The Race for Africa
The industrial revolution in Europe helped to change the European business in Africa in the 19th century. From 1807, the United Kingdom banned the slave trade, and although Portugal continued to trade in people, other goods took over. Gold and ivory trade continued to be important, but the emerging European industry needed other raw materials, not least the British textile factories needed cotton. Explorers and missionaries mapped ever larger parts of the continent, and new agreements and alliances with African leaders were made.
By 1652, the Dutch East India Company had established the Cape Colony at the southern tip of the continent. Religious turmoil in Europe led to an influx of settlers who, in the 18th century, began to penetrate further into the continent. Power increased after the British gained control of the Cape Colony during the Napoleonic Wars. The Boers, who were mainly called Dutch settlers, spread all the way north to the Limpopo River, and the Orange Free State and Transvaal were declared independent republics in the 1850s.
The Boerne ‘s expansion already created a strong unrest among the Bantu people in the area in the 1820s. Various groups of the Ngoni people, with the Zulu being the best known, embarked on conquests with chain reactions all the way north to the Great Lakes. The Matabels established a strong empire in later Zimbabwe, and a group of the Soto conquered Barotseland in present-day Zambia. The British wanted to solve the problems within the framework of a South African federation that would also ensure British control of the major mineral riches in the area, but the Boers opposed all such plans.
According to Countryaah, many African states tried to exploit European techniques and lessons themselves, without becoming politically dependent on European powers. Especially in West Africa, many places have come a long way in creating modernized states under the leadership of an African middle class with training from European mission schools, such as Egbaland in Nigeria and the Fanti Federation on the Gold Coast. A similar development also started in Basutoland and Barotseland in southern Africa and in Buganda on Lake Victoria in East Africa. In East Africa, the Arab slave trade continued, and in 1840 the prince of Oman moved his headquarters to Zanzibar.
In West Africa, from the beginning of the 19th century, the British had used naval forces to stop the slave trade, and after 1850 both the British and the French began to abandon the most important coastal cities, partly to create safer conditions for the existing trade, and partly to ensure political control over future trading areas. In East Africa, on the other hand, European trade interests were still small, and until 1890 the British were content to counteract the Arab slave trade through diplomatic pressure against the Sultan of Zanzibar.
In North Africa, the French went ashore in Algeria in 1830 and for the next decades the Berber people traveled all the way south to the Sahara. Algeria then became France’s foremost settler colony in Africa with about one million European immigrants; Tunisia was made French Protectorate in 1881. Later on, Morocco also became part of the French sphere of interest in Maghreb. In Egypt, a new military dynasty came to power in 1805, and founder Muhammad Ali and his successors in practice established an Egyptian empire – although the country was formally still part of the Ottoman Empire. With European capital, extensive modernization work was initiated.
|Country||Unemployment (percent)||Youth unemployment (percent)||Percentage of land used for agriculture (percent)|
|Algeria||12.3 (2019)||30.8 (2019)||17.4 (2016)|
|Angola||7.2 (2019)||17.1 (2019)||47.5 (2016)|
|Benin||2.0 (2019)||4.0 (2019)||33.3 (2016)|
|Botswana||18.2 (2019)||37.5 (2019)||45.6 (2016)|
|Burkina Faso||6.1 (2019)||8.1 (2019)||44.2 (2016)|
|Burundi||1.5 (2019)||2.9 (2019)||79.2 (2016)|
|Central African Republic||6.5 (2019)||11.5 (2019)||8.2 (2016)|
|Comoros||3.7 (2019)||8.5 (2019)||71.5 (2016)|
|Djibouti||11.0 (2019)||21.3 (2019)||73.4 (2016)|
|Egypt||11.3 (2019)||32.4 (2019)||3.8 (2016)|
|Equatorial Guinea||9.2 (2019)||18.6 (2019)||10.1 (2016)|
|Ivory Coast||2.4 (2019)||3.4 (2019)||64.8 (2016)|
|Eritrea||6.5 (2019)||11.6 (2019)||75.2 (2016)|
|Ethiopia||1.8 (2019)||2.8 (2019)||36.3 (2016)|
|Gabon||19.6 (2019)||35.2 (2019)||20.0 (2016)|
|Gambia||8.9 (2019)||12.3 (2019)||59.8 (2016)|
|Ghana||6.8 (2019)||13.7 (2019)||69.0 (2016)|
|Guinea||3.6 (2019)||4.4 (2019)||59.0 (2016)|
|Guinea-Bissau||4.1 (2019)||7.4 (2019)||58.0 (2016)|
|Cameroon||3.3 (2019)||5.7 (2019)||20.6 (2016)|
|Cape Verde||12.3 (2019)||23.3 (2019)||19.6 (2016)|
|Kenya||9.3 (2019)||18.3 (2019)||48.5 (2016)|
