Imperialism in Africa: Lesson for Kids

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Imperialism in China: Lesson for Kids

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:04 Imperialism
  • 0:32 Creating Colonies
  • 1:43 Conflict
  • 2:27 Ending Imperialism
  • 3:19 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Wilson

David has taught college history and holds an MA in history.

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, Europeans controlled almost all of Africa, leading to widespread changes on both continents. Learn about the origins of imperialism in Africa and how it has shaped the area to this day in this lesson.


Imagine another faraway country being in charge of the place you live. Maybe China, Brazil, or Germany, depending on where you live. They determine the rules and the economy, and it's clear that you and your own way of life don't mean much to them.

Starting about 150 years ago, European nations took over almost all of Africa in a process known as imperialism, creating empires in faraway places. In doing so, they totally changed the history and development of Africa.

Creating Colonies

Europeans and Africans have been trading with one another for thousands of years, with Europeans desiring African gold, ivory, slaves, timber, and rubber. However, it's much easier to sail to a place and trade for goods than it is to control a place and have all their goods. Not until European nations became powerful enough to extend their power across the globe with fleets of ships, advanced weapons, and complex governments could they outright control a region.

A colony is an area under the control of a faraway region. European imperialism in Africa started in the early 1800s when South Africa, then a colony of Great Britain, began to spread outwards.

Imperialism only went into high gear, however, when King Leopold of Belgium sent trade representatives to the region of central Africa, called the Congo. After this, other European powers realized that they needed to stake a claim to parts of Africa they wanted. This led to a gathering in 1884 to 1885 called the Berlin Conference, where Europe carved up control over Africa, leaving only one independent state, Ethiopia. Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Spain, and Portugal all built colonies in Africa.


Europe was a big winner in imperialism, but Africa was not. While the Europeans got the trade goods they wanted for cheap, Africans had to deal with European laws, taxes, and inequality. Some Africans fought back. In Nigeria, the British struggled to keep the locals in line because the Nigerians used guerrilla warfare, striking by surprise and escaping quickly.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account