Magazine article New African

Africa: The 1884 Scramble Was for Resources to Develop Europe; Rotimi Sankore Examines the Partition of Africa and Explains Why Africans Must Appreciate Its Historical Significance

Magazine article New African

Africa: The 1884 Scramble Was for Resources to Develop Europe; Rotimi Sankore Examines the Partition of Africa and Explains Why Africans Must Appreciate Its Historical Significance

Article excerpt

Despite its pivotal role in entrenching the huge obstacles preventing Africa's political and economic development, the 120th anniversary of the partition of Africa by the Berlin Conference (of November 1884 to February 1885) passed largely unmarked last year. Yet by not appreciating the historical significance of the partition, present and future generations of Africans risk not understanding how the unification of Africa is vital to its development. By cynically formalising the scramble for Africa and its resources by European and North American powers, the Berlin Conference consolidated the balkanisation of Africa for imperialist exploitation and cemented the basis for Africa being the most atomised, exploited and economically underdeveloped continent on the planet.

But the partition of Africa must not be seen as an isolated event. It was a continuation of previous policies of exploitation and flowed naturally from 400 years of transatlantic slavery. Having provided the wealth that created the basis for the industrial revolution, transatlantic slavery had outlived its main usefulness. The new industries needed raw materials and these were to be found in Africa. To prevent hostilities breaking out over the control of Africa's resources, the German government of Otto Von Bismarck agreed to host the Berlin Conference to carve up Africa and its resources. By the end of the conference of 13 European nations and the United States, the template had been created for the artificial superimposition of roughly 50 countries, most of which cut across the logic of nationality, geography, language, culture or other unifying factors.

These artificial constructs with the imposition of minority and majority "regimes" set the tone for the policy of "divide and conquer" and unending conflict in Africa--with negative consequences for development.

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The major players were Britain, Germany, France, and Portugal, which already controlled most of the coastal territories where forts were established for protection of trading companies. Belgium, Italy and Spain played supporting roles, with the others haggling in vain for crumbs.

The broad division that resulted was:

* Hosts Germany grabbed Southwest Africa (Namibia) and German East Africa (Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi), Togoland, part of Cameroon and the border areas of Benin. …

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