1885 February 26 – Congo Conference confirms German claim to South West Africa

Congo conference Berlin 1884 division Africa European colonial powers

• Congo Conference confirms German claim to South West Africa •

On 15 November 1884, representatives of European colonial powers met in Berlin to negotiate their territorial claims on the African continent. Representatives of the African peoples concerned were not present. On 26 February 1885, the Berlin Conference or Congo Conference (see detailed article on Wikipedia) ended with the signing of the so-called General Act of Berlin (German term: ‘Kongo-Akte’).

At this conference, the German Empire was granted the right to South West Africa, among other things. This was the area between the Kunene River and the Gariep (Oranje) River. It bordered the Portuguese colony of Angola to the north, the British Cape Colony to the south and the British protectorate of Bethschuanaland (now Botswana) to the east.

The British Empire had already recognised the territorial claims of the Germans on 14 July 1884. The British Walvis Bay was excluded from this. The enclave became part of the British Cape Colony.

German Empire placing areas purchased by Lüderitz under protection

A few months earlier, on 24 April 1884, the German Empire had promised the Bremen merchant Adolf Lüderitz protection of the territories he had acquired in 1883:
• the Bay of Angra Pequeña (now Lüderitz Bay) and the land within a radius of five miles; price: 100 British pounds and 200 rifles
• the coastal strip between the 26th degree of latitude and the Gariep (Oranje) River with a width of 20 miles inland from any point on the coast; price: 500 British pounds and 60 guns.

In the purchase contracts that Lüderitz had concluded with the Nama captain Josef Frederik II of Bethany, the German mile was used. It was approx. 7.5 kilometres long and thus more than four times as long as the English mile (approx. 1.6 kilometres). Frederiks assumed it was the English mile, which he knew from his dealings with Europeans in previous decades. Lüderitz let him believe this. When the area turned out to be much larger than expected, the Nama felt deceived. However, the German authorities rejected their protests against the unfair trade.

Initially, the Germans in South West Africa were primarily interested in mineral resources for their burgeoning industry. Later, there was also a need for settlement space for emigrants, who were leaving Germany in their thousands at a time of population explosion and industrialisation.



Congo conference Berlin 1884 division Africa European colonial powers

1884 Congo Conference in Berlin on the division of Africa among European colonial powers. Drawing: Adalbert von Rößler (†1922), published in the Allgemeine Illustrierte Zeitung, according to Wikipedia

You can send us a comment without registering / logging in.

Please note that all comments have to be reviewed. This may take some time. If it does not meet our criteria or guidelines, it will not be published.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
You might also be interested in the following post from Namibia’s Past…
Tag-based search of entire website:
Research more Background…

Namibia’s Past

International Context




Share via
Copy link