Italian Colonies In Africa

One of the nations to colonize the continent of Africa during the Scramble for Africa was Italy. There were three Italian colonies in Africa, each of which had an interesting past.

Italy’s colonial story began with Somaliland, modern day Somalia. In the late 1870s and 1880s, expeditions of Somaliliand were organized by influential figures in Italy. By 1888, Italy signed a treaty with the Sultanate of Hobyo, making it an Italian protectorate. The Majerteen Sultanate, the main rival of the the Sultanate of Hobyo, did the same a year later. In these treaties, Italy agreed not to interfere with the sultanates’ governments, in exchange for some economic concessions.


The Hobyo and Majerteen Sultanates

At the same time, Italy was colonizing Eritrea, a strip of land separating Ethiopia from the Red Sea. In the late 1800s, Eritrea was controlled by Egypt, but after a war with the Ethiopian Kingdom, the region was in chaos. Italy first settled the area in 1882, and began annexing more and more land as time went on. In the confusion and fracturing of Ethiopia following the Ethiopian emperor’s death in 1889, Italy formally established the colony of Eritrea. Later that year, Italy signed a treaty with King Menelek of the Ethiopian Kingdom of Shewa, in which he stated he would acknowledge Italy’s control over the region in exchange for access to arms and economic aid. King Menelek was successful in uniting Ethiopia, and Eritirea was firmly under Italian control.



Italy’s final colony was Libya, in Africa’s north. Italy had claims in Libya since the end of the Russo-Turkish War and the Congress of Berlin, in which European powers decided the future of the Balkans and how it would be divided, along with other parts of the dissolving Ottoman Empire. During the congress, there were thoughts of giving control of the Libyan city of Tripoli to Italy, although this never happened. Fast-forward three decades to 1911, and much of the press in Italy begins a campaign to invade Libya, which they describe as plentiful in natural resources and barely defended. Italy was initially split on the idea of an invasion, but in the end of September, the Italian government declared war. After a year of fighting and thousands of deaths on both sides, Italy was victorious and annexed Libya.

Italian attack against the Ottoman Empire

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *