Scramble for Africa

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What were the major historical factors explaining ‘the scramble for Africa’? In order to approach this essay question, my analysis will be divided into two parts. The first section will define what the scramble for Africa means. In the subsequent sections, I will refer to the case history of colonization of Africa by some European countries, the motives behind their actions and its consequences on Africa particularly. The scramble for Africa was described as the golden period of European expansionism in the 19th century. It was an age in which the continents of Africa, Asia and Middle Eastern states were brought under the control of European powers following the Berlin Conference from 1884 to 1885. Hobsbawm (1987: 56) describes the period as an era of empire since it evolved out a new type of imperialism which is based on an ancient notion referred to as the age of “emperors”. It was a period in which European superpower nations such as Great Britain, France, and Portugal, to mention but a few, emerged economically strong following rapid industrialisation, with the objective to pursue national interests overseas. The scramble for Africa started when the benefit of industrial revolution gave rise to unprecedented expansion in the production of goods and services, which needed to be exported to outlandish markets. For the partition and the haggling that went it did not come out of the blue. It was orchestrated by a combination of factors and conditions under which European powers faced in their metropolitan countries at the time. Having lost their North and South American colonies, Australasia and the Pacific rim interests at the turn of the century, the European powers turned their searchlight to Africa, Asia and the Middle East for new markets by consolidating previously held trading posts and sea route communications and grabbing new territories along the way; hence the scramble for Africa. The partition has been described as one of the most important turning points in the history of the relationships between the “Haves” which signifies the industrialised European powers versus the “Have-nots” that represents the tropical Africa and the countries of Asia and the Middle East (Padmore, 1972: 7). According to Padmore (1972: 162) “… colonial policy was giving birth to by rich states where the flow of money is abundant. As well as the constant increasing of capital, the manufacturing sector is becoming an independent body as most of the population works within the industry. Exportation is almost pivotal …” Still, Jules Ferry, “who can fittingly be described as the father of French Imperialism, whilst addressing the Chamber of Deputies in 1885, summed up the need for colonies as follows: Is it not clear that the great States of modern Europe, the moment their industrial power is found, are confronted with an immense and difficult problem, which is the basis of industrial life, the very condition of existence – the question of markets? … Can we say that this colonial policy is a luxury for modern nations? Not at all … this policy is for all of us, a necessity, the market itself” (p. 161). Ferry’s encapsulation of what the partition of Africa meant for the French and his fellow European powers are quite instructive here. Similarly, continental echoes of the partition policy were heard in ascending order. In the Island of Great Britain, Mr Joseph Chamberlain, who was a mayor in Birmingham as well as previously a proponent of liberal notions before he became part of the zealous winners of Toryism, accepted that “a forward policy of colonial expansion in Africa was now the order of the day”. He stated that: “it is the duty of the State to foster the trade and obtain markets for its manufactures” (p. 164). In 1855 at Germany when Bismarck was addressing the Reichstag, he asserted that: “The goal of Germany’s foreign policy was to be economically independent. Colonies would provide new markets for German industries, the...
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