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European Imperialism in Africa

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Imperialism has been around for many years. Throughout history, countries have extended their rule and government to other countries. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, imperialism became an important issue in Africa. The Europeans began colonizing parts of Africa. These imperialistic movements had varying effects, some with positive repercussions, while other effects ended negatively.

By colonizing sections of Africa, the Europeans were met with many benefits. They reaped the riches of the African lands without lifting a finger. The natives were organized by the whites to do the actual labor of excavating the minerals and other resources found in the colonies. British scholar J. A. Hobson explained, “The foreigners take the wealth out of the country. All the hard work is done by the natives.” This was because the whites gained a status above that of the native Africans. Putting the natives to work was a lucrative move for the Europeans. It cost nothing for their labor and the whites made profits from the resources of the colonies. Also, the Europeans were able to gain Christian believers by converting the natives. Many natives became Christian, helping spread Christianity.

Imperialism had its good aspects for the Europeans, but it also affected them poorly in some cases. The Africans developed a hatred for the colonial powers because of the white’s oppressive natures towards the natives. Sekou Toure, an African nationalist, stated, “Colonialism’s greatest misdeed was to have tried to strip us of our responsibility in conducting our own affairs…” It was clear that the Africans were unhappy with the imperialists. Imperialism hit the Europeans from an economic standpoint, as well. Although they made money from African resources, colonies lost even more money. In Balance Sheets of Imperialism by Grover Clark, he writes, “Italy’s trade with her colonies in 1894-1932 was worth 5,561 million lire (about $1,100 million.) This was less then one percent of her total foreign trade in the same period.” Cleary, the economics of trade in the colonies was hurting the Europeans more then helping.

Regardless of the unfair treatment of the Africans by the Europeans, the Africans did benefit from imperialism. The colonial powers provided the native people with security for them and their properties. Also, the colonizers opened areas for more workers. New York Times Magazine writer George H. T. Kimble wrote, “…It was the colonial powers who were largely responsible for the opening of the region to the lumberman, miner, planter, and other men of means without whom its wealth would be continued to lie fallow.”

Imperialism most likely impacted the natives of Africa the worst of all. Their land was taken from them as well as the treasures it held. The land that the natives lost was expressed in an African proverb: “When the whites came to our country, we had the land and they had the Bible; no we have the Bible and they have the land.” The Europeans also took the Africans freedoms. This was one of the reasons colonialism and imperialism was condemned at the All-African People’s Conference. They came to this decision on to this premise: “…Whereas fundamental human rights, freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of movement, freedom of worship, free to live a full and abundant life…are denied to Africans through the activities of Imperialists.” The second reason came from the poverty caused to Africans due to imperialism. The Conference stated, “Whereas all African peoples…deplore the economic exploitation of African people by Imperialist Countries, this reducing Africans to poverty in the midst of plenty…” These acts carried out but the whites affected Africans in the colonized areas very badly.

In the European/African imperialism of the nineteenth to twentieth century, both parties experienced benefits as well as negative results. Massive sums of money were lost on both sides. There was obvious economical tension at that time. More importantly, people’s lives were taken, but not only those who died. Native’s entire worlds were brought down. They were forced to labor, the lost their land, and the lost their wealth if they had any to begin with. It’s all for the better that the system was condemned in the end. If it had not been, the repercussions would no doubt be more severe and worse then before.

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