Home HISTORY Discuss the roles played by chartered companies towards total colonization in Africa.

Discuss the roles played by chartered companies towards total colonization in Africa.

Chartered Company
Royal African Company (1672) Greenland Company (1693) South Sea Company (1711) British North Borneo Company (1881) Royal Niger Company (1886) Spanish Company (1577) Eastland Company (1579) Turkey Company (1581) Morocco Company (1588) East India Company (1600) German New Guinea Company (1884) German East Africa Company (1884)

Discuss the roles played by chartered companies towards total colonization in Africa.


Refers to an association formed by investors or stake holders for the purpose of doing trade, exploration and colonizing colonies.

Historically chartered companies were  formed  by  investors  who  gave  this task  to  the  traders  and  explorers  in  Africa  to  operate  trade  and  commerce  for  profit  maximization.

After being formed, they were granted/ given charter/ legal identification by their mother countries that identified them as official companies which were to represent the interests of the metropolitan. This is why they became known as Chartered Companies.

Before establishing colonial government, European powers  gave  chartered  companies  the  task  of  establishing  an  administration  with  the  purpose  of  seizing, colonizing  and  administering  the  virgin  African  territories.

Also  they  were  to  safeguard  the  interests  of  the  metropolitan. These  companies operated  in  those  areas  where  their  mother  nations  had  economic  interest.


After the Berlin conference, East Africa came under control of two European powers, these were Germany and Britain. Therefore, the companies, which were operating in those colonies, come from those countries, involved: –

  • Germany East Africa Company (G.E.A.CO)
  • The imperial British East African Company (I.B.E.A.CO)


This was  an  organization  established  at  the  start  of  the  Germany  colonization  of East  Africa. The company  in short, was  responsible for  the  activities  in  the  new colony (German East Africa) such as setting  up  leadership (administration), future  explorations, development  of the  region etc.


It  was  founded  in  1885  after  presentation  of  a  treaty  by  Karl  Peters  in  Berlin  in Feb  1885. It  was  official  identified  in  1887.It  was succeeded  by  the  German  government  in  1891. It  established  Bagamoyo  as  their  colony’s  capital  but  soon  moved  it  to  Dar  es  Salaam.


The founder  was  Karl  Peters  who  was  the  most  significant  figure  in  the  establishment  of  the  company.

The  company  generally, played  a  big  role  in  signing  treaties  with  African  chiefs  in  East Africa. The  company  was  also  involved  in  the  partition  of  East  Africa  where  two  treaties  were  involved  i.e. Delimitation  Treaty ( 1886) and Helgoland Treaty ( 1890). Karl  Peters  also  signed  treaties  with  chiefs  like Chief  of  Usagara, Chief  of  Uzigua, Chief  of  Ukamietc


It was a Commercial association formed so as  to  develop  African  trade  in  the  areas  controlled  by  the  British  Colonial  power  in  East  Africa.

The origin  of  I.B.E.A.CO  can  be  traced  back  to 1856  when  William  Mackinnon  formed  a  steam  ship  service  in Indian  Ocean. In  1862, it was  renamed  as  the  British  Indian  Steam  Navigation  where  in  1886, it  was  given  an  imperial  charter, and  thus  it  became  known  as  I.B.E.A.CO

In  1888, Sir  William  Mackinnon  and  I.B.E.A.CO  were  authorized  to  serve  as  administrator  of  East  Africa  Protectorate ( Kenya) which  was  the  area of  influence  of  British  East  Africa. Generally the  company  represented  and  defended  the  British  interest  in  East  Africa.


In West Africa  there  were  various  chartered  companies  that were  operating  for the  interests  of  their  mother  countries  in  Europe.

These companies were as follows:-


This  was  a  British  Mercantile  Company  that  involved  in  Commercial  activities  in  West  Africa  in  the  19th  c  for  the  interest  of  Britain. It  was  formed  by  George  Goldie  in  1879  as  the  United  African  Company  and  it  was  renamed  as  the  National  African  Company ( NAC) in  1881.

