Creating a Better Africa

First Meeting of the Berlin Conference

This exercise will be run by members of the Pine Crest International Relations Club.








    In 1884, German chancellor Otto von Bismarck called together 14 of the major western powers of the world to negotiate questions and end confusion over the control of Africa;
but not one delegate from the continent of Africa was invited!  For the purpose of this simulation, 12 of the 14 powers will be represented. 

    At the time of the conference, 80% of Africa remained under traditional and local control. What ultimately resulted was a hodgepodge of geometric boundaries that divided Africa into fifty irregular countries. By the time independence returned to Africa in 1950, the realm had acquired a legacy of political fragmentation that could neither be eliminated nor made to operate satisfactorily.  Now, it is YOUR chance to turn back the clock and establish a system of boundaries and countries (20-25 for this simulation) that will improve the future of the African continent, while maintaining your country's perspective during that time period.  Because an effective resolution to the reorganization of Africa is of paramount importance, you have received the following letter, which asks you to help to develop a new border system.

Chairman of the Conference

Committee Delegate:

  The Conference Commission requests your immediate presence in Germany as a delegate to the Berlin Conference. You and your delegation, experts in the areas of economics, geography, ethics, military history, and international negotiations, have been appointed by your government to represent them in this process. Each nation present will be allowed to participate in a three-day review and deliberation to determine the fate of the African Continent.

   Your timely presence in Berlin by 15 November 1884 will allow your country to be heard. As Chairman of the Berlin Conference, I assure you that your task will be difficult, but of supreme importance to the future of Africa, Europe, and the entire world. 

Otto von Bismarck


    You are a member of a delegation representing your nation at the Berlin Conference.  Your delegation must create a new boundary system for the entire continent of Africa.  To complete this task, you will create a document containing your nation's position on the adjustment of the African boundaries and a resolution to the issue.  You will also create an original map depicting your new Africa.  Each delegate must "wear several hats" while researching and preparing for the conference:

Delegate Responsibilities & Areas of Attention


Arable land

Physical landscape

Access to water

Mineral wealth








Political Scientist

Balance of power
Government types

Border structure (e.g. shape)

Neighboring states

Foreign interests


Present information in the character as a representative of the country
Participate in all caucuses
Be prepareed

    Your first responsibility is to research your assigned country; there are several links provided on this site to get you started.  This will allow you to represent your assigned nation intelligently, and to act “in character” even when specific information about a topic may not be available (e.g. what type of government exists in your country?  What types of problems have occurred in your country's past that could have been prevented?).

    Secondly, you must familiarize yourself with the continent of Africa through resources, maps, and data, not just information on your assigned country.  You must then establish criteria by which you will prioritize the delimitation of the boundaries of Africa.  There are many priorities you may consider - language, religion, access to major oceans, seas, or rivers (prevent landlocked states as much as possible), cultures/established tribal kingdoms, population (density & total), mineral access & arable land, physical landscape, etc...  As you can see, you have quite a responsibility on your hands.


    When you have gathered enough data and maps, and have established the underlying criteria and philosophies guiding your country's decisions, you are then ready to construct your position paper and proposed resolution.  Your position paper will contain your country's underlying criteria and philosophies in dealing with the establishment of the borders of Africa.  It needs to be only one to two paragraphs long, and does not propose any specific solutions to the problem.

    Your resolution will immediately follow the position paper, and is essentially one long sentence. It begins with the Subject (e.g. The Boers on the Issue of Establishing a New African Border System), then uses what are known as Preambulatory Clauses to describe the resolution’s intent and motivation before moving on to describe the specific action which will be taken by the Berlin Conference in the Operative Clauses, which offer specific solutions to the problem (some samples are provided in this site).  The correct format must be used to demonstrate organized thinking and professionalism.  Remember to represent to goals and desires of your respective nation to the best of your ability.

    A map containing all new countries must be created using a computer program, to be attached to the position paper and resolution.  Use the blank map of Africa provided in this website.  In addition to the position paper, resolution and map, each project must contain a section describing the amount of work each individual had contributed. 


The basic steps you and your fellow delegates must complete:
  Designate the duties of all delegates in your group - economist, anthropologist, political scientist, and speaker.
  Research the essentials of the Berlin Conference, your respective nation, and the general goals and inclinations of ALL other delegations.
  Analyze maps and data to familiarize yourself with the African continent.
  Establish a hierarchy of priorities by which you will create an original boundary system for Africa (e.g., kingdoms, access to water and minerals, language, religion, etc.).
  Create a position paper articulating your nation's goals and priorities with respect to the issue of establishing the boundaries of Africa.
  Compose a resolution creating a minimum of 20-25 countries, maximizing equality between all nations and minimizing the potential problems between all new countries.
  Construct a detailed map of all new countries created by your delegation's position paper and resolution.
  Include a section describing the amount of work each individual had contributed to the overall project.
  Submit your position paper, resolution, and map to your instructor (make at least one additional copy for your delegation).
  Participate in the Model Berlin Conference.

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In addition to your textbook, encyclopedias, and other books available to you, the following internet sources will help you to complete this task.

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The following rubric may be used to evaluate your contribution to this task. 

Group Interaction
Excellent communication skills; group work builds upon individual effort; responsibility shared evenly; students clearly perform roles Good listening/speaking skills; positive discussions and feedback; most students participate Some ability to work together; group discusses and creates solutions; some students participate Infrequent discussions; one person does all of the work; little or no participation by others
Both position paper and resolution are interesting and engaging; shows insight; clever solutions to task Interesting; some aspects of the project display insight Completes the task but without regard for uniqueness or flair Sketchy, incomplete, unfocused presentation
Focused, historically accurate, detailed Well thought out, historically accurate, addresses major points  Addresses most of the task, only minor errors, historically accurate Incomplete task, historical errors
Aesthetically pleasing, clear understanding of all concepts, typed with proper formatting, no grammatical or spelling errors Good looking project, can discuss all topics, few written errors, good formatting Good delivery of the information, knows most topics, neatly written, some written errors
Unpracticed, reads information, illegible and/or many errors
Position Papers and Resolutions
Takes a stand and supports it with specifics, well organized, thoughtful and interesting to  read, follows the format perfectly without grammatical errors Opinion is clear but supported with only a few examples, organized, may contain a few grammatical errors  Either no opinion or no specific examples, wanders but makes some good points, at least one page in length No opinion, no details from either treaty, less than one page in length, may have  many grammatical errors


This simulation will recreate the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885, and will allow students the opportunity to practice their research, negotiation, and conflict resolution skills in an historical setting.  The major purposes of this simulation are to:

  • introduce students to the fascinating realities and complexities of international relations through simulations of international organizations

  • demonstrate the potential and limitations of the United Nations in the resolution of global conflicts and problems.

  • allow the students to participate in “living” historical situations and recognize the fact that they, too, are a part of history.

  • meet, work with, and socialize with other students in both cooperative and competitive situations.

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