Colonialism refers to the domination or control of one country by another economically, politically and socially.

Reasons for the colonization of Africa

The development of capitalism in Europe led to the industrial revolution which started in Britain in 1750 and by the end of 18 th Century Britain was the only industrialized nation in the world.

However, in the 19 th Century, other European countries such as France, Belgium, Germany and Italy also industrialized.

The industrialization of almost all European countries meant that there was no where to expand within Europe, hence there was need to find colonies.

From 1870, monopoly capitalism demanded for the following:-

– Markets

– Raw materials

– Cheap labor

– Investment areas

– Areas to resettle surplus labour force.

Therefore, it was these demands which made capitalism to change to its monopolistic stage called “imperialism”.

Colonialism was therefore linked with the development of capitalism in Europe, in the sense that it was undertaken to meet the demands of monopoly capitalism.


Before the establishment of colonialism, the capitalist nations sent colonial agencies to pave way for colonial rule. These agents included;

– Explorers

– Missionaries

– Traders

How explorers, Missionaries and traders paved way for establishment of colonial rule in Africa?

(a) They reported about the wealth in Africa which would enrich the European capitalist countries. The information given by the Missionaries, Explorers and Traders excited the interests of European countries to come and seek their fortune in Africa.

Dr. Living stone reported that East Africa had fertile soil and the environment was suitable for European settlements, given the economic conditions in Europe, such as the need for raw materials, they had to rush to Africa.

(b) They encouraged African chiefs to sign treaties which later became justified claims for the occupation of African territories. Moffat, an Anglican Missionary, encouraged chief Lubengula to sign a treaty with British, which eventually led to the British colonization of Zimbabwe.

(c) Some of the agents for example Christian missionaries’ brain washed the minds of the Africans through their preaching and teachings. They softened the minds of the Africans to be God fearing because of the preaching, devour African Christians believed that Christianity was the greatest gift from Europe and this was reflected in Nigeria and Buganda where the Africans welcomed colonization.

(d) The Christian missionaries paved way for the establishment of the colonies rule because they regarded colonial rule as necessary for both the spread of Christianity and the abolition of slave trade in Africa

(e) They chartered companies laid down the initial infrastructure those later facilitated colonial administration policies. The roads and railways became a source of reinforcement in terms of troops and manpower.

(f) They appealed to European government to come and occupy parts of Africa which they have visited and developed. For example Dr. Livingstone appealed to Britain to come and occupy central Africa and Britain responded by colonizing central Africa.


As capitalism developed stage by stage, it pressed different demands on Africa. During competitive industrial capitalism, the capitalist powers advocated for the abolition of slave trade because it was seen as a necessary for the acquisition of raw materials and markets.

When competitive capitalism changed to monopoly capitalism, the capitalist powers were involved in a struggle to acquire colonies, a process called “The scramble for Africa.”

The scramble for Africa refers to the way European powers struggled to acquire colonies in Africa.

Partition of Africa refers to the difference steps taken by the colonial powers to divide Africainto territories and fixing colonial boundaries.

The major powers that were involved in this exercise were Britain, Germany, France and Belgium.

There were two theories that explain the scramble for and partition of Africa namely:-

A: AFRO-CENTRIC THEORY (Marxist theory)

This theory claimed that the factors that led to the scramble for and partition of Africa were economic.

(i) The need for monopoly markets.

The need for monopoly markets came due to increase production of industrial products that lacked enough demands in Europe. To make matters worse, between 1823 and 1896, the world passed through a stand still economic depression where by trade came to stand still, prices were law and profits were small hence the capitalists put a lot of pressure on their government to acquire colonies for selling the manufactured commodities.

(ii) The need for tropical raw material.

The tropical treasure theory, put forward by Nobson and Lenin assert that Africa was partitioned because it was highly endowed with a lot of raw materials for industrial development in Europe hence the European powers rushed to Africa to acquire colonies that would act as sources of raw materials.

(iii) The need for cheap labour.

There was a contradiction between the employers and the workers whereby to maximize profits, the employers had to decrease wages and intensify exploitation.

