Scramble Africa European Colonization Consequences


The Scramble for Africa, also known as the Race for Africa or Partition for Africa was a process of invading, occupying, colonizing and annexing of the African Continent by European powers. The scramble for Africa was less an event but more of an epoch in history that took place during the New Imperialism period that was between 1881 and World War I in 1914 (Original People 2019). There was heightened tension in Europe during that time, and the partition was considered a way to avoid a full-blown war in the European continent. While the war was avoided in Europe, it was experienced on the African continent. The colonization began as “informal imperialism” and quickly transformed into occupation through military might and economic domination. There were a number of conferences that sought to mediate the colonization of Africa. One Such conference was the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 which failed since it did not state definitively how the powers that were in attendance would divide the African continent (Original People, 2019).

African Communities Resist

Imagine that an individual went to another’s home and stated that they were now the owners of the home and the people that lived in the home. It would be expected that the owners of the home would resist against such an individual(s). The European powers were like that individual who comes out of the blue and states that they now own the home and the people in the home. As such, it was not surprising that the African communities resisted such blatant disrespect of their sovereignty and chose to fight against their invaders. It was extremely presumptuous of the European powers to consider that they could take over a whole continent. The European powers failed to acknowledge that the African continent was occupied by people such as the Ashanti, Moroccans, Abyssinians, Zulus, and Dervishes. As such, wherever they tried to conquer they were met with great resistance because the African people did not want to be ruled by European powers (Evans 2011). However, regardless of how much opposition the Africans put up against the European powers, they were at a gross disadvantage in relation to weaponry. The industrial revolution had given the European powers not only advances in various industries such as agriculture but also advances in terms of making weapons. The Europeans had machine guns, bombs, vehicles and various other weaponry that the Africans could not stand against. Therefore, even though the Africans put up a valiant fight in resisting occupation by Europeans, they could not stand against their weapons.


Unlike the European powers, the African kingdoms did not put up a continental united front when it came to resistance (Rose 2012). However, the argument that the Africans did not put up a united front is a bit weak since it assumes that Africans had the technology to coordinate a continent-wide response. Africans did not have such technology; thus they could not have organized a continent-wide response. While they could not organize a continent-wide response, many African communities banded together to resist the various European powers that tried to invade their land. The number of communities that banded together to resist the colonizers is too many to list down, but in every country, there was more than one community that resisted against the colonizers. According to Kivite (2019), there are two African countries that were never colonized, Ethiopia and Liberia. Liberia was never colonized because it was established as a colony by the Americans. Ethiopia, formerly known as Abyssinia successfully repelled Italian forces which made Italy the first European country to lose a colonial war. However, there are some that argue that both countries were colonized even though not immediately. For the rest of the African continent different European powers occupied different portions of the continent.

Reasons for Scramble for Africa

Different reasons have been recorded for the scramble for Africa, but historians agree that the reasons can be divided into political, social and economic.

The key European powers that participated in the scramble for Africa were Britain, Spain, Germany, Italy, Belgium, France, and Portugal. The countries were battling for eminence in relation to European politics and a means through which they could show their eminence was by the acquisition of different colonies in different parts of the world (Iweriebor 2011). Additionally, there was national pride at stake in the colonization of Africa. Therefore, the more colonies a country had under its name, the more nationalistic pride they had since it was a testament to their might. Also, under political reasons, there was a military angle. As said above, part of the reason why the European powers decided to colonize the African continent is so that they could avoid war on the European continent. Therefore, by colonizing different African regions, the European powers were basically showing off their military might to each other. In a sense, colonizing African nations showed other European nations that they were not to be trifled with. Thus, colonization was a war deterrent in the sense that as long as the Europeans military might was concentrated on the African continent, they could not turn it against each other.

The other types of reasons that have been presented as justification for the scramble for Africa. According to Frankema, Williamson, and Woltjer (2015), a key economic reason that led to the scramble and partition of African is The Industrial Revolution on the European continent. The industrial revolution led to the growth of Europe’s industries and their economies (Frankema, Williamson, and Woltjer 2015). The industrial revolution came with two key problems. First, there was a lot of overproduction which meant that the countries needed new markets in which they could sell their goods. The industrial revolution helped in streamlining production processes which meant that the time frame for making goods drastically which meant that more goods were produced. Second, the Europeans were in need of raw materials to supply to their various industries. The African continent was a prime candidate to meet the double-edged issues that were brought by the industrial revolution. The African continent offered new markets that had never been tapped before, and the Europeans could bring their surplus goods to the African continent. In terms of raw materials, the Europeans used their African colonies basically as farms. They planted or mined whatever they needed in the African continent, and then they took the ends raw materials and sent them back to their mother countries.

