Atlas of the colonization and decolonization of Africa

The established history of Africa was, until current times, written for Africans by the white men, who had actively made their way through the African continent in a very proud and regularly changing stage in Europe’s history that appeared to be infinite with energy and ideas. A conference was held in Berlin in 1884 to negotiate with Africa’s colonization in such a manner as to sidestep the provocation of war. Hence, a tone for some sort of orchestration of contending interests in Africa was set.

The colonization of Africa profoundly affected the political structure and culture of the peoples who inhabited the continent.

The Real Boundaries in Africa

The ethnic societies of Africa are estimated in the thousands, with each population generally having its language and culture. Below is the map of Africa created using ethnically drawn borders rather than those drawn by imperial powers.

Map of Africa using ethnically drawn borders, rather than those drawn by imperial powers

Now we can only fantasize about what Africa would have looked like if it had not been colonized.

The following map describes the boundaries of historical, ethnic motherlands in Africa and their partitioning during colonization. Light grey symbolizes traditional ethnic homelands that remained intact as Africa was cut up and split into nations by western powers. Dark grey is those who were arbitrarily partitioned.

Boundaries of historical, ethnic motherlands in Africa

The political map below shows Africa before colonial partitions between European countries.

Africa before partition (1880)

By the start of the 1880s, only a tiny part of Africa was under European rule, and that area was restricted mainly to the shore and a short distance inland along major rivers such as the Congo and the Niger.

Map of Africa before partition

Partition of Africa (“Scramble for Africa”) was the occupation, division, and colonization of Africa by European powers during the era of New Imperialism between 1881 and 1914. In 1870, only 10 percent of Africa was under European control. By 1914 it had risen to almost 90 percent of the continent, with only Ethiopia (Abyssinia), the Dervish state (present-day Somalia), and Liberia still being independent.

How Africa was divided between the European powers

The Berlin Conference held in 1884 was an important event in the political future of African ethnic groups. It was attended by the European powers that laid claim to African territories. The Berlin Conference sought to end the European powers’ Scramble for Africa by agreeing on political division and spheres of influence. They set up the political divisions of the continent by spheres of interest that exist in Africa today.

African colonies after the Berling conference of 1884
Map of african colonies after the Berling conference of 1884

The two maps below illustrate how much the political map of Africa has changed.

Boundaries of Africa (1880 vs. 1914)
Map of Africa in 1880 compared to 1913

By 1914, 90 percent of Africa had been split between seven European nations.

Colonization eventually led to political instability and the constant occurrence of many military conflicts.

Historical map of African resistance to European colonialism

African peoples to oppose colonial control often arose from everlasting grudges against colonial labor exploitation, racism, onerous taxation, paternalist practices, arbitrary brutality, and political illegitimacy. The map below illustrates the major revolutionary movements in Africa.

Historic map of African resistance to European colonialism

After WWII, rapid decolonization swept over the continent as many nations got freedom from European colonization.

Decolonization of Africa

European countries, consumed with post-war debt, could no longer provide the resources required to control their African colonies. It allowed African nationalists to negotiate decolonization very fast and with minimal fatalities. Some regions, however, saw significant death tolls because of their fight for independence. Some nations continue to fight for freedom.

A prediction of Africa at the beginning of the 21st century (1963)
A prediction map of Africa at the beginning of the 21st century (1963)
The process of decolonization of Africa

The process of decolonization of Africa was accompanied by brutality, political violence, widespread restlessness, and organized revolutions in both northern and sub-Saharan nations, including the Mau Mau Rebellion in British Kenya, the Algerian War Conflict in French Algeria, the Angolan War of Independence in Portuguese Angola, the Congo Confrontation in the Belgian Congo, the Zanzibar Revolt in the Sultanate of Zanzibar, and the Nigerian Civil War in the secessionist state of Biafra. The map below shows the decolonization of Africa.

Nowadays, of the 857 diverse ethnic groups in Africa, 28% are divided by borders of two or more countries. This colonial heritage still periodically leads to violence and instability.

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Dumisani Phiri
Dumisani Phiri
2 months ago

where is the map with the number of causalities caused by the colonialists

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