During the nineteenth century the major aim of European powers was the exploration of Africa.
In east Africa, exploration was done by the prominent explores such as Speke, Burton, Grant,
Samuel Baker, Henry M. Stanley and Dr. Livingstone, while in central Africa and parts of Congo
the prominent explorers were Dr. Livingstone and later Henry M. Stanley. And in West Africa
the prominent explorers included Richard Lander, Dr. Barth Mungo Park, Clapperton, Dr.
Baikie, Gaspard Mollien and Cailie.
The journey of exploration was financed and supported by European capitalists. The main aim
was to gather information about Africa because they needed a wider knowledge of the continent.
They also wanted to know about the raw materials which African had to sell and the location of
the main centers of population. Moreover, they were interested in the knowledge of transport
potentialities of African great river systems. For example the British explorer, Mungo Park in
1780s, followed by Clapperton and Richard Lander explored the Niger and gathered important
information about the economy and politics of West Africa.
Roles of explorers.
They reported back about the potentialities of the African resources: Clapperton reported
about the river Niger to the British government while Speke reported about the potentiality of
Lake Victoria and named it Victoria to honor Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom.
They provided important information about the nature of African societies: They reported
about thehostility, calmness and hospitality of the African people. This information played a central role for the European colonialists during the decision making process regarding the
colonisation of Africa.
They explored important mountains and researched the geology, climatic conditions,
topography, lakes and animal species in Africa: This knowledge later attracted European
powers to colonise Africa.
They provided messages to their government about the existing evils of slave trade and the areas where slave trade was still conducted: Dr. Livingstone’s third journey through
Tanganyika and Lake Regions of central Africa was targeted for that as a result he informed the
English that the Yao’s land was still characterised by slave raids and the effects of slave trade
such as sufferings, insecurity.
The information provided by explorers to their government was later used by humanitarians in
the struggle against the colonisation of Africa.
By the 19th century missionary activities had started in Africa. The pioneers were the protestant
churches of Europe and America. It was only later that Roman arrived especially from France.
The domination of missionaries were the London missionary society, the church missionary
society, Roman Catholic missionary society and the universities mission to central Africa
Few Christian missionaries were directly active agents of imperialism. They were essential
ingredients of the increasingly assertive European access to Africa. However In most cases
European Christian played an important role in promoting and shaping the advent of European
The role played by missionaries in the colonisation of Africa.
They acted as interpreters and propagandists at the time of treaty making: Mofat stayed
among the Ndebele for about 30 years serving the British South African company (BSAC) for
treaty making between the companies (BSAC) and King Lobengula.
They acted as advisors to African chiefs:The British missionaries of the church missionary
society convinced Kabaka to accept protectorate.
They introduced Western civilisation to the interior through education and
schools: Thisaimed to prepare people of low ranks to serving colonial masters at the time of
Missionaries softened the minds and the hearts of Africans: Their activities were influenced
by European imperialists’ interests by preaching and emphasising the spiritual beliefs such as
“give to God what which belongs to God,” and “give to Ceaser what belongs to Ceaser”. In the
long run this preaching weakened African opposition and shaped the regions for future colonial
They converted Africans to the new faith: They were easily employed as puppets to extend
colonial rule. Typical examples are the converts of Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Ghana who were
able to protect the British economic interests and paved the way for future colonisation by the
Missionaries reduced resistance among African societies: This was done by converting some
societies and preaching obedience to administrators.
Introduction of new crops: Horner grew coffee at Bagamoyo around 1870 the church
missionaries society grew cotton in Uganda. This prepared people to acquire the skills which
were important for future cash crop production during the colonial era.
They helped in the abolition of slave trade: Theyplanned for successful Christianisation of the
freed slaves as they preached the word of God. They wanted to create the conducive and
peaceful environment for the development of legitimate trade which was exploitative in nature
and was after capitalists interests.
Missionaries had closer links with rulers and interfered even in political matters: They allied
European imperialism while they were working in the interior of Africa. This situation provoked
the hostility from African rulers. In this case missionaries appealed strongly for the protection
from their home governments, which later led to effective colonisation.
Traders were among the first Europeans to visit the interior and coastal areas of Africa. They
came under the influence of capitalists who also supported missionaries and explorers.
Their main aim was to exploit the new sources of raw materials, markets and new areas in which
industrial capitalists had to invest their capital. Examples of traders are William Macknnon,
James Stevenson, Harry Johnston and Carl Peters.
The role played by traders in the colonisation of Africa
They opened a new a exploitative system: Therefore, Africa became the target for European
interests. This resulted in stiff rivalries and competition among European industrial nations.
Introduction of circuit through legitimate trade: Thisinvolved the importation of European
manufactured goods. Thus, the chain of dependence was created and the African local industries
and the arts were destroyed.
Traders exposed Africa to the world capitalist system of economy: The use of currency,
banking and credit facilities began to be witnessed by Africans. This resulted into exploitation of
African resources. The fair and quick turns obtained by traders attracted European colonialists to
come into Africa.
They opened communication systems such as roads: This laid the foundation for future
colonial infrastructure. For example, the road from Lake Nyasa to Tanganyika known as
Livingstone road was opened by traders and was used during the colonial administration.