Before the conference, European diplomats addressed African governments in the same way as in the Western Hemisphere, linking them to local trade networks. In the early 1800s, European demand for ivory, which was then often used in the manufacture of luxury goods, led many European distributors to Africa`s domestic markets.  Europe`s spheres of power and influence were then limited to coastal Africa, with Europeans having until then established only commercial posts.  The conference proposed by Portugal to assert its particular right to control of the mouth of the Congo was made necessary by the jealousy and suspicion with which the great European powers were considering the attempts of the other to contemplate colonial expansion in Africa. The general act of the Berlin conference declared the Congo River basin neutral (a fact that did not prevent the Allies from extending the war to this territory during the First World War); guaranteed freedom for trade and navigation for all states in the watershed; to ban the slave trade; and rejected Portugal`s claims on the mouth of the Congo River, thus allowing the creation of the independent free state of Congo, which Britain, France and Germany had already accepted in principle. Historians have long marked the Berlin conference in the officialization of Scramble for Africa, but recent scholarships have questioned the legal and economic impact of the conference.  After experiencing the political and economic rivalries between European empires in the last quarter of the 19th century, the formal partition of Africa prevented European countries from fighting on the territory. The conference was an opportunity to channel latent European hostilities outward, to create new areas for European expansion in the face of the growing interests of the United States, Russia and Japan, and to create a constructive dialogue to limit future hostilities. In the last years of the 19th century, informal imperialism went from “informal imperialism,” through military influence and economic domination, to direct domination that led to colonial imperialism. Some argued that the conference was at the centre of imperialism. African-American historian W. E.B.
Du Bois wrote in 1948 that in addition to the Atlantic slave trade in Africa, a major modern-day global movement is “the division of Africa after the Franco-German war, which prospered colonial imperialism with the Berlin Conference of 1884” and that “the first reality of imperialism in Africa today is economic” to explain the acquisition of the continent`s wealth.  List of some of the most important agreements in the general law of the conference Other historians discuss the historical legal implications in international law. The emphasis on the principle of efficiency and spheres of influence meant that the Berlin conference did not lead to a great development of international law and imperialism.  Some argued that the conference was rather a failure, and used to make Germany responsible for the scramble for Africa.  This principle allowed Europeans to conquer Africa, along with other writings at the conference, but to do as little as possible to manage or control it.