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The conference of Berlin

The Berlin Conference (or "Congo Conference") of 1884–85 made rules for European colonization and trade in Africa. It was called for by Portugal and organized by Otto von Bismarck. The conference met during the Scramble for Africa, a time with more colonial activity by European powers. Africans were not invited. It ended most existing forms of African autonomy and self-governance.

General Act

The General Act fixed the following points:

  • The ending of slavery by Black and Islamic powers.
  • The Congo Free State was a private property of the Congo Society. The territory of today's Democratic Republic of the Congo was made the property of Leopold II of Belgium.
  • The 14 countries who signed had free trade through the Congo Basin and Lake Nyasa and east of this in an area south of 5° N.
  • The Niger River and Congo River were made free for ship traffic.
  • Countries could not set up colonies in name only.
  • If a country took over any new part of the African coast, they would have to tell the other countries.
  • Each country was told which parts of Africa they could take over.


  • Portugal - Britain The colonies of Angola and Mozambique were brought together by the land in between (land that later became Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Malawi.) The United Kingdom did not support this plan. In 1890, the British government told the Portuguese to leave the area.
  • France - Britain A line running from Say in Niger to Baroua, on the north-east coast of Lake Chad marked what part belonged to whom. France would own territory to the north of this line, and the United Kingdom would own territory to the south of it. The Nile Basin would be British, with the French taking the basin of Lake Chad.
  • France - Germany The area to the north of a line formed by the intersection of the 14th meridian and Miltou was French, that to the south was German.
  • Britain - Germany The separation came in the form of a line passing through Yola, on the Benoué, Dikoa, going up to the extremity of Lake Chad.
  • France - Italy Italy was to own what was north of a line from the intersection of the Tropic of Cancer and the 17th meridian to the intersection of the 15th parallel and 21st meridian.

By 1902, 90% of all the land that makes up Africa was under European control.

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