The workers, however resisted this through trade unions, they demanded higher wages and good working conditions all of which reduced the profit of the employers. The solution to this problem was to look for colonies in Africa where they can get cheap labour.

(iv) The need for investment areas.

Scholars such as Adam Smith claimed that the availability of excess capital for investments in European countries forced Europe to take part in the scramble for Africa.

The capitalists had accumulated a lot of capital that they could not invest in Europe because the markets were saturated, to solve this crisis, they decided to look for colonies where they can invest their capital and obtain high rates of profits.

(v) The need to resettled surplus labour force.

The industrial revolution and the capitalist system produced not only surplus capital but also surplus labour force. As more and more machines came into use, more and more people found themselves out of work, the solution to this problem was found in the acquisition of colonies where surplus labor force could be settled.


This theory claims that political and social factors caused the scramble for Africa.

(i) Before the Franco – Prussian war 1871, the major European powers were Britain and France was defeated by Germany and she lost her territories of Alsace and Lorraine which were rich in coal and iron.

The emergence of Germany changed the balance of power and this forced her to rush to Africa to acquire colonies. The defeat of France made her to rush to Africa to acquire colonies as a way of compensating for the loss in Europe.

(ii) Rise of European nationalism.

During the mid 19 th century, a tide of nationalism was seeping across Europe, extreme nationalism let to slogans like, “my country right or wrong” During this period, the possession of an Empire was seen as a test of nations strength , hence European powers rushed to Africa to acquire more and more colonies thus causing scramble.

Social factors:-

(i) Need to stop slave trade.

The European powers asserted that, they came to Africa to acquire colonies because of the need of stopping slave trade. They claimed that colonial rule was a necessity if slave trade was to be abolished completely in Africa.

(ii) Need to introduce Western Civilization.

The European powers argued that their civilization had reached the highest possible standards, thus they had a duty to impose it on those people who were not civilized, the Africans were believed to be uncivilized hence they struggledfor colonies so as to introduce Western civilization.

Strategic factors

Strategic factors were also one of the factors that led to the scramble for and partition of Africa. Britain controlled Uganda because she wanted to protect the source of river Nile; She controlled Kenya because of the sea route to India.

Britain and France struggled for Egypt because of the Suez Canal which shortened the route to India.


The Berlin conference gave international recognition to a struggle for colonies that had been going on for a long period of time. By the 1880’s the scramble for colonies in Africa had reached serious proportions and there were dangers that if it was not controlled, a major war may erupt among the European powers.

To avoid the war, the chancellor of Germany, Otto Van Bismarck convened an international conference of European powers that had interests in Africa.

The conference took place between November 1884 and February 1885. The main aim of the conference was to ensure that the scramble for and partition of Africa takes place peacefully without resulting to a war.

Various European powers attended the conference, these included Britain, France, Germany, Spain and Belgium. Denmark and the USA attended as observers.

Principles of Berlin Conference

During the conference, a number of resolutions were reached by the European powers.

These included the following;

(a) The principle of effective occupation.

This principle stated that all European powers that had colonies in Africa had to effectively control their colonies by establishing infrastructures such as roads and railways. The powers also agreed to maintain law and order in their colonies.

(b) Notification principles

This principle stated that in the process of colonial acquisition, the European powers had to notify or inform other powers about their colonial possessions so as to minimize clashes over the same colonies because the aim of the conference was to ensure that the scramble and partition of Africa takes place peacefully.

(c) Fire navigation on the Niger and Congo basins.

The European powers agreed that the Niger and the Congo basins will be free for navigation by all European powers. This was to avoid any European power from monopolizing the two water ways which may cause conflicts.

(d) Abolition of slave trade.

The European powers agreed to stop slave trade in their colonies and introduce legitimate trade. Legitimate trade would enable the capitalist powers to acquire markets and raw materials which were the needs of monopoly capitalism.


The partition of Africa marked the end of Africans political independence and the beginning of subjection to foreign rule. In the process of establishing colonial rule, the Europeans powers used different techniques depending on the nature and attitude of the native population towards colonial intrusion.

These techniques included the following:

(a) Treaty signing.

This was one of the most common techniques used by the Europeans to establish colonial rule in Africa. This method was used in areas that did not oppose the establishment of colonial rule.