Due to the growth of their industries, the Europeans needed cheap labor, and they turned to the African continent to meet their needs. While slavery had existed for a while, the scramble and partition of Africa increased the levels of slavery to unprecedented levels (David 2017). In the late 1870s, only 10% of the African continent was under European rule, but by the 1900s more than 90% of the African continent was under European rule (David 2017). As such, the Europeans were free to do with the continent as they pleased and they decided to utilize a key resource of the continent, its people. From the West African coast alone, it is said that more than 11 million people were shipped off into slavery (David 2017). If the whole continent was included in the figure, then an arbitrary figure of more than 20-30 million Africans were shipped off to European countries. Masebo (2015) notes that some of the African slaves were used to fight in the World Wars and many of them lost their lives. The legacy of the Africans that were brought to the European continent can be seen in the generations of black people that live in European countries. While some of them are recent immigrants, some of them live there because their ancestors were brought to the continent as slaves. David (2017) also notes that one of the reasons that was submitted by David Livingstone as justification for colonizing the African continent is that they were doing so to end slavery. That does not seem to have worked out since slavery increased during the colonization process.

There are a number of social reasons that have been advanced for the colonization of the African continent. Foeken (1995) notes that one of the social reasons that justified the colonization of the African continent is that there was overpopulation in the European continent. Therefore, they were looking for places where they could relocate their people and ease the population pressure that was being experienced. The result of that is that millions of European citizens moved from their countries and went the colonies in search of better opportunities in life. The African continent offered the perfect place to start over since it was unexplored and filled with a lot of resources. Moreover, the fact that the number of Europeans as compared to Africans was less, the Europeans who lived in the continent were treated as first-rate citizens. Therefore, purported population pressure was the key reason that led to the scramble for Africa.

Effects of the Scramble and Partition on the African Continent

Even though it has been many decades since the scramble and partition of Africa, the effects of that epoch in time are still being felt to this day. A key effect is that the current boundaries that demarcate one country from the other were drawn during the scramble and partition for Africa (Michalopoulos and Papaioannou 2012). The borders were drawn randomly which has had effects in and of itself. Michalopoulos and Papaioannou (2012) note that due to the arbitrary borders some ethnicities were split up between countries. The Maasai people were split up between Kenya and Tanzania, the Anyi between Ghana and Ivory Coast, and the Chewa between Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe (Michalopoulos and Papaioannou 2012).

The other effect is the introduction of the European languages in Africa (Conrad 2017). As part of the assimilation process of the Africans, the European nations introduced their languages to the people. That effect is still felt up to now since many African nations use English as their national language and some counties such as Congo speak French and Burundi speak French. The other effect that is still experienced till now is that of religion. The key religion that was introduced during the scramble and partition is Christianity (BBC 2019). Missionaries came together with the colonizers, and as a way of “humanizing the savages,” they brought Christianity too. A key missionary was David Livingstone. David (2017) states that David Livingstone believed that one of the key ways through which Africans could be saved is if they turned to Christianity. In modern times while the European nations have turned away from Christianity, Christianity still has a strong presence on the African continent. There are many other effects that were experienced on the African continent; the ones listed above are the major ones.

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The scramble and partition of Africa placed the African countries and the people as a whole on their current path. In the 1870s European powers owned only 10% of the continent but by the 1900s they owned around 90% of the continent. There a number of reasons why the European powers scrambled and partitioned Africa. The political reason is that they wanted to avoid war on the European continent and they also wanted to show their military might by conquering many other lands. The economic reasons are that they wanted new markets to sell their overproduced goods while at the same time finding places where they could access cheap raw materials. Additionally, they sought free labor which led to the growth of slavery to unprecedented levels. The social reason is that their countries were experiencing population pressure and they wanted a place where they could relocate some of their people. The effects of the scramble and partition are that the borders of African countries were created, some African nations adopted European languages, and Christianity got a foothold on the continent. The scramble and partition of Africa occurred decades ago, but its effects are still being experienced.


  • BBC., 2019. The story of Africa – religious conversion and resistance.
  • Accessed 19th April 2019. Conrad, J., 2017. The scramble for Africa
  • mble_for_africa> Accessed 19th April 2019. David, S., 2017. Slavery and the ‘Scramble for Africa.’ BBC.
  • Accessed 19th April 2019. Evans, R., 2011. The Scramble for Africa.
  • Foeken, D., 1995. On the causes of the partition of Central Africa, 1875-85.
  • Frankema, E., Williamson, J. & Woltjer, P., 2015. An economic rationale for the African
  • Iweriebor G, E., 2011. The Colonization of Africa.
  • Kivite, T., 2019. Liberia and Ethiopia; the never colonized African countries.
  • Accessed 19th April 2019. Masebo, O., 2015, The African soldiers dragged into Europe’s war. BBC.
  • Michalopoulos, S. & Papaioannou., 2012. The long-run effects of the Scramble for Africa.
  • Original People., 2019. Scramble for Africa: How the African continent became divided.
  • Rose, C., 2012. Episode 3: The Scramble for Africa.
  • 19th April 2019.

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