They further agreed that a European power could not claim any part of Africa unless it had set up a government office there. Europeans quickly sent officials who would exert their power over local African rulers and peoples.
The rush to colonize Africa was on. In the 20 years after the Berlin Conference, the European powers partitioned almost the entire continent. As Europeans carved out their claims, they established new borders and frontiers. They redrew the map of Africa with little regard for traditional patterns of settlement or ethnic boundaries.
Leopold and other wealthy Belgians exploited the riches of the Congo, including its copper, rubber, and ivory. Soon, horrifying reports filtered out of the region. They told of Belgian overseers torturing and brutalizing villagers. Forced to work for almost nothing, unwilling laborers were savagely beaten or mutilated. The population in some areas declined drastically.
Eventually, international outrage forced Leopold to turn over his personal colony to the Belgian government. It became the Belgian Congo in 1908. Under Belgian rule, the worst abuses were ended.
A major resource that the Belgians wanted from the Congo was rubber.
What evidence in the photo indicates that these rubber workers were slaves?
Still, the Belgians regarded the Congo as a possession to be exploited for their own enrichment. African inhabitants of the Congo were given little or no role in the government, or the economy of the country. The rich resources of their mines went to Western investors in the mines.
France took a giant share of Africa. In the 1830s, it had invaded and conquered Algeria in North Africa. The victory cost tens of thousands of French lives and killed many times more Algerians. In the late 1800s, France extended its influence along the Mediterranean into Tunisia.
France also gained colonies in West and Central Africa. At its height, the French empire in Africa was as large as the continental United States.
Britain's share of Africa was smaller and more scattered than that of France. However, it included more heavily populated regions with many rich resources. Britain took chunks of West and East Africa. It gained control of Egypt, pushed south into the Sudan, and ruled much of southern Africa.
The British industrialist Cecil Rhodes was a passionate imperialist who had made a fortune in mining in southern Africa. Rhodes dreamed of building a “Cape to Cairo” railway to link British possessions from Cape Town, South Africa, to Cairo, Egypt.
I care nothing about money for its own sake,” he once wrote, “but it is a power—and I do like power.” Rhodes helped Britain extend its African empire by one million square miles. The British colony of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), was named after him.
In southern Africa, Britain clashed with the Boers, who were descendants of Dutch settlers. Britain had acquired the Cape Colony from the Dutch in 1806. The Boers—Dutch farmers—resented British rule and many had migrated north to set up their own republics.
In the late 1800s, however, the discovery of gold and diamonds in the Boer republics led to conflict with Britain. The Boer War, which lasted from 1899 to 1902, involved bitter guerrilla fighting. The British won, but at great cost.
In 1910, the British united the Cape Colony and the former Boer republics into the Union of South Africa. The new constitution set up a government run by whites and laid the foundation for a system of complete racial segregation that would remain in force until 1993.
Other European powers joined the scramble for African colonies. They wanted to bolster their national image and further their economic growth and influence.