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The decolonization of Africa followed World War II as colonized peoples agitated for independence and colonial powers withdrew their administrators from Africa.[1]



Cecil Rhodes: Cape-Cairo railway project. Founder of the De Beers Mining Company, one of the first diamond companies, Rhodes was also the owner of the British South Africa Company, which carved out Rhodesia for itself. He wanted to "paint the map [British] red," and once famously declared: "all of these stars... these vast worlds that remain out of reach. If I could, I would annex other planets."[2]

During the Scramble for Africa in the late nineteenth century, European powers divided Africa and its resources into political partitions at the Berlin Conference of 1884-85. By 1905, African soil was almost completely controlled by European governments, with the only exceptions being Liberia (which had been settled by African-American former slaves) and Ethiopia (which had successfully resisted colonization by Italy). Britain and France had the largest holdings, but Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium, and Portugal also had colonies. As a result of colonialism and imperialism, Africa suffered long term effects, such as the loss of important natural resources like gold and rubber, economic devastation, cultural confusion, geopolitical division, and political subjugation. Europeans often justified this using the concept of the White Man's Burden, an obligation to "civilize" the peoples of Africa.


World War II saw the colonies help their colonial masters fight against an unknown enemy, but with no mention of independence for African nations. Future Prime Ministers Henrik Verwoerd and B.J. Vorster of South Africa supported Adolf Hitler while most French colonial governors loyally supported the Vichy government until 1943. German wartime propaganda had a part in this defiance of British rule. Imperial Japan's conquests in the Far East caused a shortage of raw materials such as rubber and various minerals. Africa was therefore forced to compensate for this shortage and greatly benefited from this change. Another key problem the Europeans faced were the U-boats patrolling the Atlantic Ocean. This reduced the amount of raw materials being transported to Europe and prompted the creation of local industries in Africa. Local industries in turn caused the creation of new towns, and existing towns doubled in size. As urban community and industry grew so did trade unions. In addition to trade unions, urbanization brought about increased literacy, which allowed for pro-independence newspapers.

In 1941, United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill met to discuss the postwar world. The result was the Atlantic Charter. One of the provisions in this document that was introduced by Roosevelt was the autonomy of imperial colonies. Therefore after World War II, there was pressure on Britain to abide by the terms of the Atlantic Charter. When Winston Churchill introduced the Charter to Parliament, he purposely mistranslated the colonies to be recently captured countries by Germany in order to get it passed. After the war, African colonies were still considered "children" and "immature" therefore democratic government was only introduced at the local levels.

By the 1930s, the colonial powers had carefully cultivated a small elite of leaders educated in Western universities and familiar with ideas such as self-determination. These leaders, including some major nationalists such as Kenyatta (Kenya), Nkrumah (Gold Coast, Ghana), Senghor (Senegal), and Houphouët-Boigny (Côte d'Ivoire) came to lead the struggle for independence...


