Companies and association were among the most important agents of colonisation of Africa.
Agents organised themselves into companies and associations. They received finance from their
home government so as to operate effectively and differently in those areas, where the governing
powers had their economic interests. They aimed at financing the exploration that showed the
interest of coming to Africa.
Examples of the association included the Royal British Geographical society, financed by John
Speke to explore the river Nile. Another was the African Association of British, which in 1788
financed Mungo Park. Its major aim was to explore and identify the areas suitable for
agriculture, which could produce enough materials for export. Another concern of that
association was to identify the navigable rivers, mineral deposits and assessing the market
available for industrial goods.
In the abolition of slave trade, merchant companies became increasingly involved in the interior
of Africa. The major aim of these companies was to establish the so called “legitimate trade”.
This was trade in commodities and other resources that industrial capitalist required as raw
materials or as food for the urban working classes. The legitimate trade did not involve the
selling and buying human
Several companies in Africa were established at strategic points for the purpose of collecting
important commodities for export and supplying manufactured goods from Europe.
In East Africa examples of these companies were the Imperial British East African Company
(I.B.E.A.C) founded in 1886 by William Macknnon. It was also known as the British East Africa
Association. Another company was the Germany East African Company (G.E.A.C) founded in
1884 by Carl Peters. In West Africa examples of companies formed included the Royal Niger
Company (R.N.C) which was formed by George Turban Goldie in 1884.
The association was concerned with commercial activities. King Leopold expected that the
company could improve the lives of native as well as civilising them, exploiting natural
resources and abolishing slave trade and slavery in the region.
In central Africa the company prevailed was the Livingstone central Africa Company (L.C.A.C).
it was formed by Scottish capita lists James Steven in 1878.
In south Africa there was the British south Africa company (B.S.A.C) formed by Cecil Rhodes
as a private company and operated in south and central Africa by the year 1889, the company
was given a royal charter that included the full powers to administer the company.
The role played by companies in the colonisation of Africa.
Monopolisation and exploitation of African resources: These resources were highly needed
by the European capitalists in their industries. In all parts of Africa Company played a crucial
role of collecting raw materials and carried out trade activities.
Elimination of local middlemen and creation of custom duties and tariffs: These was carried
out by the companies which attracted the imperialists powers to control Africa.
The companies encouraged their home government to colonise Africa: For example; the
Royal Niger Company encouraged the British to colonise Nigeria after gaining the control of the
different trading areas in the region.
Signing treaties: The company played an important role of signing different treaties with
African local chiefs. These treaties helped imperial powers to claim and justify the colonisation
of particular territories, especially during the Berlin Conference
One example was a treaty signed between Harry Johnston and chief Mandara of Uchaga in 1884
to control thirteen square kilometers of land in Kilimanjaro. Also Dr. Carl Peters of the society
for German colonisation signed treaties with a number of chief between Pangani and Rufiji.
These treaties were later used by the German government to control Tanganyika.
Creation of infrastructure: These included commercial centers, administrative headquarters,
roads, railways and waterways. They were allocated in those areas where they operated where by
later on were used by the imperial powers to transport administrators to colonise and impose
laws on the land.
The companies laid foundations for their home government to colonise African: They
suppressed African resistance through a police force used to maintain peace, order and stability
within the region. For example in East Africa, the German East African Company recruited
Swahili, Sudanese and Buganda soldier to counter the coastal Arab resistance of 1888-1889.
They provided important information about economic potentiality of African areas: Africa
was exposed to the imperial powers which aimed to colonise the continent.
The companies provided rudimentary administration in areas of their operation: Some
company leaders such as Sir. George Turban Goldie of the Royal Niger Company, Harry
Johnston, the representative of Cecil Rhodes of the British South Africa Company, attended the
Berlin Conference of 1884-188 5. They also notified the conference about areas where they
operate on behalf of their mother countries.
The company played an important role of marking of the administrative
boundaries: Which were later identified as boundaries of the European spheres of influence.
They prevented any other rival European imperial power from taking their territories. This was
evidenced in East Africa where the German East Africa Company marked the area of the
German in the Anglo-German rivalry and achieved the 1886 agreement. While in South Africa
the British South Africa Company managed to map the claims of Britain, thus preventing the
Portuguese from interfering in the British sphere of influence.
Furthermore, the companies used their security organs to abolish slave trade in the areas of their
influence. They introduced legitimate trade in Africa.
PICTURES SHOWING TRANSITION TO CAPITALISM