The process of colonization of Africa started in the nineteenth century. Till then very little was known about this Dark Continent. It was only in the wake of explorations by Morton Stanley and David Livingstone that the world came to know about the riches of this continent and started taking keen interest in its colonization.
The lead in this direction was taken by King Leopold II of Belgium who financed the voyages of Morton Stanley, who explored the rich Congo Basin. King Leopold II erected the Congo Free State with the consent of other powers. Initially this state behaved as a neutral and independent state and was open to traders of all nations, but in 1907 it was annexed by Belgium.
Germany, which for long was discouraged by Bismarck from embarking on colonial ventures also took keen interest in Africa. In fact when Germany achieved her unity and embarked on colonial career, nearly all available countries were already occupied. The only place where some tracts of land were available was Africa.
These lands were considered as unfit for white settlers. Germany tried to capture as much land as possible without embroiling herself with the neighbors. Thus she annexed Togoland and Cameroons in 1884. Germany captured East Africa and South-West Africa. However, Germany lost these territories as a result of her defeat in the First World War.
The French embarked on the path of colonization of Africa in the mid- seventeenth century when they occupied certain parts of western coast of Africa. In the mid-nineteenth century they conquered Algeria after an arduous and hideous struggle. In 1871, 11,000 persons from Alsace Lorraine shifted to Algeria. More French settlers followed them and soon Algeria began to be regarded as an extension of provincial France.
France seized Tunis in 1881 and made it a French Protectorate. In 1889 France established her protectorate over Madagascar. France conquered Ivory Coast and Dahomey in 1891 and 1892 respectively. She further moved northwards and reached Lake Chad in 1897. France also established her control over the desert of Sahara and thus succeeded in providing a common link to all her colonies. France also captured Senegal and Morocco. France established control over Egypt but gave up her claims in favour of Great Britain.
As compared to the other European powers the Portuguese, the Italians and the Spaniards were less successful in their colonial ventures. Portugal established control over the province Angola in the South of the Belgian Congo. She also set up the colony of Mozambique. Italy captured Eritrea and Italian Somaliland in the east.
She also made a bid to bring the State of Abyssinia under her control but did not succeed. In the north Italy occupied Libya and Tripoli. Spain secured the Canary Islands and some other islands on the Guinea Coast. The Spaniards also made efforts to extend the bridge-head in Morocco which they had secured in 1860, but did not meet with any success.
But it was Britain which grabed the maximum portions of America. She carved out colonies in all parts of Africa-East West, North and South. The person who was responsible for Britain gaining lion’s share of Africa was Cecil Rhodes. He set up British colonies in South Africa and helped Britain to occupy Rhodesia and Nyasaland from the natives and Cape Colony from the Dutch. In 1885 Britain declared Bcchuanaland as a British protectorate.
Gold Coast and Sierra Leone were captured in 1886 and 1889 respectively. I n 1890 Britain hastily organized Northern and Southern Rhodesia. In the East and West Africa, the British trading companies afforded protection to Uganda, to Kenya and to Nigeria. Britain also acquired Somaliland and reconquered Sudan in 1898 In 1899- 1900, as a result of their victory in the Boer War the British ann exed the Orange Free State and Transval.
In 1909 these two States were merged with two other states end the Union of South Africa came into existence. Thus by the and of the nineteenth century Britain had under her control over five thousand million square miles of Africa and population of over 90 million Africans, which was more than the total area under the control of all other colonial powers like France, Germany, Portugal, Belgium etc.