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What impact did the Berlin Conference have on Africa?

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Roosevelt Paulsen eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The Berlin Conference of 1884–1885 formalized the ongoing "Scramble for Africa." Since the 1870s, European powers like France, Germany, Belgium, and the United Kingdom had been exploring and colonizing Africa, spurned by a need for raw resources to fire their increasingly industrial economies.

The most significant impact the Berlin Conference had on Africa was the creation of colonial empires that fragmented the entire continent with the exception of Ethiopia, which remained independent. Under the principal of effective occupation, the European powers essentially were resource extractors; unlike other colonial areas, such as India, European states did not bring with them any benefit of effective governance to the areas they occupied.

A secondary impact the Berlin Conference had on Africa was the gradual elimination of the slave trade among African and Islamic powers by the European colonial states. To gain public support for the "Scramble for Africa," the elimination of slavery was made a central tenet of the conference's agenda.

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The Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 set the ground rules for the colonization of Africa by European powers.  The event helped to ease tensions that were growing as a result of the competition for resources in Africa.  It had a dramatic and lasting negative impact on the nations of Africa.  They lost the ability to govern their own people and develop their economies.  African natural resources were essentially stolen from them for the betterment of the European industrial economies.  This impact is still felt in Africa today as they struggle to develop. The Europeans also stripped the Africans of their cultural identity and history. For the African to get ahead, they were forced to assimilate to European ways. The Berlin Conference also demarcated boundaries that did not collaborate along ethnic and tribal lines.  This action caused a great deal of stress within the African states after Europeans left in the 1950's.  

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