The Scramble for Africa at the end of thenineteenth century, and going into the beginning of the twentieth century,involved the European world powers colonising African countries. This was withthe intention to secure resources as a way of pursuing their ongoinginternational rivalries with one another.1This scramble was one of rapidness and determination and was very much inspiredby the economic, social and military evolution that Europe was going through. Thisessay will explore into further detail behind the main reasons behind theScramble for Africa, and the impact this had on the world as a definitivewhole. One of the main reasons behind theScramble for Africa was the balance of power between countries and the battleto be one of the ‘great powers.
‘ The idea of colonising countries would lead toa country being able to expand its global colony – an idea that the Europeanlead countries believed would be the best way to become the greatest of the’great powers.’ The scramble for Africa upset the current balance of power thathad previously existed in Europe, and in turn, created a chain reaction of theEuropean powers competing for new colonies. The bigger the colony, the moreexpansion of power the leaders could achieve. It was at the Berlin Conferencein 1944 that the decision to divide up Africa was made, and it was here thatthe set of rules was conducted. The river Niger and Congo were to be free forall to use, but protectorates could be claimed elsewhere. Each country haddifferent reasons to be interested in the continent of Africa, ranging fromeconomic to strategic conditions.
European countries, such as Britain, Franceand Germany were competing for global trade. Having control over certain partsof Africa would enable them to gain advantages over one another. For instance,Britain wanted to have control over the Suez Canal as a means of transportinggoods as part of the trade route to India.2 Doingthis would allow for it to have more power in comparison to other Europeancountries, who were also expanding into Africa. Being as industrialised as shewas, British shipping had a major benefit of the canal being opened. Between1868 and 1874, the amount of tonnage entering British ports from Asia increasedby 178 percent, and by 1874, three-quartersof the tons worth of produce passing through the canal was British.3 Havingshares in the Suez Canal made the trading route to India much easier, andallowed for Britain to be able to control which trading ships could passthrough the canal and which ones could not – resulting in Britain’s grip onpower becoming stronger in this way.
Other European countries, such as Germany, were determined to make theirnew unified country an expanding empire as well, and through the leadership ofBismarck, Germany began to expand out into the African continent and takecontrol. The Berlin Conference could be seen as a manoeuvre in Europeandiplomacy, with Bismarck purely using the Congo question as a pawn in his gamefor colonial expansion.4 Germany’smain reasoning behind her expansion into Africa was to regain its status as a’great power’ and to do this meant toexpand its global colony.
South West Africa became one part of Africa thatGermany annexed, although it was seen to have no economic or strategic value;but it was destined for German factories to be built upon. Germany as a countrywas divided – some believed that she was not destined for overseas adventures,whilst others believed that the next step was to establish Germany as a worldpower.5 Itwas here that the scramble for Africa became an important role in Germany’ssearch for dominance. 1 GetachewMengistie, ‘Geographical Indications and the Scramble for Africa’, African journal of international andcomparative law, vol. 25 (2017).
2 ‘Scramble for Africa: How the African continentbecame divided’, http://originalpeople.org/scramble-for-africa-par/(16/12/17).3 NikkiChristie, Brendan Christie and Adam Kidson, Britain:losing and gaining an empire, 1763-1914, (Pearson Education: 2016).4 M. E. Chamberlain, The Scramble for Africa, (Taylor andFrancis: 2010).5 M.
E. Chamberlain, The Scramble for Africa, (Taylor andFrancis: 2010).