Decolonization of Africa

Decolonization of Africa

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



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.[citation needed] 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.

On February 12th 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, introduced by Roosevelt, was the autonomy of imperial colonies. After World War II, the US and the African colonies put 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, the British still considered their African colonies as "children" and "immature"; they introduced democratic government only at the local levels.

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


Dates of independence of African countries
African countries in order of independence

The "colonial power" and "colonial name" columns are merged when required to denote territories, where current countries are established, that have not been decolonized, but achieved independence in different way.

Country[2] Colonial name Colonial power[3] Independence date[4] 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 -
Libya Libya Italy; Britain/France 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 Protectorate of Morocco France/Spain April 7, 1956[5] Mohammed V Rif War, Ifni War
Ghana Gold Coast Britain/Germany;[6] Britain March 6, 1957 Kwame Nkrumah -
Guinea French West Africa France October 2, 1958 Sékou Touré -
Cameroon Cameroun Germany; France/Britain January 1, 1960[7] Ahmadou Ahidjo UPC rebellion
Senegal French West Africa France April 4, 1960 Léopold Senghor -
Togo French Togoland Germany; France April 27, 1960 Sylvanus Olympio -
Mali French West Africa France June 20, 1960 Modibo Keita -
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[8] British Somaliland
Italian Somaliland
June 26, 1960
July 1, 1960
Muhammad Haji Ibrahim Egal
Aden Abdullah Osman Daar
Benin French West Africa France August 1, 1960[9] 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 [10] Nnamdi Azikiwe -
Mauritania French West Africa France November 28, 1960 Moktar Ould Daddah -
Sierra Leone Sierra Leone Britain April 27, 1961 Milton Margai -
South Africa South Africa Britain 1910/1931/1961[11] n/a -
Tanzania[12] Tanganyika
Germany; Britain
December 9, 1961
December 10, 1963
Julius Nyerere
Jamshid ibn Abdullah
Rwanda Ruanda-Urundi Germany; Belgium July 1, 1962 Grégoire Kayibanda -
Burundi Ruanda-Urundi Germany; 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 Mozambique also known as 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 Germany; South Africa March 21, 1990[13] Sam Nujoma Namibian War of Independence
Eritrea Eritrea Italy; Britain; Ethiopia May 24, 1993 Isaias Afewerki Eritrean War of Independence
South Sudan Southern Sudan Britain; Sudan July 9, 2011 Salva Kiir Mayardit Sudanese Civil War
Sahrawi Republic 1 Spanish Sahara;
Moroccan Sahara
February 27, 1976;
El-Ouali Mustapha Sayed;
Mohamed Abdelaziz
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[citation needed] 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,[citation needed] under international law de jure the territory is still under Spanish administration.[citation needed] 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. ^ Timeline list arranged according to current countries. Explanatory notes are added in cases where decolonization was achieved jointly or where the current state is formed by merger of previously decolonized states.
  3. ^ Some territories changed hands multiple times, so in the list is mentioned the last colonial power. In addition to it the mandatory or trustee powers are mentioned for territories that were League of Nations mandates and UN Trust Territories.
  4. ^ Date of decolonization for territories annexed by or integrated into previously decolonized independent countries are given in separate notes.
  5. ^ Cape Juby was ceded by Spain to Morocco on 2 April 1958. Ifni was returned from Spain to Morocco on 4 January 1969.
  6. ^ The British Togoland mandate and trust territory was integrated into Gold Coast colony on 13 December 1956.
  7. ^ After the French Cameroun mandate and trust territory gained independence it was joined by part of the British Cameroons mandate and trust territory on October 1, 1961. The other part of British Cameroons joined Nigeria.
  8. ^ British Somaliland shortly after gaining independence merged with Italian Somaliland when it got independence as Somalia.
  9. ^ Independent Benin unilaterally annexed Portuguese São João Batista de Ajuda in 1961.
  10. ^ Part of the British Cameroons mandate and trust territory on October 1, 1961 joined Nigeria. The other part of British Cameroons joined the previously decolonized French Cameroun mandate and territory.
  11. ^ South Africa was under apartheid regime until elections resulting from the negotiations to end apartheid in South Africa on 27 April 1994 when Nelson Mandela became president.
  12. ^ After both gained independence Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged on 26 April 1964
  13. ^ Sovereignty over Walvis Bay and the Penguin Islands was formally transferred to Namibia on 28 February 1994


  • 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)

External links

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