numerous differences between the Africa of today and the Africa of old.
"Today" in this sense means Africa since the latter part of the
19th century. It was during that time that the current boundaries of the
countries was determined. Hence,
today's boundaries of the majority of African countries did not exist until
When the European colonizing countries imposed the borders, these boundaries were drawn up without regard to the ancestral lands occupied by the many African ethnic groups and the boundaries these indigenous groups had agreed upon. Also, it was common for the European colonizers to merge into one unit, two or more groups that formerly did not share the same territory.
Favoritism was often shown to one group by the colonizers and this resulted in much ill feeling and animosity. This favoritism resulted in practices that meant certain ethnic groups had more access to the colonial government than others and were able to develop an elite group within their ethnic group. Other ethnic groups were relegated to literally being on the "outside looking in," in terms of their ability to make social and economic progress.
The manner in which the boundaries were determined and the divide and conquer strategy of favoritism is sometimes one of the reasons for the fighting in today's independent countries.
Before the division of Africa into today's borders, some territories were claimed by more than one European colonizer and there were numerous attempts by one colonizer to take the territory of another. Thus, in 1884 a conference designed to end the hostilities between European countries was called; it took place in Berlin, Germany. It was at this meeting that the imposed political boundaries in Africa and the European country or countries responsible for them were agreed upon.
After World War I the League of Nations stripped Germany, which lost the war, of all its African territories and they were given to other countries. After World War II Italy, which sided with Germany in that war, lost any African territories it controlled.
The chart below lists what European countries ruled which African territory before and after World War I. The European countries that controlled African countries after World War I and were not allies of Germany retained that control until the countries gained their independence.
When the African countries finally gained their independence, it was the result of many decades of fighting and bloodshed. Yet European domination was far from over as neo-colonialismóthe use of a leader and a governmental structure often doing the bidding of the former European colonizerówas instituted. Also, in almost all cases, the control of the countries' natural resources lay in European hands as well as the countries' financial infrastructure.