History Questions and Answers

Start Your Free Trial

What did the Berlin Conference do to Africa?

Expert Answers info

pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write35,413 answers

starTop subjects are History, Literature, and Social Sciences

In the short term, what the Berlin Conference did to Africa was divide it up between European imperial powers. In the long term, the Berlin Conference helped to ruin the continent, helping to bring about many of the problems that it faces today.

When the Berlin Conference was called in 1884, Africa was still largely ruled by Africans.  However, the European powers had started to want to take greater control over the continent.  As the various European powers tried to take control, conflicts arose between them.  This would happen when two or more European countries coveted the same part of Africa.  This made for a dangerous situation because it could potentially cause European countries to go to war with one another.  In order to prevent this, the powers met at the Berlin Conference.  There, they split Africa up among themselves, deciding which power was to have which parts of Africa to control.  This was the immediate impact of the conference:  it divided the continent of Africa up between European countries, giving each country its own empire on the continent.

In the longer term, this conference and the imperial rule that followed harmed Africa terribly.  It split Africa up in ways that were not natural.  In other words, it drew artificial boundaries on the land, putting people of different nations together in single states or putting people of the same nation in different states.  This eventually led to a situation where African countries were given independence (starting in the 1960s) but were destabilized by internal ethnic unrest.  This can be seen in countries like Nigeria, which are made up of many different ethnic groups that often do not get along.  The fact that they are all part of the same country is one of the harmful long-term effects of the Berlin Conference.

Thus, the Berlin Conference divided Africa in the short term and set the stage for many of its later problems in the long term.


Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial