There are two countries in Africa that are considered by some scholars to never have been colonized: Liberia and Ethiopia. The truth, however, is much more complex and open to debate.
The sovereign nation of Liberia is often described as never colonized because it was created so recently, in 1847.
Liberia was founded by Americans in 1821 and remained under their control for just over 17 years before partial independence was achieved through the declaration of a commonwealth on April 4, 1839. True independence was declared eight years later on July 26, 1847.
The American Society for Colonization of Free People of Color of the United States (known simply as the American Colonization Society, ACS) was a society initially run by white Americans who believed there was no place for free blacks in the U.S. They believed the federal government should pay to return free blacks to Africa, and eventually its administration was taken over by free blacks. The ACS created the Cape Mesurado Colony on the Grain Coast on Dec. 15, 1821. This was further expanded into the Colony of Liberia on Aug. 15, 1824.
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Some scholars argue, however, that Liberia’s 23-year period of American domination until independence in 1847 qualifies it to be regarded as a colony.
Ethiopia is considered “never colonized” by some scholars, despite Italy’s occupation from 1936–1941 because that did not result in a lasting colonial administration.
In the 1880s, Italy failed to take Abyssinia (as Ethiopia was then known) as a colony. On Oct. 3, 1935, Mussolini ordered a new invasion and on May 9, 1936, Abyssinia was annexed by Italy. On June 1 of that year, the country was merged with Eritrea and Italian Somalia to form Africa Orientale Italiana (AOI or Italian East Africa).
Emperor Haile Selassie made an impassioned appeal for assistance in removing the Italians and re-establishing independence to the League of Nations on June 30, 1936, gaining support from the U.S. and Russia. But many League of Nations members, including Britain and France, recognized Italian colonization.
It was not until May 5, 1941, when Selassie was restored to the Ethiopian throne, that independence was regained.
Sources and Further Reading
- Bertocchi, Graziella, and Fabio Canova. “Did Colonization Matter for Growth? An Empirical Exploration into the Historical Causes of Africa’s Underdevelopment.” European Economic Review 46.10 (2002): 1851–71.
- Ertan, Arhan, Martin Fiszbein, and Louis Putterman. “Who Was Colonized and When? A Cross-Country Analysis of Determinants.” European Economic Review 83 (2016): 165–84.
- Olsson, Ola. “On the Democratic Legacy of Colonialism.” Journal of Comparative Economics 37.4 (2009): 534–51.
- Selassie, Haile. “Appeal to the League of Nations, 1936.” International Relations: Mount Holyoke College.
- Alistair Boddy-Evans: “Countries in Africa Considered Never Colonized” – ThoughtCo