The colonial powers convinced African local leaders to sign treaties of protection, protecting them against their local and foreign rivals. It should be noted that these treaties were used by the colonial powers to control African territories. In Tanganyika Karl Peters signed treaties with African chiefs which led to German colonization of Tanganyika.

(b) Use of force.

Sometimes, the colonial powers used the military to establish colonial rule in Africa. This method was used in areas that resisted the establishment of colonial rule in East Africa, the Germans used the military against the Hehe in Tanganyika, and the British used the military against the Nandi in Kenya and Kabalega of Uganda. The colonial powers used the military because they were determined to exploit African resources.

(c) Alliances

This method was mainly used in areas where two societies were in conflictsin situation of enmity, the colonial powers allied with one society against the other and finally control all of them together.

In Tanganyika the Germans allied with the Sangu and Bena against the Hehe, but after defeating the Hehe the Germans controlled all of them together. In central Africa, the British allied with chief Lewanyika of Lozi Kingdom against Lobengula but when Lobengula was defeated, the British controlled all of them together.

(d) Gun butt diplomacy.

This is the colonial powers used treaties of force rather than force itself to force Africans to submit to colonial rule. This method was used by the German in 1884 to force a Sultan of Zanzibar to submitto Karl Peters treaty. In 1897, the British used this method to force Jaja of Opobo to submit to their control.

(e) Mercenary technique.

This was a method whereby the colonial powers used Africans to fight against other Africans. The Africans, who were used had no blood ties with those being invaded. In Tanganyika the Germans used the Rugaruga to defeat their fellow Africans.


The imposition of colonial rule in Africa did not go unchallenged, the Africans reaction to colonial rule was not homogeneous it varied from one society to another.

The techniques which the Africans used against the colonial rules establishment included the following:

(a) Active resistance.

This was a physical African reaction characterized by the use of arms or violence against the establishment of colonial rule. Sometimes, active resistances was a spontaneous reaction while in some societies, it needed long preparations.

Active resistance occurred in societies that were economically strong and capable of staging a strong resistance. This method was used by the Hehe in Tanganyika against the Germans and the Nandi against the British in Kenya.

(b) Passive resistance.

This was a form of African reaction against colonial rule and penetration which did not involve the use of arms or violence but the colonized people simply refused to cooperate or to have any contacts with the colonizers.

This form of African reaction was due to natural calamities such as diseases that hindered the Africans to stage an active resistance. The Maasai for example are naturally war like people but during the establishment of colonial rule, they reacted passively because they had been weakened by Cholera.

(c) Adaptation technique.

This was used where the African ruling class sought friendship from the colonizers so that they can get arms and new fighting techniques. It should be noted that these arms and the new fighting tactics, were used against the same colonizers who gave them the arms.

Adaptation technique was used by King Menelik of Ethiopia who sought friendship from the Italians to obtain guns, but he used the same weapons to defeat the Italians in 1895.


Most of the African societies which decided to oppose colonial rule were defeated by the European powers.

There were various factors that contribute to the defeat of African resistances.

  1. Military weakness of the Africans.

The African societies had inferior weapons compared to the Europeans; Most of Africans were using spears and arrows and yet the Europeans were using machine guns.

The possession of this powerful weapon contributed to the defeat of resistances such as that of the Hehe against the Germans in Tanganyika and the Nandi resistance against the British in Kenya.

  1. Lack of national consciousness and unity.

Lack of national consciousness and unity partly contributed to the defeat of Africans resistances for examples; the Germans easily defeated the Hehe in Tanganyika because the Sangu and Bena collaborated with the Germans.

The British also defeated Lobengula in Zimbabwe because chief Lewanyika of the Lozi Kingdom collaboration with the British.

  1. Natural hazards

Some African societies were defeated because of their material conditions which made them unable to put up a stiff resistance. These conditions were natural hazards such as diseases. The Maasai of East Africa could not put a stiff resistance because they were suffering from cholera and their cattle had been killed by render pest.

  1. Influence of the Missionaries.

The Missionaries had a role to play in the defeat of African resistances. The Missionaries brain washed the minds of the Africans by preaching obedience which reduced African resistance to colonial rule. For example; the Buganda in Uganda and the Fante in Nigeria never resisted colonial rule because of the teaching of the Missionaries.

