After the ‘Scramble for Africa’, triggered by the Berlin Conference of 1884, over 90 per cent of Africa had been claimed by a colonial power by 1914. Of this land area, well over 90 per cent was assigned to what would become the Allied Powers. Of the Central Powers, Austria-Hungary held no African territory, while German possessions, in Togoland, Cameroon, East Africa and Southwest Africa were widely dispersed, and thus difficult to defend. Egypt was a special case; nominally it was part of the Ottoman Empire, which would ally with the Central Powers, but effectively it operated as a British protectorate. It also hosted the Suez Canal, which probably constituted the most important strategic asset on the continent. Because of the frantic pace of colonization, imperial control was often tenuous. The war would see several rebellions in Africa, as inhabitants sought to exploit the distraction of the conflict to win their freedom.
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