European Colonialism - Colonialism in Africa




Colonialism in Africa:

European travellers reached Africa also. However, the African territory with its dense forests, widespread lakes, swamps, and deserts was unfamiliar to them. Leopold II, the king of Belgium had Congo under his dominance. Leopold II ( 9 April 1835 – 17 December 1909) was the second King of the Belgians from 1865 to 1909 and, through his own efforts, the owner and absolute ruler of the Congo Free State from 1885 to 1908.

He convened a Geographical Conference in Brussels in 1876. European geographers and researchers had gathered in this assembly. It was decided there to establish an institution called ‘International Association for the Exploration and Civilisation of Central Africa’, for the purpose of dissemination of knowledge in Africa. In 1884 a conference of European nations was organized in Berlin to explore the opportunities in Africa available to them. The true purpose of this conference was to discuss the possibilities of dividing the African territory amongst themselves.

In the Berlin Conference, the Belgian supremacy in Congo was acknowledged by all, and Congo was renamed as ‘Congo Free State’. It was also decided in this conference that if any of the European nations fail in utilising the natural resource in the colonies under their charge, then that nation should give it up to another European nation.

George Taubman Goldie was a British citizen who founded ‘The National African Company’ in England. A charter was issued to him by the British Government permitting to conduct trading operations in Nigeria. Later, the company was acquired by the British Government. Nigeria became a colony governed by the British Government.

Bismarck, the Chancellor of Germany established the first German colony in West Africa in 1883. It was named ‘Togoland’. Germany also established its colonies in Cameroon and southwest Africa.

France established their supremacy in Senegal, Gambia, and in the region to the north of Congo. In 1883 Ivory Coast also became a French colony. Later France acquired the region of Dahomey from Portugal. Till 1994, France had established their control over the region from the Sahara desert to Ivory Coast to the west and French Guinea.

Cape Colony and Natal in East Africa were held by England while Mozambique was under Spanish control. England, France, and Germany were interested in the regions of East Africa. These three nations made a pact to protect each other’s interests. Accordingly, the Sultan of Zanzibar was given Pemba island and the coastal region of East Africa, while Madagascar was given to France, the coastal region of North Africa to England, and the south region to Germany.

Under an agreement reached on 8 October 1963, the Sultan of Zanzibar relinquished sovereignty over his remaining territory in Kenya, and on 12 December 1963, Kenya officially obtained independence from the British. On 12 January 1964, Jamshid Bin Abdullah, the last sultan, was deposed and lost sovereignty over the last of his dominions, Zanzibar, marking the end of the Sultanate.

In 1897, Germany took over the East African region from the ‘German East Africa Company’. England declared Zanzibar, Pemba island, and Nyasaland (Malawi) as their protectorates and it came to be known as ‘British East Africa’.

Morocco, Algeria, Tunis, Tripoli (Nubia), and Egypt were part of the north region of Africa. In 1830, France had already established control over Algeria. Italy, France, and England wanted to occupy Tunis. In this competition, France was successful and got hold of Tunis from its Turkish Sultan. Thereafter, France took hold of Morocco as well. Italy conquered Tripoli and Cyrenaica.

Both England and France wanted to gain a hold of Egypt. The British built railway from Alexandria to Cairo. Suez Canal that joined the Mediterranean and the Red Sea was built under the supervision of the French diplomat Ferdinand de Lesseps. In the beginning, Egypt bore the expenditure for this project.

The Universal Company of the Maritime Canal of Suez was the concessionary company that constructed the Suez Canal between 1859 and 1869 and operated it until the 1956 Suez Crisis. It was formed by Ferdinand de Lesseps in 1858, and it owned and operated the canal for many years thereafter. Initially, French private investors were the majority of the shareholders, with Egypt also having a significant stake.

However, later the expenditure for Suez Canal got so escalated that Egypt had to seek loans to meet it. It became impossible to repay even the interest on the loans, so Egypt put up the shares of 'Suez Canal Company' for sale. England purchased a number of shares and thus gained part ownership of the company and the Suez Canal. Egypt became independent in 1922.

Sudan to the south of Egypt was its vassal state. England, by the virtue of Egypt being deemed as a British protectorate, had also assumed the same role in Sudan. Sudan was important for England because the Nile, the lifeline of Egypt, originates in Sudan. England, without paying heed to local opposition established its supremacy over Sudan. To facilitate the moving of the British army in Sudan, the British began to build a railway track from Uganda to Sudan. France accepted England’s claim on Sudan and in exchange asked for some facilities in the western parts of Africa.

Cape Colony and Natal in the southern parts of Africa were under British control. Orange Free State and Transvaal were under Dutch control. Gold mines were discovered in Johannesburg and it attracted European nations to South Africa. This resulted in England’s decision to consolidate its colonies in the southern region and name it 'Union of South Africa'. At about the same time the Portuguese gained control over Angola. Some islands in the Guinea Coast, some parts of Morocco came under Spain’s control.

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