Dates of independence of African countries
African countries in order of independence
Country Colonial name Colonial power Independence date First head of state War for independence
Ethiopia establishment as the
Kingdom of Aksum
4th century BC Menelik I -
Liberia Commonwealth of Liberia American Colonization Society July 26, 1847 Joseph Jenkins Roberts -
South Africa South Africa Britain 31 May 1961 H.F. Verwoerd -
Libya Libya Italy December 24, 1951 Idris -
Egypt Egypt Britain 1922/1936/1953 n/a Urabi Revolt, Suez Crisis
Sudan Sudan Britain January 1, 1956 Ismail al-Azhari -
Tunisia Tunisia France March 20, 1956 Muhammad VIII al-Amin -
Morocco Spanish Morocco Spain April 7, 1956 Mohammed V Rif War, Ifni War
Ghana Gold Coast Britain March 6, 1957 Kwame Nkrumah -
Guinea French West Africa France October 2, 1958 Sékou Touré -
Cameroon Cameroun France, Britain January 1, 1960 Ahmadou Ahidjo UPC rebellion
Togo French Togoland France April 27, 1960 Sylvanus Olympio -
Mali French West Africa France June 20, 1960 Modibo Keita -
Senegal French West Africa France June 20, 1960 Léopold Senghor -
Madagascar Malagasy Protectorate France June 26, 1960 Philibert Tsiranana Malagasy Uprising
DR Congo Belgian Congo Belgium June 30, 1960 Joseph Kasa-Vubu Congo Crisis
Somalia Italian Somaliland, British Somaliland Italy, Britain July 1, 1960 Aden Abdullah Osman Daar -
Benin French West Africa France August 1, 1960 Hubert Maga -
Niger French West Africa France August 3, 1960 Hamani Diori -
Burkina Faso Upper Volta France August 5, 1960 Maurice Yaméogo -
Côte d'Ivoire Côte d'Ivoire France August 7, 1960 Félix Houphouët-Boigny -
Chad French Equatorial Africa France August 11, 1960 François Tombalbaye -
Central African Republic French Equatorial Africa France August 13, 1960 David Dacko -
Congo French Equatorial Africa France August 15, 1960 Fulbert Youlou -
Gabon French Equatorial Africa France August 17, 1960 Léon M'ba -
Nigeria Nigeria Britain October 1, 1960 Nnamdi Azikiwe -
Mauritania French West Africa France November 28, 1960 Moktar Ould Daddah -
Sierra Leone Sierra Leone Britain April 27, 1961 Milton Margai -
Tanzania Tanganyika Britain December 9, 1964 Julius Nyerere -
Rwanda Ruanda-Urundi Belgium July 1, 1962 Grégoire Kayibanda -
Burundi Ruanda-Urundi Belgium July 1, 1962 Mwambutsa IV -
Algeria Algeria France July 3, 1962 Ahmed Ben Bella Algerian War of Independence
Uganda British East Africa Britain October 9, 1962 Milton Obote -
Kenya British East Africa Britain December 12, 1963 Jomo Kenyatta Mau Mau Uprising
Malawi Nyasaland Britain July 6, 1964 Hastings Kamuzu Banda -
Zambia Northern Rhodesia Britain October 24, 1964 Kenneth Kaunda -
The Gambia Gambia Britain February 18, 1965 Dawda Kairaba Jawara -
Botswana Bechuanaland Britain September 30, 1966 Seretse Khama -
Lesotho Basutoland Britain October 4, 1966 Leabua Jonathan -
Mauritius Britain March 12, 1968 -
Swaziland Swaziland Britain September 6, 1968 Sobhuza II -
Equatorial Guinea Spanish Guinea Spain October 12, 1968 Francisco Macías Nguema -
Guinea-Bissau Portuguese Guinea Portugal September 24, 1973 Luis Cabral Guinea-Bissau War of Independence
Mozambique Portuguese East Africa Portugal June 25, 1975 Samora Machel Mozambican War of Independence
Cape Verde Portugal July 5, 1975 influenced by Guinea-Bissau War of Independence
Comoros France July 6, 1975 -
São Tomé and Príncipe Portugal July 12, 1975 -
Angola Angola (also known as Portuguese West Africa) Portugal November 11, 1975 Agostinho Neto Angolan War of Independence
Seychelles Britain June 29, 1976 James Richard Marie Mancham -
Djibouti French Somaliland France June 27, 1977 Hassan Gouled Aptidon -
Zimbabwe Southern Rhodesia Britain April 18, 1980 Canaan Banana Rhodesian Bush War
Namibia South West Africa South Africa March 21, 1990 Sam Nujoma Namibian War of Independence
Eritrea Eritrea Ethiopia May 24, 1993 Isaias Afewerki Eritrean War of Independence
Sahrawi Republic 1 Spanish Sahara / Moroccan Sahara Spain February 27, 1976 / Currently El-Ouali Mustapha Sayed / Western Sahara War / Saharawi Intifada

1 The Spanish colonial rule de facto terminated over the Western Sahara (then Rio de Oro), when the territory was passed on to and partitioned between Mauritania and Morocco (which annexed the entire territory in 1979), rendering the declared independence of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic ineffective to the present day (it controls only a small portion east of the Moroccan Wall). Since Spain did not have the right to give away Western Sahara, under international law de jure the territory is still under Spanish administration. However, the de facto administrator is Morocco (see United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories).

See also


  1. ^ Birmingham, David (1995). The Decolonization of Africa. Routledge. ISBN 1857285409.  
  2. ^ S. Gertrude Millin, Rhodes, London, 1933, p.138


  • Michael Crowder, The Story of Nigeria, Faber and Faber, London, 1978 (1962)
  • Understanding Contemporary Africa, April A. Gordon and Donald L. Gordon, Lynne Riener, London, 1996
  • Vincent B. Khapoya, The African Experience, Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ, 1998 (1994)
  • Ali A. Mazrui ed. General History of Africa, vol. VIII, UNESCO, 1993
  • Kevin Shillington, History of Africa, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1995 (1989)



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