Making of a Global World: Africa Story
- Straight lines on map of Africa
- Rinderpest or cattle plague
Late Nineteenth Century
While the expansion of trade improved the quality of life of many Europeans; it had negative implications for people of the colonized countries. The modern map of Africa illustrates this issue in a powerful way.
Straight Lines on Map of Africa?
When you will carefully observe the modern map of Africa, it would appear that most of the boundaries are straight lines. It appears as if a novice cartographer had made these maps.In 1885, the big European powers met in Berlin and demarcated the African continent for respective powers. That is how boundaries of most of the African countries appear as straight lines.
Rinderpest or Cattle Plague
Rinderpest is a disease which affects cattle. The example of rinderpest in Africa shows that even a cattle disease can widely alter the power equations in a geographical area.
Africa was the land of vast resources of land and minerals. Europeans had come to Africa to make fortune out of mining and plantations. But they faced a huge scarcity of labor. The local people were not willing to work in spite of being offered wages. In fact, Africa was a sparsely populated continent and people’s needs could be easily met with the available resources. There simply was no need to work for wages.
The Europeans applied various ways to force the people to work. Some of them are as follows:
- Heavy taxes were imposed which could only be paid by working on plantations and in mines.
- Inheritance laws were changed and only one member of the family was allowed to inherit land. This forced others into the labor market.
- Mineworkers were confined to the campus and were not allowed to move freely.
Arrival of Rinderpest
Rinderpest arrived in Africa in the late 1880s. During that period, Italian soldiers were invading Eritrea in East Africa. Cattles were imported from British Asia to feed those soldiers. Rinderpest came along with those cattle. Rinderpest spread in the African continent like the wildfire. It reached to western coast of Africa by 1892 and within five years after that, it reached to southernmost tip of the continent. Rinderpest wiped off 90% of the cattle population of Africa during this period.
Effect of Rinderpest
Loss of cattle meant loss of livelihood for the Africans. They had no choice but to work as laborers in plantations and mines. Thus, a cattle disease enabled the Europeans to colonize Africa.