The Berlin conference gave international recognition to a struggle for colonies that had been going on for a long period of time. By the 1880s the scramble for colonies in Africa had reached serious proportions and there were dangers that if it was not controlled, a major war may erupt among the European powers.To avoid the war, the chancellor of Germany, Otto Van Bismarck convened an international conference of European powers that had interests in Africa.
The conference took place between November 1884 and February 1885.
The main aim of the conference was to ensure that the scramble for and partition of Africa takes place peacefully without resulting to a war.Various European powers attended the conference, these included Britain, France, Germany, Spain and Belgium. Denmark and the USA attended as observers.During the conference, a number of resolutions were reached by the European powers. These included the following;
(a) The principle of effective occupation; This principle stated that all European powers that had colonies in Africa had to effectively control their colonies by establishing infrastructures such as roads and railways. The powers also agreed to maintain law and order in their colonies.
(b) Notification principles; This principle stated that in the process of colonial acquisition, the European powers had to notify or inform other powers about their colonial possessions so as to minimize clashes over the same colonies because the aim of the conference was to ensure that the scramble and partition of Africa takes place peacefully.
(c) Fire navigation on the Niger and Congo basins; The European powers agreed that the Niger and the Congo basins will be free for navigation by all European powers. This was to avoid any European power from monopolizing the two water ways which may cause conflicts.
(d) Abolition of slave trade; The European powers agreed to stop slave trade in their colonies and introduce legitimate trade. Legitimate trade would enable the capitalist powers to acquire markets and raw materials which were the needs of monopoly capitalism.