Black History: Special Delivery!!
The Berlin Conference ignited the “Scramble For Africa.” Colonial domination and control of Africa’s economic resources, natural resources, and trade routes was the goal. The conference was convened on November 15 1884, and was comprised of 14 western powers. At the time of the convening, approximately 80% of the African continent remained under local control. The western powers seeking to gain control would establish fragmented boundaries developed to serve their interests. No African leaders were part of the Berlin Conference. By 1914, European colonizers had accomplished their goal. Africa was now divided into 50 countries mapped out across hundreds of indigenous groups and regions.
The new configuration forced indigenous Africans into poverty while colonizers became wealthy as their lands were confiscated, and they were forced to labor at meager wages to support colonial exploitation of natural resources. European leaders viewed Africans as inferior and barbaric. It reminiscent of the concept of manifest destiny, which was the belief that expansion of the US throughout American continents was justifiable, inevitable, and justified by God. 14 western powers were in attendance at the Berlin Conference. Countries in attendance included Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden-Norway (unified from 1814 to 1905), Turkey, and the United States of America. France, Germany, Great Britain, and Portugal emerged as the major power brokers at the conference.
At the time of the Berlin Conference, there were portions of coastal regions that had come under European control. However, the interior of Africa had remained mostly untouched by European colonizers. The focus of the conference was to gain greater control over the interior. The conference concluded on February 26, 1885, representing three months of strategizing to exploit Africa’s economic, natural and human resources. By 1914, the countries participating in the Berlin Conference had succeeded in dividing up the continent, with approximately 90% of the continent controlled by European colonizers. Of course with colonization came expectation that indigenous customs, religions practices, and culture would now be seen as inferior and Africans were expected to assimilate into European cultural norms.
The Berlin Conference was not the original catalyst for European control of Africa. However, it did accelerate the process of colonization. The impacts of the Berlin Conference are still felt even today. For more information on The Berlin Conference, check out the video, “Here Is How Europeans Divided Africa During The Berlin Conference of 1884”