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The Partition of Africa and Colonial Rule: Enduring Legacies on Modern African International Relations


The partition of African territory by the European powers– majorly Germany, France, Britain and Belgium- occurred officially at the Berlin Conference of 1884/85.

This event was championed by the German Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck who summoned the interests of European powers towards the acquisitions of African territories. 

By the late nineteenth century, the foreign powers had balkanized African countries in terms of their national interest and by the early twentieth century, most of the African states have been effectively occupied

The short, immediate implication of this event is that the partition of Africa opened the way for the colonization of this region.

The era of colonization in Africa was not a blissful one; rather it was an event that combined the opposite happenings- innovation and killing, Christianity and stealing.

After colonial rule in Africa, starting from the emergence of the African states into the ideologically balkanized world (USA and USSR), to the claimed participation of African countries in the New World Economic Order, the modern relation of African countries, in general, has usually been modified by the duo aforementioned events: the partition of Africa and the colonial rule, just like the unfortunate transatlantic slave trade.

African continent generally hardly benefited from its dealings with foreign countries both in history and contemporary era.

The partition of Africa during the scramble for territories by European powers justifies this claim the event led to the development of a lasting boundary of African countries, firstly and secondly, it became a setting for the 20th-century colonial boundary.

The African countries widely stress the obnoxious and exploitative nature of colonization in the continent generally, yet the political boundaries drawn during the colonial era are recognized among the African countries in order to shun continuous conflicts, though there war over land in Africa;  Nigeria-Cameroon border dispute for an instance.

English language, the Lingua Franca of African countries also remains a lasting legacy of colonialism in Africa and obviously in agriculture.

This has significantly influenced the relations of African countries within themselves and later with the outside world. 

The organisation of African Unity African Union, the Economic Community of West African States, the East African Community, the Southern Africa Development Cooperation and other meaningful international and regional organizations have English as their official language and the lasting legacy of colonialism.

partition of Africa, leading event
Partition of Africa, leading event, image by Thoughtco

The spread and later adoption of Western ideologies-democracy and capitalism- still have significant roles in modern African international relations. Before the end of colonial rule in Africa, to some extent, democracy and capitalism had been established.

As some of the African states had independence in the 1960s the international relations with these polities were based on ideology.

Therefore, the African found itself at the edge and was unable to verily draw its position during the ideological battle, receiving aid from Communist China and the Capitalist West. Africa was unable to verily draw its position during the Cold War whether of the West or the East bloc.

Also, most African countries have adopted democracy and, democratic principles remain one of the principles of modern African international relations of African states still aligned with their former colonial masters

Commonwealth of Nations, an organization comprised of former colonies of the British government, fostered African international relations to some extent, especially in the western part of Africa.

The unfortunate position of Africa in the New World Order as the producers of raw materials and consumers of foreign finish products was set the stage by the partition of African colonization and also the slave trade.

It has said the very basis for the underdevelopment of Africa and their significance and enduring legacies on modern African international relations


  • The Partition of Africa • – Blackpast
  • Partition of Africa – Western colonialism – Britannica

Tags: Partition of Africa, Africa, Scramble for Africa, Western Colonialism, The Struggle for African Soil, Facts About the Partition of Africa.

Tadese Faforiji

I am Tadese Faforiji, a history student of the prestigious Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State- 21st-century University, properly called. I am a blogger and an avid writer.