European Colonization of Africa
Europe and Africa have always been connected by their close proximity. Northern Africa was part of the Roman Empire, and Europeans established trading outposts beginning in the first days of the Age of Exploration. In the second half of the 19th century, however, the Industrial powers of Europe discovered that Africa, only recently mapped in its entirety, offered new markets and potential for resource exploitation.
As late as 1870, only about ten percent of Africa was controlled by European powers. By 1913, only Ethiopia and Liberia remained independent. The Scramble for Africa began in earnest with the 1884 Berlin Conference, convened by Otto von Bismarck. At the time, Britain controlled Egypt due to its acquisition of the Suez Canal, and the Congo had become the personal colony of Belgium’s King Leopold II. At the Berlin Conference, the great powers essentially carved their own spheres of influence into Africa, promising not to interfere with the others. These “rules,” however, were frequently broken.
France took large parts of West Africa, moving into the interior from Senegal and taking Mali, Niger and Chad. The British moved south from Egypt and north from South Africa, hoping to unite their possession. In this they were blocked by the Germans, who controlled present-day Tanzania and Kenya, as well as Namibia and areas around Liberia. Italy, Portugal, and Spain also held African colonies. The end result has often been described as a disaster for the continent and its people.