Scramble for Africa: Background Info • In the late 19th century, Europe’s industrialized nations “scrambled” to colonize Africa to gain their vast natural resources. • The Berlin Conference of 1884–85, also known as the Congo Conference, was a meeting in which the major imperial powers of Europe negotiated and formalized colonial claims to territory in Africa. • Almost all territory was controlled by European countries, except Liberia and Ethiopia (fought to remain independent). Most nations become independent by the 1960’s. POLITICAL #1 “Africa is filled with many different cultures and peoples. Before colonialism, some of these people lived in what are called stateless societies. A stateless society is one in which people rely on family lineages to govern themselves, rather than an elected government or a monarch. A lineage is a family or group that has descended from a common ancestor. Members of a stateless society work through their differences to cooperate and share power. One example of a stateless society is the Igbo of southeast Nigeria. Relying on family lineages worked well for the Igbo and other African societies. However, many stateless societies faced challenges from 18th and 19th-century European colonizers, who expected one ruler to govern the society. Nations that attended the Berlin Conference decided that any European country could claim land in Africa by telling the other nations of their claims and by showing they could control the area. The European nations divided Africa without regard to where African ethnic or linguistic groups lived. They set boundaries that combined peoples who were traditional enemies and divided others who were not. No African leaders were present at this conference even though it concerned their land and people. Europe’s division of Africa is often cited as one of the root caused of the political violence and ethnic conflicts in Africa still today.” McDougal Littell, World Geography book, excerpts from pg. 423 & 443 POLITICAL #1 Ethnic Boundaries Map: Ethnic Conflict (2 or more opposing groups occupying same land and struggling for power and control over that land) POLITICAL #2 Dictator: A person exercising absolute authority of any kind; a person who authoritatively prescribes a course of action or dictates what is to be done, especially in an area of discontentment and instability and usually with the force of violence of intimidation. Post-colonial Africa has been overwhelmed with authoritarian rulers who suppress a whole host of freedoms; commit torture; starve their own people; and, murder opponents with impunity. From Idi Amin and Ugandan genocide to Omar Hassan Al-Bashir in Sudan, the historical backdrop explains these leaders’ rise to power. The fact that authoritarian regimes are so common across post-colonial Africa is devastating on a number of levels. Moving from one colonial oppressor to a domestic one appears bizarre and deeply unjust for the continually suppressed generations. Why are they allowing the continuation of the same oppressive authority? Unorganized “constitutions” and the lack of democracy are often cited as causes of how these regimes continue to maintain dominance. Because of the problems that come along with this instability, democracy falls further down the list of agendas in the minds of people who are merely trying to survive in poverty and disease. Most of the population struggles to fulfil even the most basic needs and there is very little time to stop and think about a better government system and how to go about accomplishing it. People do not have the capabilities to communicate and collaborate on how to stand up to the corrupt regimes without stooping to their level and using violence to gain control; this perpetuates the cycle of rebellion and civil war. ECONOMIC #1 ECONOMIC #1 ECONOMIC #2 A HISTORY OF PROBLEMS European colonizers exploited Africa’s resources and people during the past few centuries. Millions of Africans were sold into slavery, and countless others have died in Africa from harsh working conditions while obtaining raw materials for foreign interests. In addition, the land has been mined and drilled with little regard for the environment. This history of exploitation has limited Africa’s economic growth and fostered political instability. Without political stability, consistent economic growth is difficult. AFRICA’S ECONOMIC STATUS Today, most African countries are worse off economically than they were in the 1960s, just after many of them gained independence from European colonizers. In the last 30 years, average incomes in Africa have decreased, while they have increased in most of the rest of the world. Africa accounts for only 1% of total world gross national product (GNP), meaning they contribute very little to the world’s total export of products. The whole entire continent of Africa’s economic output is about as large as the country of Argentina. When the colonial nations pulled out of Africa, they often left the newly independent nations without money for transportation, education, and businesses. To build their economies, African countries borrowed heavily. By 1997, total public debt of subSaharan African governments—about 227 billion dollars—was strangling them.