The Berlin Conference of 1884-1885, convened by Otto von Bismarck to discuss the future of Africa, had the stamping out slavery high on the agenda. The Berlin Act of 1885, signed by the 13 European powers attending the conference, included a resolution to 'help in suppressing slavery'.
The Berlin Conference began the process of carving up Africa, paying no attention to local culture or ethnic groups, and leaving people from the same tribe on separate sides of European-imposed borders.
Since the 1884 Berlin Conference, Africa’s modern history has essentially been the history of the impact of European and American on the region.
It was in Berlin in 1884 that the continent was partitioned among European powers, which then proceeded to impose different regimes of colonial administration. Everything about the scramble for Africa is left to history, including all the attendant negative consequences, which remains the bane of development throughout the continent.
Article 34 of the Berlin Act states that any European nation that took possession of an African coast, or named themselves as “protectorate” of one, had to inform the signatory powers of the Berlin Act of this action.
Article 35 determined that in order to occupy a coastal possession, the nation also had to prove that they controlled sufficient authority there to protect existing rights such as freedom of trade and transit. This was called the doctrine of “effective occupation” and it made the conquest of Africa a less bloody process.
The colonial powers superimposed their domains on the African Continent. By the time Africa regained its independence after the late 1950s, the realm had acquired a legacy of political fragmentation that could neither be eliminated nor made to operate satisfactorily.
The initial task of the conference was to agree that the Congo River and Niger River mouths and basins would be considered neutral and open to trade. Despite its neutrality, part of the Kongo Basin became a personal Kingdom (private property) for Belgium's King Leopold II and under his rule, over half of the region's population died.
Generally, the dominant powers at this conference, Germany, Britain, and France, shared a desire to secure commercial access to Africa with minimal administrative responsibilities and costs.
The conference made only a moral declaration against slavery and the slave trade in Africa. While the delegates at the Berlin Conference declined to commit themselves to the administration of abolition, they endorsed commerce and Christianity as means to combat the slave trade in central Africa.