This Magnificent African Cake Scramble for Africa

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This Magnificent African Cake
Scramble for Africa

When slavery generally ended in Africa, Europeans wanted a new empire. The new empire was industrialization and commerce. What was called the "scramble for Africa" occurred. The major European powers scrambled to take as much land as possible. In 1884, the Berlin Congress was held. Europe sliced up Africa like cake, giving certain portions to certain countries. The European contempt for Africans had reached a new level. Africans were seen as helpless children and lazy settlers. Killings of Africans were frequent in the European colonization of Africa. Some of the problems that Europeans faced were land that was claimed by countries before the Berlin Congress, religious fundamentalists, and fighting for land amongst Europeans after the Berlin Congress. By 1914, there were only two countries left free and independent of Europe.

The British

The British had a very hostile takeover of their territories. This can be evidenced by the early British conquest of southern Africa. The British took the Ashanti nation forcefully. The king of the Ashanti was publicly humiliated after surrendering. He was forced to kiss the British commander's boot. Other injustices were made against the Ashanti as well. The British quietly annexed the Ashanti's land in 1901, calling it the Gold Coast. The British public rejoiced at their victories in Africa. Any critics of their method of conquest were either silenced or ignored. Britain was greedy for land. It was said of South Africa that wherever water and good land are, British settlers must take over. In the takeover of present‑day South Africa, civilians were attacked. Houses were torched, the natives were kicked off of their land, and barbed wire was put up where they had previously lived. This policy was politely named "pacification," but more appropriately called "hammering." Kenya in 1920 was filling with new immigrants. Half of the able‑bodied men of Kenya became laborers to these newcomers. This is mainly due to imposed taxes. Native could not pay for taxes without a job, so they were forced to labor. The British had trouble getting taxes from many tribes, so they seized many small boys to be sent to school. These boys would later become the tax collectors for their own tribes. The story of Nigeria is somewhat different. Nigeria was occupied by the British so that France could not own the land. It was ruled indirectly. All of the previous forms of government were left untouched. They were overseen by British officials. The only change that a common person could notice is the addition of taxes. The British success in Nigeria is attributed to this partnership between the people and the rulers.

The French

The French policies with Africa were similar to British policies. The main difference is that the goal of French occupation was to assimilate Africans, so that French Africans could be produced. However, this proved to be far too difficult. In 1926, only 48,000 out of 1,500,000 Senegalese had been successfully assimilated. Senegal produced the first African man in the French Parliament. This man is Blaise Diagne and was elected in 1914. The French drafted an estimated 200,000 Africans to fight in World War I. In the trenches, the Africans found that they were treated as equals, contrary to their treatment in Senegal and other colonies. They had a firm belief that if they returned to their colony, their previous life would be continued, which was a bad experience with racism. The French designed the Senegalese economy so that their cash crops would be exported to France. Like other European nations, the colonies supplied raw materials. The raw materials were made into finished products and sold back to the colony for a large profit. This system was fine until the 1929 World Depression. An African economic crisis was produced, because Europe was the only buyer. Many African companies could not survive, so they had to work for European companies in Africa. This further created a dependence on the European economy.

The Portuguese

Portuguese involvement in Africa can be seen in Mozambique. The people of Mozambique were experiencing the economic problems associated with colonialism. Farmers were forced to grow cotton for export to Portugal. The price per unit of cotton was fixed by Portugal. The farmers of Mozambique were forced to sell great quantities of cotton at low prices. So many farmers were forced to produce cotton that there was a shortage of crops in Mozambique. No one was left to make the food. Famines were common under the colonial influence. It can be summed up easily: "Blacks are to be organized and enclosed in an economy directed by whites."

The Beginning of Resistance

The common people of the European colonies in Africa knew and understood many of the problems with European colonialism. Political dissent was growing among the people. They began to pressure the government to become more liberal. Stronger demands became common, to the point of requesting a full‑fledged democracy. The ideas were not only confined to the elite of the colonies, however, the elite held protests. These protests often failed because there was little involvement of the common people. Mass resistance became common as well. In the Gold Coast, workers refused to produce cocoa, demanding higher wages. They fought also with printed articles in the media. A major turning point for many Africans was the takeover of Ethiopia by fascist Italy. It was the first time that Africans all over the world felt hurt by a colonial action. This happened because Ethiopia had become a symbol of hope and revival for Africans. It had remained independent until Italy came. One of the last shards of hope of African nations independent of Europe was destroyed. Many argue that this is the beginning of African nationalism. Perhaps it made Africans feel a need for action since hope had left, and feel a need to break free.


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