THE REASONS FOR THE PARTITIONING OF AFRICA
Prior to the 1870s, the European power-house was never interested in Africa as a colony. The hands of the British were full with activities of colonization in Canada, New Zealand and Australia. The Germans, the Italians and the Belgians did not even consider it as issue. Interest in Africa by officialdom started to increase in the 1870s, therefore, between 1876 and 1900, European countries turned their attention to Africa with the possible intention of colonizing it. Several reasons accounted for this shift of interest toward Africa.
- The search for fresh resources: Communication between explorers of the continent and missionaries, on the one hand and official in the Metropolis indicates that Africa was full of resources ready to be tapped. There was that general belief that once the continent was “tamed’ its resources was available to be grabbed. One of the reasons for the partitioning of Africa was therefore to tap it rich resource for the benefit of the Europeans.
- The search for new markets: After the introduction of mechanization to the process of production, there was improvement in production levels which led to surplus goods in the system. The surplus products needed to be sold but since their markets were already saturated, there was the need to push the extra goods into other markets. Another reason for the partitioning of Africa was therefore to look for markets where their excess goods could be sold.
- The search for new investment destinations: The industrial sector of Europe had been booming and profits were expanding exponentially. There arose the need to invest the surplus capital, which were lying idle, in other places. Therefore, another reason for coming to Africa was to look for virgin areas to invest their surplus capital.
- To curb the problem of unemployment: After the successful development of machines to replace manual labour, many of the factory and farm hands had to be laid off. The laying off of the extra hands created the problem of unemployment. One of the reasons for turning to Africa was therefore to create employment avenues there so that the surplus hands could to be transported there to ease the employment situation back at home.
- A stable environment for the merchants and missionaries: Long before the official presence of the Europeans in Africa, there were merchants and missionaries who had been trading and evangelizing on the continent. Such people needed a stable environment to carry out their activities. They had therefore repeatedly sent petitions back home calling on their government to come and set up on the continent. The coming of the Europeans was therefore a response to the petitions of these trail-blazers.
- A sign of prestige: It was a sign of prestige, among the European countries, to have a colony away from the Metropolis. To be seen to be acquiring colonies in Africa was the thing of the moment. Therefore one other reason why the Europeans partitioned Africa was to show that they have arrived.
- An area of least resistance: In the Franco-German wars of the 1870s, France had been dispossessed of Alsace and Loraine and it was soon realized that pursuing territorial expansion inside Europe was an unwise policy because it could be met with very stiff resistance. Africa, at the time seemed to be the only continent which could pose the least resistance and it was the reason why the partition started for Africa.