When referring to the colonialism of Africa, we often simply refer to the colonisers as being from European descent. However, the different countries that are included under the umbrella of Europe actually colonised different areas of the vast African continent (as well as other countries throughout the world).
Portugal was a significant figure in the colonialisation of Africa, settling in both Angola and Mozambique. In addition, they also colonised the South American country of Brazil.
Portugal was the first global empire that ever existed and, extending from 1415 to 1999, also the longest-lasting of the modern European colonialists. During the course of these six centuries, the Portuguese Empire spread throughout various places in the world and today, there are 48 Sovereign States as a result.
Bartolomeu Dias was a Portuguese explorer who sailed around the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, in 1488. Thereafter, explorers continued to investigate the area, establishing outposts along the way. Of course, South Africa was not the only country being explored and used in this way by Portugal, and the global network that was established translated to enormous financial wealth for this European country. This put Portugal under significant threat as it became the target of rival countries and its empire began a gradual decline as it was too small to defend itself against huge global entities.
The Dutch had one of the most significant influences on South Africa and much of its culture continues to reflect this. In addition to South Africa, the Netherlands also colonised Indonesia and Netherlands Antilles. The Dutch explorers followed the original Portuguese ones (such as Bartolomeu Dias and Vasco da Gama). However, their strategy was to use their military force and conquer existing Portuguese and, by that time, Spanish colonies, rather than trying to start from scratch, so to speak. The Dutch were instrumental in establishing indirect state capitalist corporate colonialism, which was accomplished via the Dutch East and West India Companies. The expeditions undertaken by this empire uncovered new and exciting territories all over the world.
By the late 1500’s, the Dutch controlled the global commercial playing field. By the mid- to late 17th Century, their rule was dubbed the Dutch Golden Age. Although it underwent times of political and economic turmoil, the Dutch empire only really collapsed when European imperialism crumbled following the Second World War.
Today, South African cities and towns still bear the Dutch names of years ago, including Johannesburg, Vereeniging and Vanderbijlpark.
Algeria and Côte d’Ivoire are two of the African countries colonised by the French during the time between the 17th and 20th centuries. Other French colonies included Quebec, Haiti and Louisiana. By the 1800’s and 1900’s, the French empire was one of the largest and most powerful in the world. During the early 20th century, France occupied almost 9% of the entire surface of the earth.
France competed against England for supremacy, which initiated several wars between these two European entities. This lasted until the 19th century, when France established its new empire in Africa (as well as in South East Asia). During the Second World War, Germany occupied France, and the majority of the French colonies dissipated. However, some remained until the 1960’s, by which time most had gained independence.
In the late 1800’s, Germany formed a colonial empire. Although not as widespread and successful as many of the other colonisers, Germany did manage to colonise Namibia, which retains a strong German identity in its place names and high density of German inhabitants.
The British Empire was, undoubtedly, one of the world’s most significant, prevalent and powerful. It occupied areas in the United States of America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Zimbabwe (then known as Rhodesia), Kenya and South Africa. In fact, almost 25% of the surface of the earth belonged to the British Empire at one time.
This lasted until the latter part of the 1900’s, when countries and continents were vying for independence from British rule. Today, there remain some countries that are still under the British rule, but most of these have been granted a measure of independence and self-governance.