Colonization Of Africa:In the middle of the 15th century, central and southern Africa is still unknown to Europe.

However, for centuries the Arabs operated trade routes crossing the vast Sahara desert transporting to the Mediterranean gold, ivory, and slaves.

Europe is more interested in profitable trade routes from Asia, especially the import of silk and spices.

But the expansion of the Ottoman Empire threatens these networks.

Furthermore, the kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula set their sights on discovering new sea routes to Asia to corner the lucrative markets.

Portugal takes the lead by inventing the Caravelle; a lightweight, versatile vessel allowing it to accelerate exploration of the African coast.

The country establishes maritime trading posts as an alternative to overland trade routes, especially to capture the highly profitable
slave trade.

In 1498, Vasco da Gama reaches India.

Portugal rapidly grows in power in the Indian Ocean and dominates the spice trade.

The country grows rich and faces no competition from the Spanish Empire as the two reach an agreement to define their zones of influence, as per the Treaty of Tordesillas.

Spain therefore focuses on the American continent.

In 1580, the king of Spain takes control of Portugal to form the Iberian Union.

Colonization Of Africa

The new maritime power, the Netherlands, takes advantage of the situation to seize Portuguese colonies.

Portugal finally regains its independence and tries to regain control of businesses in Africa.

But the country now faces competition from new European powers settling along the African coast.

The situation then remains relatively stable for centuries, with each country managing its own trade routes.

Slave trade becomes the most profitable business.

European ships buy slaves in Africa whom they exchange in America for gold and local products such as sugar and coffee.

From the mid-18th century, anti-slavery movements gain momentum in Europe and gradually lead to a fall in human trafficking and slavery.

In the US, a project to repatriate freed slaves to Africa gets underway.

A colony is established allowing the return of thousands of former slaves.

Although there are conflicts with indigenous populations, Liberia becomes independent in 1847.

A few years later, France and Egypt inaugurate the Suez Canal, opening a new shorter sea route to Asia.

In the African colonies, interest turns towards trying to gain arable land in order to grow agricultural products primarily for European markets.

While exploring the land, colonists discover the continent is rich in resources, stirring the appetite of European powers in the midst
of industrial development.

Tensions flare because of competition between European nations.

In 1884, a conference is held in Berlin to regulate colonization.

King Leopold II of Belgium gets personal possession of a large, little-known area in the heart of the continent.

Germany, Spain, and Italy seize territories, while the UK receives Egypt.

Henceforth, countries can stake claim to any land they physically occupy.

European nations, boosted by their superior military technology, engage in a race for control of the largest possible territory
at the expense of local kingdoms and empires.

In most cases, the land is stolen and redistributed to European settlers.

Indigenous people are subject to taxes but have no money to pay them.

So they find themselves working in the fields or in mines, which become a form of forced labor.

Italy, which controls Eritrea and Somalia, fails to conquer the empire of Abyssinia which gains international recognition as a sovereign nation.

After the discovery of diamonds and gold in the south of the continent, the British empire expands to take over the states of Transvaal and Orange, both of which were founded by the Boers mainly descendants of Dutch settlers who fled following the arrival of the British.

In 1908, King Leopold II cedes Congo to Belgium.

Two years later, after long negotiations, southern British colonies of the continent gain independence, forming the Union of South
Africa.

The new country remains linked to the British empire by becoming a dominion, ceding certain powers to the British crown.

During World War I, hundreds of thousands of men from the colonies are sent to European and African frontlines.

The United Kingdom, France, Belgium, and South Africa take over the German colonies.

At the end of the war, a separatist revolution breaks out in Egypt.

The UK is forced to recognize the end of its protectorate status, but the country retains control of the Suez Canal by maintaining a military presence.

In 1935, fascist Italy again tries to conquer Abyssinia.

This time the Italian army is successful in gradually seizing territories, but Abyssinia would never sign an armistice.

World War II breaks out in Europe, and again, hundreds of thousands of Africans are involved in fighting on different fronts.

Italy, allied with Nazi Germany, loses its colonies on the continent.

At the end of WWII, Abyssinia becomes Ethiopia and regains its sovereignty.

Talks are held at the United Nations to discuss the future of other Italian colonies.

With European nations weakened by war, the United States leans in.

Fearing the rise of the Soviet Union and communism in the world, the country supports the independence of colonies and their admission to the United Nation.

When an insurrection breaks out in Madagascar against French occupiers, it is brutally suppressed.

Italy eventually gets control of Somalia for another 10 years, while Libya becomes independent.

Kenya also begins an anti-colonial uprising that would last 8 years and result in many civilian victims.

In 1952, the Egyptian army overthrows the monarchy and begins anti-colonial policies.

On the one hand, the country makes contact with the Soviet Union to provide arms.

On the other, it provides military support to aid Algerian nationalists against the French occupation.

Egypt also claims control of Sudan, and nationalizes the Suez Canal, chasing away the French and the British.

In response, they combine with Israel to organize a surprise attack on Egypt.

The offensive is a success but is stopped after the USSR’s threat of nuclear war.

The US then steps in and orders an end to the offensive.

The event marks the end of the British and French domination on the continent.

Aware of losing their grip on power, France and the UK try to moderate their policy

and maintain influence on the continent.

Britain supports the independence of Sudan to prevent the country from coming under Egyptian control.

The same year, France, which is mired in war in Algeria, recognizes the independence of Morocco and Tunisia to avoid the spread of violence.

The UK is ready to recognize the independence of its colonies, in some cases if the new governments join the Commonwealth,an intergovernmental organization headed by the British crown.

France for its part tries to set up a Franco-African community.

All colonies accept the proposal with the exception of Guinea, which then gains independence.

In 1960, a new wave of colonies gaining independence ends this project.

France withdraws but maintains economic control over the region with the CFA franc currencies.

The same year, the Belgian Congo also gets independence and becomes Congo-Leopoldville.

France tries to maintain control over Algeria at all costs.

But violent repression and massacres of local populations make them lose the support of the French people and the international community.

Despite violence committed by some of its own forces, Algerian separatists take advantage by playing the diplomatic card and gaining debates at the UN.

France, defensive at first, tries the empty-chair policy, and in 1962 finds itself forced to recognize the independence of Algeria.

South of the continent, while the British lose their last colonies, Portugal also finds itself in trouble.

Despite large investments and significant migration of Portuguese to Angola, war breaks out and spreads into other colonies, causing the country to invest heavily in military efforts.

Finally, a revolution in Portugal overthrows the regime.

The new government recognizes the independence of the colonies and organizes emergency repatriation of its settlers.

To the north, Morocco pressures Spain to quit Western Sahara.

When the Spanish finally depart, it captures two-thirds of the liberated country.

While European nations are no longer present in Africa, Southern Rhodesia is the only country whose independence was obtained by the British colonists who hope to themselves found a country ruled by white people.

The country is not recognized in the UN and comes under great international pressure.

In 1980, it yields and a transitional government is set up to form Zimbabwe.

Despite the end of European presence in Africa, the continent will still have to face various forms of neo-colonialism.

World powers and multinationals influence and sometimes destabilize African countries with the aim of gaining their wealth and generating huge profits at the expense of local populations.

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