Economic Reasons for Imperialism

Topics: Africa, East Africa, British Empire Pages: 5 (1218 words) Published: October 13, 2012
Faculty of Arts and Social sciences DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SCIENCES



The motives behind imperialism and colonialism in Africa were purely economic. Discuss.

NUMBER: 1021356
DATE: 26/09/2012


The reasons behind European imperialism in Africa were purely economic. Though there were other reasons, economic reasons can be argued to be core reasons that drove Europeans towards Africa. The economic reasons for European imperialism in Africa were: i. To acquire raw materials and cheap labour

ii. To create new markets
iii. To invest surplus capital
iv. To control foreign trade
v. To export industrial technology and transportation.

Europeans, economically, were driven to Africa in the search of raw materials. Explorers, missionaries reported to their home governments on the vast raw materials available in Africa. It was also widely believed that Africa had vast quantities of raw materials. These raw materials were needed to feed the thriving industries in Europe which had grown rapidly as a result of industrialization. The factory system set up in Europe required raw materials in order to facilitate production. The raw materials gathered from Africa varied from one region to another. In West Africa the raw materials acquired were gold, cocoa, salt and spices. Among these gold was the most sought after due to its high commercial value. In East Africa the raw materials acquired were tea, coffee, soda ash and pyrethrum. In central Africa particularly in the Congo the Belgians benefited from the vast mineral deposits in the Congo. In South Africa the British South African Company (BSACo.) also benefited from the gold, Platinum and diamond deposits in the region. Closer to South Africa in the north Northern Rhodesia had large copper deposits which the British mined and exported back to Europe. Other than the acquisition of raw materials the Europeans were driven to the continent to acquire cheap labour. The Europeans through their imposition of their harsh rule forced Africans to work in the mines, factories and farms where the Europeans extracted raw materials. Such labour was available in large amounts as large populations of Africans could be easily sourced to provide labour. Africans provided this labour at a minimal cast or no cost at all. The Europeans thus saved a lot of money in wages and salaries when acquiring labour from the Africans as compared to acquiring it from Europeans. Thus the possibility of acquiring cheap raw materials and labour provided a source of economic motivation to the European imperialism in Africa. CREATION OF NEW MARKETS

The Europeans wanted to expand their foreign markets worldwide. Africa was considered unchartered territory and the Europeans so Africa as a viable market for its goods and products. Industrialization brought about increased production of goods in Europe. European markets were exhausted and flooded with goods which could not be consumed. Economically supply was higher than demand in Europe. The Europeans thus brought their goods in Africa and sold them to Africans. However it should be noted that Africans were in most cases not willing to buy these goods but were forced to buy these European goods. The Europeans thus managed to establish the African market. They made huge profits by selling their goods at exploitative prices amassing huge profits which were repatriated back to Europe resulting in the growth of European economies. From these it can be seen that raw materials acquired from Africa were used in the production of goods which were brought back to Africa and sold as finished products. This was the economic cycle that was brought about by...

References: Akita, Shigeru, ed. Gentlemanly Capitalism, Imperialism and Global
History. Forthcoming.
Cain, P. J., and A. G. Hopkins. British Imperialism. 2 vols. Harlow,
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Imperialism . (2010 ). Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite.  Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica.
Luttner, K . N. Imperial Minds.(1959), Holden Publishers.
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