Imperialism in Africa: The Economic Crippling of a Nation

The 1870s (-1900s) brought about a nation faced by imperialist aggression from superior European powers, wanting to claim their dominance — this nation, Africa.  One way to demonstrate this national preeminence was through the acquisition of territories around the world, including Africa. Places like Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Portugal, and Spain were competing for power within European power politics (Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture).  And as the British and French saw an opportunity for an economic surplus, places like Asia and Africa seemed likely sources for contribution. Africa however, received the greatest setback, particularly, the crippling of the nation’s economy. During this time, there was a surge of industrialization in Europe, and major social problems grew in Europe, such as unemployment, poverty, and homelessness. After gaining control of most of Africa,  these European powers had control of every major port along the coast and took advantage of the raw materials grown on this land which were used for goods and flipped for a profit (lecture). Even after the late 1800s, the early 19th century left the country in turmoil. As a primary export for raw materials, Africa suffered greatly during the great depression. Tea and coffee, wool, rubber from West Africa, and mining dramatically decreased as a result. Wages fell in urban and rural areas, and poverty rates expanded. The country also “benefited from the rising value of gold itself”, a major export by the end of the 1930s (Bayly). However, not even gold could save this nation and even East African British colonies, such as the Rhodesias and Kenya suffered a similar medium in rural areas. When the Berlin Conference determined the integrity of the nation’s economy with the interference of foreign powers, and its future trajectory, they were right to think that opportunity for financial growth existed, but they failed to recognize the true cost. No one could have predicted events such as the Great Depression, but nonetheless, the nation suffered greatly for years, as a result of this intervention.

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