By the beginning of the 1880s, only a small part of African was under European ruler, and that area was largely restricted to the coast and a short distance inland along major rivers such as the Niger and the Congo.
The American Colonization Society and the foundation of Liberia
The opening of Africa to Western exploration and exploitation had begun in earnest at the end of the eighteenth century. By 1835, Europeans had mapped most of northwestern Africa. Among the most famous of the European explorers was David Livingstone.
Colonization of the Kongo Empire (early 1880s)
The British abandoned their splendid isolation in 1902 with the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, which would enable the Empire of Japan to be victorious during the war against Russia (1904-1905).
The 1884-1885 Berlin Conference
The United States took part, marginally, in this enterprise, through the American Colonization Society (ACS), established in 1816 by Robert Finley. The ACS offered emigration to Liberia ("Land of the Free"), a colony founded in 1820, to free black slaves; emancipated slave Lott Cary actually became the first American Baptist missionary in Africa.
David Livingstone's explorations, carried on by Henry Morton Stanley, galvanized the European nations into action. But at first, his ideas found little support, except from Léopold II of Belgium, who in 1876 had organized the International African Association.
The occupation of Egypt and the acquisition of the Congo were the first major moves in what came to be a precipitous scramble for African territory. In 1884, Otto von Bismarck convened the 1884-1885 Berlin Conference to discuss the Africa problem.