How The Portuguese Started Colonialism In Africa

Who Started Colonialism In Africa?

Colonialism in Africa started with the Portuguese conquest of Ceuta in North Africa during the 15th Century.

However, it was not until the 19th century that other European powers began to colonize African territories.

The scramble for Africa was a period of intense competition between European powers to claim African territory as their own.

This period was characterized by a race for resources and a competition for geopolitical power. At its height, colonialism in Africa led to the displacement of indigenous peoples, the exploitation of natural resources, and the spread of disease. It also had a profound impact on the continent’s economic, social, and political development. 

The Portuguese in Africa

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to establish a presence in Africa, with settlements along the West African coast dating back to the 15th century. In the following centuries, Portugal would establish colonial outposts throughout Africa, including in Angola, Mozambique, and Cape Verde. The Portuguese also played a key role in the slave trade, transporting millions of Africans to the Americas.

During the 19th century, Portugal’s African colonies became increasingly important to the country’s economy, as they provided valuable resources such as gold, diamonds, and ivory. By the early 20th century, however, Portugal’s grip on its African territories was beginning to slip. In 1910, Portugal annexed Angola and Mozambique from Spain and France respectively; however, these acquisitions only served to further overextend Portugal’s resources and exacerbate tensions within the country.

The Dutch in Africa

In the 1600s, the Dutch East India Company began establishing colonies in Africa. The Dutch were interested in Africa because of its valuable resources, including gold, ivory, and slaves. The Dutch West India Company was also involved in the slave trade. In the 1800s, the Dutch colonized present-day South Africa and established the Boer Republics. The British later colonized South Africa, and the Dutch were forced to move to other parts of Africa.

The British in Africa

The British first began to establish colonies in Africa in the late 1600s. By the early 1800s, they had established several colonies on the continent, including Sierra Leone, Gambia, and Ghana. They also had a major impact on South Africa, where they established the Cape Colony in 1806.

During the 1800s, Britain’s focus in Africa shifted from trade to acquisition of territory. This coincided with a period of intense competition between European powers for control of African resources. In the 1870s, Britain made a number of important acquisitions in Africa, including Egypt and Sudan.

In the 1880s, Britain’s colonial ambitions in Africa really took off. They embarked on a series of campaigns to conquer and colonize large parts of the continent. This culminated in the creation of the vast British Empire in Africa, which included colonies such as Kenya and Nigeria.

The French in Africa

The French began colonizing Africa in the late 19th century, with their first major foothold in Algeria. From there, they expanded into other parts of the continent, including Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Benin, Niger, Chad, Central African Republic, and Gabon.

During the Scramble for Africa in the late 1800s, the French competed with other European powers for control of the continent. By 1900, they had established a sizable empire in Africa. However, their colonies were often turbulent and difficult to govern. In the mid-20th century, France began to decolonize its African holdings. This process was sometimes violent, as in Algeria, where a bloody war of independence was fought before the colony was finally granted independence in 1962.

The Germans in Africa

The Germans in Africa were one of the earliest groups to establish a colonial presence in the region. They began by setting up trading posts along the coast of what is now Ghana and Nigeria. In the 1880s, they established the colony of Togo as a base for their operations in West Africa. From there, they expanded their influence into other parts of the continent, including present-day Namibia, Tanzania, and Rwanda.

The Germans were relatively latecomers to the African colonial scene, but they made up for it with their aggressive attitude towards expansion. They were quick to take advantage of opportunities to extend their control over African territory and peoples. This often led to conflict with other European powers who also had colonies in Africa. For example, Germany’s colonization of Namibia led to a long and bloody war with Britain (which controlled South Africa) known as the Anglo-German War (1914-1918).


Although many of the European powers became in involved in the colonisation of Africa, Portugal started colonialism in Africa.