Scramble for Africa

Explorations in Africa

The Portuguese were the first to chart the coast of West Africa.

They had heard wonderful tales of kingdoms in the interiors of Africa and were keen to find new markets for their products.

Prince Henry of Portugal funded navigators to chart the coast of Africa.

They started trading goods with African Kings, later slaves were included and eventually, this developed into the transatlantic slave trade.

 The Portuguese set up trading posts along the coast of Africa and already established African trading cities were destroyed and their prosperity  halted.

The African Kingdoms which had thrived on trade between each other and the rest of the world were now in decline.

Scramble for Africa

 Other European countries joined Portugal in the trade with Africa. At first they traded only at their colonies coast because of their fears of disease and wild animals in the interiors, but with advancement in medicine and transport, this situation was soon to change.

The British led the way by settling inlands; the Boers also moved into South Africa. By the 1890s, there began a rush to control the whole of Africa and seven European nations carved up the continent between themselves. Only Liberia and Ethiopia remained independent.

The Berlin conference of 1884 gave the Europeans the power to divide Africa among themselves.


·Any resistance by the Africans were crushed by large and well equipped armies, spears were no match for cannons.
·African traditional ways of life were disregarded.
·Unnatural boundaries were created e.g. Nigeria created with over 250 ethnic groups and major religious differences.
·Africans were forced to work in mines and plantations as cheap labour.
·Africans were used as cheap labour to grow tea, coffee, cocoa, and cotton for export to Europe.
·White settlers hunted many species of animals for sports, in some cases almost to extinction.
·Large parts of the rainforests were destroyed.
·Apartheid was introduced in some areas e.g. South Africa.
·Africans were considered sub-humans.
·Apart from the British and Germans, other Europeans treated the Africans as slaves on their own land.

After colonisation

Quick facts
·Most African countries gained their independence in the 1960s and 1970s.
·Some had to use force to gain independence.
·The countries had to work out a system of government, law, education, transport and health services.
·Colonial boundaries grouped peoples of different races, cultures and religions together.
·These borders remained unchanged after independence.
·These have led to constant conflicts e.g. civil wars and ethnic groups rivalry (Congo, Nigeria, Rwanda).
·Some countries operate Sharia and national laws (Nigeria).

  Many lives were lost in areas where the resident Whites had wanted to stay in control (South Africa).

Things fell apart for the Africans and in most parts the centre has never been able to hold since then. 

Scramble for Africa timeline 

1880 - King of
Belgium claims
the Congo as
his own personal
1882 - Britain takes
control of Egypt
to secure access
to the Suez Canal
1884 - African divided
among 7 European
countries at the
Berlin Conference
1889- The British
conquer the Matabele,
take their land and
call it Rhodesia
1891- Tanganyika
becomes a German
1893 - Mali is seized
by the French
1894 - Uganda
becomes a British
1895 - Kenya is
seized by
the British
1897 – Benin punitive expedition by the British
1899 - start of the
Boer Wars. Britain and
the Boer people
want control of
Southern Africa
1912 - Morrocco
 is divided into
Spanish and
French protectorates
1914- The Kingdom of Benin crown is restored by the British after death of exiled king.

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