Division of Africa – Discussion
Describe the division of Africa as a result of the Scramble for Africa between 1880 and 1914. What are some of the enduring consequences of how Africa was divided at that time?
Scramble for Africa was motivated by mainly economic and political reasons by Europeans, especially Britons, French, and Germans. It was during the period of the second industrial revolution and competition for nationalism was high. The essay discusses these motivations, how the Scramble for Africa was implemented and its lasting effects in the region to this day. Effects discussed include political, social, and economic reasons in Africa although they fed into each other.
Scramble for Africa, 1880-1914
The period is also called The Partition of Africa or New Imperialism or Conquest of Africa where mainly European countries occupied and settled in Africa. Africa was seen as a source of the immense potential of labour and material resources although it was guided as an export of civilisation to the untouched continent. Okumu (2002) argued that the major motivation was economic rather than exporting the said civilisation. Besides, there were reasons for countries such as Britain that sought to expand their territories, which is also linked back to financial and economic interests at the time of industrialisation in Europe. Africa was ripe for human resources to provide labour in industries while raw materials were used to provide goods that were needed to fund the second industrial revolution.
According to Skutsch (Skutsch, 2013), Scramble for Africa by Europeans was mainly driven by the desire to conquer the less powerful and as a result, use them and their resources for their own needs. Africa was among the last areas to be colonised and this aided many of the colonial masters to widen their territories. At the time, using Militarism, Britain expanded its territory by 3.25 million square miles with more than 46 million people. The was fighting in various parts of Africa among the colonies and their subjects in a bid to control them. As the Britons did, the French in West Africa continued fighting for the region and added some 4 million miles and 50 million people. German added 1 million square miles and 15 million people. The fighting among the Europeans was driven by economic competition among them and Africa was seen as a tool to gain resources to advance their interests. Africa was a commercial tool for competing politically and economically. Adebajo and Rashid (2004) observed that the way Africa was taken up and divided strategically among European colonists displayed mistrust that existed among them. This was especially when France justified conquering and taking over Tunisia as a result of the British colonising Cyprus earlier in 1878.
The rule that was imposed on people was applied differently by the colonists. Where the French ruled directly, the Britons saw it fit to use indirect means; they used chiefs to better control people that knew their people better. Loyal hereditary chiefs in different tribes were appointed and tasked with the task of interpreting orders to people to achieve specified aims. The main reason for this was due multi-ethnic nature of Africa which was already divided along these lines and therefore this made it difficult to have one authority throughout a given rule. This method of divide-and-rule was successful to this extent. It was a primary tool of imperialism where tribes in one region were set against each other for better control and they therefore found it better to perpetuate it. It was used alongside warlike militarism to ensure the subjects were subdued completely and for them to achieve their interests better. This means that there were armies that maintained law and order, alongside using tribal chiefs to control the Africans.
The most obvious effect of Scramble for Africa was that of divide and rule. They used the too to control people, tribes were set against each and unity was not desirable for the interests of the colonists. This has endured to this very day where many tribes still do not trust each other and warring tribes are yet to achieve peace in many parts of the world. Although the countries gained independence many days ago, tribes saw distrusted themselves to this very day, using pretexts of control of resources and leadership. All African states are independent but that sense of unity is yet to be achieved resulting wars are one of the main reasons for a reduced rate of development in the country.
Boundaries were used to achieve the political goal of controlling people better. There were none before the colonies started on the continent. It has to be noted the new boundaries created by the colonists did not follow the tribal jurisdictions that existed before and this was done strategically to better control people and make them fail to achieve desired harmony. There were not many cohesive groups. There was no longer single power in the regions but minorities in many parts of the world. Strategic use of these boundaries with minorities and not based on tribal alignments has led to continued disregard to this very day. Some of its borders are some of the weakest and disregarded in the world today. Without emerging cultures or ethnic groups, none could easily make it to independence at that time. This has had effects to this day where competing interests and lack of units have affected development. It is a problem of the minorities, where many African communities are scattered. For example, Adebajo & Rashid (2004) noted that the demarcation process and creation of boundaries with regard to cultures led to Nigerian tribes such as Ewes today being Ghana, Yorubas in Benin and Nigeria, Maasais in Tanzania and Kenya among others. These people continue to be divided although some such as Maasai still maintain their native traditional practices and culture.
Disregarding local cultures and a lack of sense of unity led to Africans adopting the language of their colonial masters. English is a common and official language among former British colonies in East Africa and French is very common in West Africa in counties such as Cameroun. It is at this time that some aspects of the cultures of colonial masters were introduced in Africa and have endured since.
Economically, the African region was disrupted. Their system of trade was interfered with and as people were taken as slaves during this period, Africa’s unity was compromised and the development of the region was hampered. This happened as the economy of the colonists improved due to the provision of free raw materials from Africa. However, Rodney (2012) argued that is the Scramble for Africa that opened up the continent for development due to its connection with the rest of the European countries. At the same time, food crops from these colonists such as maize and cassava are now staples in many parts of Africa and were introduced in the late 19th century during the Scramble for Africa.
The essay discussed the division of Africa as a result of the Scramble for Africa between 1880 and 1914 where methods of divide and rule were a principle tool that was employed successfully. Competition and mistrust among European powers led to Scramble for the region where slaves and raw materials were needed during the second industrial development in Europe. The essay discussed some of the effects of the practice such as the creation of boundaries with regard to ethnic and cultural differences that existed in African tribes. Most of the problems such as the ethnic war in Africa today especially mistrust and division among ethnic tribes can be traced to this period when colonists did the very thing to Africans.
Adebajo, A. & Rashid, I. O. D. eds., 2004. West Africa’s Security Challenges: Building Peace in a Troubled Region. London: Lynne Rienner Publishers..
Okumu, W. A. J., 2002. The African Renaissance: History, Significance and Strategy. Trenton: Africa World Press.
Rodney, W., 2012. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Dakar: Fahamu/Pambazuka..
Skutsch, C., ed., 2013. Encyclopedia of the World’s Minorities. New York: Routledge..