The  company  became  known  as  Royal  Niger  Company (RNC)  in  1886  July  when  the  British  government  granted  it  a  charter  and  Lord  Aberdare  became  governor  while  George  Goldie  became  Vice – governor.

The  Company  dealt  with  trade, negotiating  treaties  with  African  Chiefs  and  defending  the  British  interests  which  were  in  jeopardy  from  the  Germans  and  French. The  Company  existed  for  a  comparatively  short  time (1879 – 1900) but  was  instrumental  in  the  formation  of  Colonial  Nigeria.


This was  a  German  Chartered  Company  formed  so  as to  safeguard the  interests  of  German  and  represents  the  interests  of  German  in  West  Africa. The company was established in 1885 and given a charter to represent Germany interest in West Africa.

The company operated in Cameroon and Togoland and it influenced Germany to colonize the two countries in West Africa.


The companies that were operating in this region were as follows:


This was the British chartered company formed by Cecil Rhodes in order to represent Britain in Southern Africa. The company was formed in 1884 and given a charter to operate in Southern Africa.

The company operated in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana etc.


Qn. In which ways the chartered companies influenced colonialism in Africa.
Qn. Why European colonial powers transferred the task of establishing colonial administration to their chartered companies?
Signing of treaties

The company had a task to sign different treaties that would enable their nations to colonize areas in Africa. For examples, a treaty between BSACO and King Lobengula of Matebelele and on 3rd October 1888. Also a treaty between GEACO and Chief Magungo of Msovero in 1884.

Suppressing African Resistances

It was a duty of the companies to suppress all resistances in Africa which were against colonial rule. For examples, GEACO suppressed Hehe Resistance in Tanganyika, IBEACO suppressed Nandi Resistance in Kenya etc.

Abolition of Slave Trade

The Chartered Companies also involved  much  in  the  abolition  of  Slave  trade  in  They  abolished  Slave  trade  in order  to establish  a  new  trade  called  Legitimate  trade  which  emphasized  an  exchange  of  goods  and  not  slaves.

Exploitation of African Resources

The companies carried  out  import  and  export  activities  in order  to  exploit  the  African  resources  particularly  minerals  for  the  industries  in  the  metro  For  example  the  B.S.A.CO  ensured  the  exploitation  of  minerals  in  South Africa, Botswana  and  Zimbabwe

Establishment of Chartered  Companies  also  played  a  big  role  in  establishing  and developing  economic  infrastructures  such  as  roads  , railways  and  ports  so  as  to  ensure  inports  and  export. For  example, G.E.A.CO  established  the  Central  Railway  Line  in  Tanganyika  which  was  constructed  from  1893 to 1905 – 1914, I.B.E.A.CO started  the  construction  of  a  railway  line  from Uganda   to  Kisumu in 1896.

 Protecting the Boundaries of Colonies

Chartered Companies  also  protected  the  boundaries  of  their  colonies  by  preventing  other  rival  powers  from  occupying  For  example: In  East  Africa  G.E.A.CO ( Germany)  signed  the  agreement  of  1886  to  resolve  boundaries  conflict  between  the  two powers.

Exploring the Hinterland of Africa

The companies  were  responsible  for  exploring  the  interior  of Africa  and  the  resources  The information  brought  by  those  companies  fueled  the  process of  colonization  of  Africa. For example the Royal Niger Company (RNC) explored Nigeria, Niger and Ghana for the future colonization by the British.

Generating Funds

Chartered Companies  also  were  responsible  in  generating  fund  through  commercial  activities  so  as  to  finance  their  administrative  activities  and  For  example, the  Mozambique  Company  by  the  Portuguese  in  Mozambique  formed  a  private  bank ( Banco  de  Beira) in  Beira  in  order  to run  different  colonial  projects.


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