  1. Succession disputes.

Succession disputes also contributed to the defeat of African resistances. Succession disputes brought about divisions which made it possible for the colonial powers to side with one group against the other in Buganda, for example, Semei Kakungulu sided with the British to defeat Mwanga.

  1. Lack of good fighting techniques.

Lack of good fighting techniques went hand in hand with the absence of strong leadership which was needed to stage a strong resistance. A case in point was the Majimaji resistance which lacked adequate leadership and proper fighting techniques, hence contributing to its defeat by the Germans.


Competitive capitalism refers to the second stage of capitalism that existed after industrial revolution in Europe in 1750, where by European nations were competing themselves in Industrial production.

This was done in terms of production of raw materials, monopolizing trade and market. Therefore under industrial capitalism there rose bitter struggle/stiff competition among European capitalists for production, whoever in the course of this stage some capitalist were died while others who were able to compete grow richer and reached to a stage of monopoly capitalism

Hence in order to survive the capitalists increased labour productivity which was done through introduction of more efficient machines hence competitive capitalism was always progressive because of time and free trade and accelerated to the rise of monopoly capitalism.


The following are some of the characteristics of competitive Capitalism.

1. During this period the role of the state was minimal, this was because of the belief of free trade, and this sometimes was called “laissez faire policy”.

2. Most of the enterprises were small and competitive in nature hence there was no monopoly in market, area for investment, getting labor and monopoly of getting raw materials because each enterprise was competing with another to get economic motive.

3. During this period raw materials from Africa were important but not crucial because raw materials were only needed to be used in monopoly companies which had started to monopolize the market, areas for getting labor and raw materials.

4. The tariff policies (trade barriers) were still protective in nature because each nation was still protecting her home market in order to allow merchants to involve in trade at home without any competition from outside merchants.

5. Banks were not controlling production but they were only the agents of payment where by banks provided capitals, loans and credit to the merchants to continue involve themselves in trade for development of capitalism but not these banks but not these bans were involved in production.

6. Competitive capitalism was characterized by the growth of industries where by industries grew specifically for producing manufactured goods which were needed and sold by industrial capitalist in Europe (Britain).


1. Emergence of monopoly companies that was able to swallow small companies. Due to emergence of big companies with huge amount of capital, the small companies could not fit in the competition hence monopolization of the major economic activities and the decline of competitive capitalism.

2. Export of capital, during this period there emerged big companies which were exported to industries, banks, and companies. These led companies to get double profit which accelerated the rise of monopoly capitalism.

3. Emergence of cut throat competition among the European countries. The stiff competition led weak companies to be swallowed by the strongest among European nations.

Example Britain, Japan, France, Italy, etc. Therefore this competition resulted to the strongest to continue in monopoly stage while the weak died in the competitive capitalism.

4. The division of the world among the big imperialist nations which was done at the Berlin conference; this accelerated the colonization of Africa and big capitalist powers were able to get capitalist demands and be able to maximize profits and establish strong monopolistic companies which led them to transform from competitive capitalism.

5. Concentration of production and centralization of capital was another factor for transition from competitive capitalism to monopoly capitalism. Europeans concentrated in both manufacturing of goods and raw materials which led to acquisition of more capital which was invested and reinvested especially in big industries together with big monopolistic companies which enabled them to acquire more profit for trade circulation and for more investments in economic sectors hence transformed the form of capitalism.

6. The rise of philosophical ideas due to high education and research and this led unit almagation of European companies as a way to maximize profit. E.g. Small industries which were established during monopoly capitalism under one merchant was joined together and even the capital from those companies was joined together form a big finance.

7. The Rise of European nationalism. The unification of European nations example the unification of Germany and Italy and the rise of other European nationalism acted as a transition from competitive to monopoly capitalism because the unification expanded market, labor, easy circulation of trade and the nations started to compete among themselves by establishing big companies which all these led to the transition from competitive capitalism to monopoly capitalism.

8. Relate the subsequent division of the world between capitalist alliances with the development of monopoly capitalism.


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