What impact did the Berlin Conference have on Africa?

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The Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 had a profound and lasting impact on Africa, primarily by formalizing the colonization of the continent by European powers. It led to the creation of colonial empires that divided Africa, disregarding ethnic and tribal lines, which later fueled internal conflicts. The conference facilitated the extraction of African resources for European industrialization, significantly undermining Africa’s autonomy and development. Additionally, it contributed to the suppression of the slave trade by European colonial states.

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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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What did the Berlin Conference do to Africa?

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.

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