liberated". It became the first republic on the African continent.

 More about Liberia

What exactly does colonization mean?

Initially, European rulers appeared as a protective power against African royal houses. When African peoples were at odds with one another, the Europeans interfered and supplied the "protected" people with weapons. In return for taxes, the Europeans promised to set up a local administration and build roads. For this, the Europeans were allowed to mine natural resources such as gold, copper and other raw materials in the African country. The construction of the railroad in the colonies accelerated the removal of the mineral resources. The local population was amazed when they saw the first steam locomotive drive through the country. Some wondered what higher power brought such a miracle to the whites. For the Europeans, the railroad turned out to be profitable. Week after week the valuable mineral resources were removed from the country and transported to Europe. Europeans got rich while the natives lived in poverty. When Europeans made indigenous people use forced labor, the situation of the African population worsened. There were first uprisings by African resistance fighters. The struggle lasted about a century until almost all African peoples were able to free themselves from the colonial powers and become independent. In the photo on the right you can see the French Minister for Colonies, M.Moutet, who is visiting Dakar.

This is how the slave trade worked