European Colonization of Africa

The European colonization of Africa during the 17th through 20th centuries had many positive and negative impacts on world nations and cultures; some lasting to present day. The “Scramble” or “Race” for Africa resulted from the process of invasion, occupation, and colonization of the African continent by European countries looking to expand their world influence and increase their fortunes (, 2012). Europe’s exploration and settlement of Africa was originally limited to the coast. The African interior was much harder to access for Europeans because of the rough terrain, hostile natives, and disease risks.

As technological advancements improved and industrialism took over, European advancements in transportation, communication, and medicines to treat malaria allowed Europeans access to parts of Africa they hadn’t been able to colonize previously. The first representatives of European countries in Africa were most often missionaries interested in ministering to the pagan tribes. One of their main goals was to stop the slave trade that had done so much damage previously.

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to establish permanent settlements along the coasts of Africa in the 15th century.

Portugal competed with Britain and France to control large areas of Africa while Italy and Germany held much smaller parcels. Scholars note that there seemed to be a sense of self-esteem building as countries raced to control territories that were much larger than themselves (, 2012). Otto von Bismark, the German Chancellor, initiated the West African Conference in 1884. Ambassadors from many countries attended and agreed to notify all participating countries of any new African conquests.

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Europe’s colonizing nations felt drawn to Africa for its natural resources. Europe’s industrialization needed raw materials to continue, and many of its countries were also interested in civilizing and converting Africans to Christianity, and ending the slave trade (Nosotro, 2010). Unfortunately, one major result of the European colonization of Africa was the mistreatment of native Africans by colonizers. The Belgian Congo is one example of the abuses of native Africans by European settlers. Leopold II of Belgium had been charged with getting the Belgian Congo colony up and running. In doing so, Leopold allowed the natives to be treated like animals and slaves. He
used the area as his private asset and exploited the lands despite the cost to natives. When rumors reached home that there were problems in the colony, truths began to surface. Although the British and the French were guilty of African native abuse, none were as severe as what happened in the Belgian Congo. The most significant effect of European colonization was the increase in slave trade. Although they eventually worked to end slavery, Europe’s colonies actually increased the trade of slaves in early years.

The slave trade numbers increased dramatically as Europeans bought slaves to work on their plantations in North, South, and Middle America. Great Britain eventually outlawed slave trade in Africa in 1807, and then outlawed the act of slavery in 1834. Their ships patrolled the African coast watching for slave ships as the European interest in Africa grew. Another long-term result of European colonization of Africa came from the missionary work completed in the colonies there. Protestant and Catholic missionaries built hospitals and provided medical care, educated native African at mission schools, and translated the bible into African languages in order to allow Africans access to Christianity. European colonization also resulted in an uneven distribution of wealth among African people. Because European colonies were mainly located on the coast, the coastal forest natives gained wealth and power far superior to the people of the inland savanna. Coastal colonies rose up to be most powerful while the interior colonies’ powers declined (Healy, 1994). One other notable result of European colonization came from the different type of government introduced to African natives. European style government was very different, and sometimes even contrary, to the traditional direct access culture the Africans were accustomed to. An exception to the coastal colony rule happened in Cape Town Colony in South Africa where the Dutch actually made some notable movements toward colonizing Africa’s interior. Settlers here began to move inward cultivating plantations and using Asian slaves for labor. Dutch planters had an advantage in South Africa because the weather there was milder. There were also less risks of disease for European settlers, and the area was less populated by natives. The long term effect of European colonization in the South was significant because it resulted in centuries of white rule and separation of the races. South Africa was the last country in Africa to throw off white rule (Healy, 1994). We see the effects of European
colonization of Africa even today. Scholars feel that Africa has struggled and failed to develop compared to other parts of the world because of the psychological effects of European colonization. Despite efforts locally and internationally, Africa is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. They make a comparison between Africa and Asia which are the two poorest world economies.

Both of these areas were colonized but Asia is pulling ahead and developing quickly to compete with developed nations. Africa on the other hand, is still struggling. Economists feel that the way Africa was colonized plays a part in its ability to advance in development. During Asia’s colonization, Asians were more likely to participate in government, their culture was preserved, and their sense of culture was left mostly undisturbed. Africans experienced a very different sort of colonization. In Africa, the native governing systems and sense of culture were destroyed during colonization. To make matters worse, the idea that blacks were inferior to whites was pushed so strongly that blacks began to suffer from an inferiority complex that is evident even today (Abdulai, 2009). On the whole, European colonization of Africa did more damage than good. Europeans left African colonies underdeveloped by exploiting Africa’s natural resources without developing the support system African’s needed to continue development on their own. But, there’s still hope. “Despite the devastating effects of colonization, Africa as a whole has emerged scarred but not broken. ” (Young, 2007) Works Cited

Abdulai, J. (2009). Psychological Effects of Colonization Haunt Africa. Retrieved January 19, 2012, from The African Executive: (2012). Scramble for Africa. Retrieved January 18, 2012, from Healy, M. (1994). Sub-Saharan Africa. Retrieved January 18, 2012, from harper College Website: Nosotro, R. (2010). Europe’s Colonization of Africa. Retrieved January 18, 2012, from Young, B. (2007). Broadview Entertainment Arts University Website. Retrieved
January 19, 2012, from The Long Tern Consequences of the Colonization of Africa:

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