History of Africa

sharing of africa

The Sharing Africa is the name by which the division of the African continent was known during the 19th century and which ended with the Berlin Conference (1884-1885).

With the economic growth of England, France, the Kingdom of Italy and the German Empire, these countries wanted to advance into Africa in search of raw materials for their industries.

How did it happen?

Countries like Portugal were already on the continent since the 16th century. They used Africa as a supplier of slave labor, in a lucrative trade in which England, Spain, France and Denmark participated.

The European expansion to the African continent, in the 19th century, was justified by public opinion as the need to “civilize” this territory.

In the 19th century, there was a belief in the superiority of races and civilizations. Theories such as Auguste Comte's Positivism and Social Darwinism corroborated this idea.

Thus, it was necessary to make the “backward” Africans, according to European molds, civilized.

News from the African continent reached Europe through reports of expeditions that had different purposes:

  • Scientific expeditions :mapping the terrain, measuring the geographic and botanical potential, and detailing the many ethnic groups that inhabited the continent.
  • Commercial Shipments :knowing the local raw material and evaluating the possibilities of exploitation.
  • Religious expeditions :ending polytheism, with anthropophagy and establishing Christianity.

Thus, we realized that economic, religious and cultural aspects influenced the desire for possession of the territory.

For the European, it was necessary to "save" the African from savagery, from backwardness and from practices that were considered reprehensible in the Old World. This kind of imperialist behavior underpinned the myth of the "white man's burden" and eugenics.

See also:Imperialism in Africa


At the same time, the territories were gradually being invaded by European nations. See below how was the occupation of Africa by the European powers:


After the independence of Brazil, Portugal managed to keep its African possessions such as Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea and Mozambique.

The country will have problems with Belgium, England and Germany that wanted to expand their territories in Africa, over Portuguese territories.

See also:Portuguese Africa


Spain occupied the Canary Islands, Ceuta, Western Sahara and Melilla. To supply its Caribbean colonies with slaves, it relied on the trade made by the Portuguese, French and Danes. Later, the country would invade Equatorial Guinea (1778).


King Leopold II of Belgium, established the International Association of Africa in 1876. Said organization aimed to explore the territory corresponding to the Congo that would become his personal property.

The country also occupies Rwanda and there it establishes a system of ethnic division between Hutus and Tutsis that will have disastrous consequences in the future in the Genocide in Rwanda (1994).


The United Kingdom was the greatest economic power of the 19th century due to the Industrial Revolution. However, it needed more cheap raw materials to keep pace with its growth.

England was occupying territories such as present-day Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa. Such was the certainty of English superiority that the idea of ​​building a railway linking Cairo and Cape Town was nurtured.

For this, the country invades areas between these territories such as Kenya, Sudan, Zimbabwe and will come into conflict with practically all other European countries in order to maintain or expand its possessions.


France occupied the territory of Senegal in 1624 in order to guarantee the supply of slaves to its colonies in the Caribbean.

Throughout the 18th century, its navigators occupied several islands in the Indian Ocean such as Madagascar, Mauritius, Comoros and Réunion.

However, it was in the 19th century that he managed, between 1819 and 1890, to conclude 344 treaties with African chiefs. Thus they occupied Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Chad, Mali, Togo, Benin, Sudan, Ivory Coast, Central African Republic, Djibouti, Burkina Faso and Niger.

In addition to facing the inhabitants who did not accept the invasion, the French fought several wars against the Germans, as they wanted to take their possessions.

See also:War in Algeria


The Dutch occupation began in present-day Ghana, called the Dutch Gold Coast. There, they remained until 1871 when they sold the possession to the British.

Through private investors, the Dutch began to explore the Congo in 1857.

However, it was in South Africa that the Dutch stayed longer. There, they had established a supply station in present-day Cape Town in 1652.

When the territory was conquered by the British, the Dutch were expelled in 1805, but they still stayed in South Africa and would enter into several conflicts with the British, such as the Boer War (1880-1881/1899-1902).


After Italian Unification, Italy sets out to conquer the world. However, without a powerful army, the country occupies the territories of Erythea, part of Somalia and Libya.

Attempts to conquer the kingdom of Ethiopia, but this was helped by France and Russia. It will only do so in the 1930s under the command of Benito Mussolini.


Germany wanted to secure its fair share of markets in Africa. After German unification in 1870, any European decision had to go through the powerful Chancellor Bismarck.

As there were already many disputes over borders between European powers, Bismarck invited representatives of the main colonial powers to discuss the course of African occupation.

This event would be known as the Berlin Conference. Germany occupied the territories corresponding to Tanzania, Namibia and Cameroon.

Berlin Conference

In order to avoid wars between European powers over African territories, Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck convened a meeting with representatives of European countries that had possessions in Africa. No African representatives were invited.

The Berlin Conference (1884-1885) consisted of an agreement that aimed to recognize the borders of already occupied territories and establish rules for future occupations on the African continent.

Among its directives was the need for one nation to communicate to another when it took possession of a territory. You also had to prove that you could manage it.


Before the Scramble for Africa, African kingdoms were within natural boundaries defined according to the ethnic groups that made up these kingdoms.

The African states were traced by artificial borders according to the will of the European colonizer. In this way, enemy ethnicities had to live within the same territory causing bloody civil wars.

The European occupation provoked resistance and insurrections from nations that were massacred during the 20th century.

Likewise, through the European vision, the myth spread that Africans are cursed for not accepting Christianity and therefore are not able to prosper.

Currently, the African continent is the poorest in the world and there is still strong pressure on Africa's natural resources, such as oil, gold, phosphate and diamonds.

Read more about the African continent :

  • Pre-Colonial Africa
  • End the African Slave Trade
  • General Aspects of Africa
  • Countries of Africa
  • Decolonization of Africa
  • Economy of Africa
  • African Culture
  • Hunger in Africa
  • Imperialism in Asia
  • Imperialism and Colonialism

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