|Congo-Brazzaville||10.4 (2019)||23.0 (2019)||31.1 (2016)|
|Congo-Kinshasa||4.3 (2019)||8.0 (2019)||11.6 (2016)|
|Lesotho||23.5 (2019)||33.0 (2019)||77.6 (2016)|
|Liberia||2.0 (2019)||2.9 (2019)||28.0 (2016)|
|Libya||17.3 (2019)||42.0 (2019)||8.7 (2016)|
|Madagascar||1.6 (2019)||2.7 (2019)||71.2 (2016)|
|Malawi||5.4 (2019)||7.1 (2019)||61.4 (2016)|
|Mali||9.8 (2019)||24.4 (2019)||33.8 (2016)|
|Morocco||9.0 (2019)||21.9 (2019)||68.5 (2016)|
|Mauritania||10.3 (2019)||16.0 (2019)||38.5 (2016)|
|Mauritius||6.9 (2019)||23.6 (2019)||42.4 (2016)|
|Mozambique||3.2 (2019)||6.8 (2019)||63.5 (2016)|
|Namibia||23.2 (2019)||44.8 (2019)||47.1 (2016)|
|Niger||0.3 (2019)||0.4 (2019)||36.1 (2016)|
|Nigeria||6.1 (2019)||19.6 (2019)||77.7 (2016)|
|Rwanda||1.0 (2019)||1.6 (2019)||73.4 (2016)|
|São Tomé and Príncipe||13.4 (2019)||20.3 (2019)||50.7 (2016)|
|Senegal||6.5 (2019)||8.4 (2019)||46.1 (2016)|
|Sierra Leone||4.3 (2019)||8.5 (2019)||54.7 (2016)|
|Somalia||14.0 (2019)||24.9 (2019)||70.3 (2016)|
|Sudan||13.0 (2019)||27.0 (2019)||–|
|South Africa||27.3 (2019)||53.2 (2019)||79.8 (2016)|
|South Sudan||12.7 (2019)||19.6 (2019)||–|
|Tanzania||1.9 (2019)||3.4 (2019)||44.8 (2016)|
|Chad||2.3 (2019)||4.1 (2019)||39.7 (2016)|
|Togo||1.7 (2019)||2.5 (2019)||70.2 (2016)|
|Tunisia||15.5 (2019)||34.8 (2019)||64.8 (2016)|
|Uganda||1.8 (2019)||2.7 (2019)||71.9 (2016)|
|Zambia||7.1 (2019)||15.9 (2019)||32.1 (2016)|
|Zimbabwe||4.9 (2019)||8.1 (2019)||41.9 (2016)|
In parallel with the European conquest, knowledge of Africa’s interior also increased. Scottish explorer Mungo Park traveled up Niger in West Africa in the late 1790s and was followed by several French expeditions. Especially from the 1850s, exploration of “the dark mainland” accelerated. During that decade, Portuguese traders crossed the continent from the coast of present-day Angola to Mozambique . In the 1860s, Europeans reached the Nile sources. For the exploration of Congo and southern Africa, not least the expeditions of David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley were of great importance. Luanda and Maputo are capital cities of Angola and Mozambique respectively.
The gradual exploration of the continent’s interior by European missionaries and expeditions eventually led to new rivalry. From the Cape Colony in the south, the British expanded north, while at the same time tightening the grip on Egypt in the north. Across the continent, from Senegal to the west and east, France sought to take control of the Gambia and Niger rivers and the areas they traversed. The Portuguese held on to their territories in West and East Africa, which they wanted to unite through the center of the continent. This rivalry had to end in conflict.
To avoid conflict, and to get his share of the continent, German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck called for a conference in Berlin. During the Berlin Conference in 1884–1885, the European great powers divided Africa. France and the United Kingdom in particular were active in securing the greatest possible possessions before the impending division of the continent – in particular, it was important to gain control of trade along the major rivers Niger, the Nile and Congo.
France and the United Kingdom were promised the largest territories, while Germany and Portugal were given control of six and five colonies respectively. Belgium, Italy and Spain were the other colonial powers. Only two African states were never colonized: Ethiopia and Liberia. The latter was established as a republic of its own to receive freed slaves from the United States. Ethiopia maneuvered with great skill during the partition period, and in 1895 fought back Italian attack forces at the Battle of Adua. In tropical Africa, opposition to the European conquest was strongest from the new Islamic kingdoms in the savannah belt south of the Sahara and the conquest kingdoms of the south.
Even after the Berlin Conference, only part of the colonies were actually under the control of the colonial authorities. In a number of countries there was active opposition to colonization, and the colonial power rarely had control over the inner parts of the territories. The outcome of the Berlin Conference also did not hinder the rivalry between the European powers, and in the 1890s Britain and France met at Fashoda in Sudan. The Fashoda conflict was resolved before the two major powers collapsed over what is today a village in South Sudan.
The bloodiest settlement between Europeans in Africa thus occurred when the British defeated the so-called Boer Republics in the Boer War (1899-1901). The Boers’ defeat forced a federal solution within the framework of the British Empire, with independence for the South African Union in 1910.