factors that led to European expansion into Africa

the following are factors or reasons that led to European expansion into Africa.

  • Exploration. Explorers like Vasco Da Gama, David Livingstone, John Speke, Johannes Rebmann, James Grant, Samuel Baker, HM Stanley and Mungo Park wanted to gain geographical knowledge about Africa. They revealed Africa’s magnificent features, organized kingdoms and her vast resources to the world.




  • Trade. The Europeans wanted to have a share in Africa‟s trade in gold, iron, slaves and other items and wished to directly derive taxable revenue from commerce in Africa.
  • Religion. The Europeans wanted to Christianize the nonchristian Africans and to ally themselves with Prester John: a legendary Christian King of Africa, who, they hoped, would help them against the Muslims of North Africa. Besides, from the 16th to 19th century, Europe experienced the age of Religious revival, during which many missionary societies and groups were formed with the aim of spreading Christianity within and outside Europe. Such groups and societies included the London Missionary Society, the Universities Mission to Central Africa, the United Methodist Mission, the White Fathers and the Holy Ghost Fathers, the Church Missionary Society, Africa Inland Mission, Etc.




  • The desire to “civilize” Africa by spreading Western education and culture. They wanted to stamp out slave trade and replace it with legitimate trade.
  • Improvement in ship building, particularly by the Portuguese, who led by multiplying the number of masts in their Caravel ships.
  • Improvement in navigation by use of charts and a sophisticated compass marked with thirty points, with which navigators could locate harbours along the coastline and note the direction of winds and currents.
  • Major advances in naval warfare. With guns and Cannons of superior quality, the Europeans could conquer whoever they came across.
  • The Industrial and Scientific Revolutions in Europe in the 18th century, which placed Europe on the forefront in technological development apart from increasing her need for raw materials, most of which could be found in Africa and other overseas regions.




  • Adventure. Some Europeans travelled overseas for sheer joy to be the first to find and conquer new lands as others were curious to see strange lands and their people.
  • Imperialism. In late 19th century, merchants and other citizens of European nations urged and pressed their governments to acquire overseas colonies for national prestige. A spirit of national pride had gripped the entire Europe. As a result of interaction between European traders and communities along the eastern, western and southern coast of Africa, trade routes and trading centres developed, which opened up the African continent to the Greeks, Romans, Portuguese, British, French, Dutch, Spaniards and Germans. These Europeans invaded and colonized the African continent through what came to be dubbed as the Scramble For and Partition of Africa, threatening to destroy Africa’s political and other structures.
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