Why did Europe choose to colonize Africa after the Americas even though Africa was a lot closer and discovered earlier?


Why did Europe choose to colonize Africa after the Americas even though Africa was a lot closer and discovered earlier?

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Portugal did that during the 1400’s, with the goal of creating a new trade route for the spices in India.
Spain had a theory that they could go around the world to reach India. So, to avoid a war in Europe, a treaty with Spain, Portugal and the Pope was made, which split the world in half. Portugal would get the African part, Spain a certain latitude to the west. They weren’t expecting to find the American continent, they were expecting to find India!

So the two biggest reasons are ease of access and disease. The Sahara was virtually impossible to traverse, so exploring by land south of North Africa wasn’t really feasible.

By ship to the west coast of Africa was doable and was frequently done, but there wasn’t a lot of civilization or ports along the west to support those ships.

By ship to the east wasn’t really desirable either until the Suez Canal was built.

Add to that they were fully aware that mortality rates south of the Sahara were very high due to diseases carried by mosquitoes such as malaria.

Basically it was extremely difficult to explore for a while and was very dangerous.

[This is a very good write-up specifically for your question.](https://unchartedterritories.tomaspueyo.com/p/why-europeans-colonized-america-before?triedSigningIn=true)

One problem for Europeans in Africa was the high mortality rate from tropical diseases such as Malaria.

Quinine had been used as a malaria treatment since the 16th century against malaria but access was limited. It is produced from the bark of the Cinchona tree that is native in to the tropical Andean forests of South America. In the beginning of the 19th century, Peru had a monopoly on production and dot alow any seed or plant getting out og the country.

The Dutch manage to get seeds in the late 1860 and they started to grow it in plantations of what is today Indonesia. The scramble for Africa starts when there is large access to quinine.

It is a bit simplified to say it is just quinine but it was a major factor. Europeans were in other location with Malaria but it is a question of what you can get from that location the danger of malaria around the world depend now on what strain is there, they are not all identical. I would read more at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scramble_for_Africa

Because Africans could fight back. Americans couldn’t – at least, not to the same degree.

If you look at where colonies happened, they tended to happen in places where the locals couldn’t fight back. While most of Africa was technologically behind Europe even as early as the 1500s, they weren’t that far behind – close enough that the delay in getting troops there would have spelled Europe’s defeat.

However, the Americas were closer to 1500-2000 years of technology behind: the Mayan Empire was technologically equivalent to late Bronze Age or early Roman period European empires; and most of the Americas was equivalent to the rest of Europe at the time (similar or slightly less technology – but without the infrastructure). Add in the bad luck of the Spanish showing up right as the Mayans were going through some internal struggles, and there was no meaningful resistance in the Americas to the early colonies.

Resources coming in from the Americas provided both the resources, as well as the extra population, wealth to the merchant class (who invest in colonies), and demand for colonies, that gave European empires the power they needed to take on many of the African powers. Another thing that empowered this is European gunmaking: the European wars of the 1500 saw the improvements of gun manufacturing; and the guns they traded and sold to African powers destabilized many empires (in some cases deliberately: if an Emperor wouldn’t do business with you, you give guns to someone who will, and have them overthrow the Emperor).

However, this still took a lot longer. Native Americans along the Atlantic Coast pretty much got rolled over by Europeans within decades; while some African powers kept fighting into the late 1800s and early 1900s – notably Ethiopia, which was never controlled by Europeans; but also the Zulu, who held out until the late 1800s, and others. This ongoing resistance made colonies much more expensive; and therefore less valuable to the colonizing powers.

You do see similar kinds of resistance in Native Americans later in history, but it’s not until later expansion. The “American Indian Wars” (there is pressure to call them the American Frontier Wars now) started in the early 1600s – by which time the Spanish, and to a lesser extent the French and English – were already well-established in the Americas. And the first 50 years of fighting saw Native victories only when they were able to effectively use guerilla warfare, because while they had some guns, they had no cannons or other heavy weapons to fight against forts and fortified towns. It’s not until the colonial wars between France and England where one or both sides supplied their Native allies with guns, horses, and occasionally cannons that Native Americans start providing any level of resistance.