1European interest in Africa Grows

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Imperialism and Its Effect on Modern Africa

1European interest in Africa Grows

European interest in Africa begins in the early 1800s when they begin to trade extensively for salt and gold with West African Kingdoms in the north, while the south western coast provided Europe with slaves for the slave trade. Europeans rarely traveled inland for trade. Land routes were dangerous because of diseases and the possibility of fights with the African and Arab forces that controlled Africa’s interior trade routes.

  • In the mid to late 1800s, European governments, companies and churches begin to explore Africa’s interior to establish trade routes, take control of land, and to convert the African’s to Christianity.

  • European countries were beginning to colonize and make claims on the lands. This will lead to disagreements and conflicts between countries.

2Imperialism and the Berlin Conference – 1884-1885

To avoid conflicts over African lands, European leaders meet in Berlin to make claims on lands and establish trading monopolies. A monopoly is one area in which only one government or company has the right to trade.

  • No African leaders were present at the Berlin Conference.

  • African lands were partitioned and new borders were put in place, establishing African colonies.

  • These colonies were controlled by Spain, Belgium, Portugal, France, Great Britain, and Italy from the 1880 to the late 1900s.

  • European countries began to aggressively claim lands in Africa. It was described as the “Scramble for Africa

3Colonial Rule

European countries wanted to access the continents large supply of resources at cheap prices. It is much more expensive to have to trade for the resources than to establish a colony and take the resources.

  • Africa is rich in gold, diamonds, ivory, rubber, coffee, cotton, and cocoa

  • The companies built roads and railroads to access the resources and take them back to Europe

  • Many African were forced into slave labor. Five to eight million Africans were died at the hands of the Europeans by the beginning of 1900.

4Two countries remained independent of colonial rule

  • Ethiopia

    • Italy tried to gain control of Ethiopia but was defeated by the Ethiopians.

  • Liberia

    • Located on Africa’s west coast, Liberia was a recognized independent country. It was established by freed slaves from the United States who returned to Africa.

5Modern Africa

  • Prior to World War II (1939 – 1945), many African nations were forced to become colonies of European nations. Many European powers emerged weak and poor from WWII and could no longer afford their African Colonies.

  • In 1957, Ghana became the first nation located south of the Sahara to gain independence (from Great Britain), and by 1990 all African nations had declared their independence.

6Ethnic Conflict and dictatorship

  • When Europeans colonized an area they did not take into consideration the ethnic groups in Africa, they considered everyone to be African.

  • As a result, the independent nations contained hundreds of different ethnic groups. This caused tensions between different groups who were forced into one country.

  • Many one-party states allowed military dictatorships to take control of their governments who forced the ethnic groups to live in peace.

7Apartheid in South Africa

  • Although the majority of the population of South Africa is black, a government of only white people ruled the nation until 1994, when black citizens were given the right to vote.

  • Nelson Mandela becomes the first black leader of South Africa.

  • The system of apartheid forced blacks, whites, Asians, and mixed races to live separately.

8AIDS Crisis

In the 1980s a global health crisis developed with the spread of AIDS, a fatal condition caused by the HIV virus that causes a collapse of the immune system. This “modern plague” hit African countries harder than anywhere else. In several countries more than one-fourth of the adult population is infected.


  • Africa is rich in natural resources but remains the poorest continent. Many African governments enforce trade practices that are unfair to citizens, but make the government rich.

  • Poor farming conditions have forced many African countries to import food supplies to feed their citizens that live in areas that farming is not possible.

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