Decolonization of Africa

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African countries in order of independence

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


Main article: Scramble for Africa

During the Scramble for Africa in the late nineteenth century, Western European powers divided Africa and its resources into political partitions at the Berlin Conference of 1884-85.[2][3] By 1905, control of almost all African soil was claimed by Western 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).[4] Britain and France had the largest holdings, but Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium, and Portugal also had colonies. As a result of colonialism and imperialism, a majority of Africa lost sovereignty and control of natural resources such as gold and rubber. Following the concept of White Man's Burden, some Europeans who benefited from colonization, felt that colonization was needed to civilize Africans.[5][6]


World War II saw many British African colonies support the Allies against the Axis powers with both military power and resources.[7][8] Many African colonies did not totally gain independence after the war.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] Another key problem Western Europeans faced were the U-boats patrolling the Atlantic Ocean. This reduced and hindered the amount of raw materials that could be transported from African colonies to Europe.[9] As a result of the loss in trade, local industries in Africa became more prominent. Local industries in turn caused the creation of new towns, and existing towns to see a rise in economy and population. 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.

Dates of independence of African countries

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.[10] It was not a treaty and was not submitted to the British Parliament or the Senate of the United States for ratification, but it turned to be a widely acclaimed document.[11] 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. After the war, some British considered African colonies to be childish and immature; British colonizers introduced democratic government at local levels in the colonies.

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


This table is arranged by the earliest date of independence.

Country[12] Colonial name Colonial power[13] Independence date[14] First head of government Independence won through
Liberia Republic of Liberia
  • United States United States of America
  • July 26, 1847
Joseph Jenkins Roberts
South Africa Union of South Africa  United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

May 31, 1910[15]

Louis Botha South Africa Act 1909
Egypt Kingdom of Egypt Egypt Sultanate of Egypt

February 28, 1922[17]

Fuad I
Ethiopian Empire Ethiopian Empire Kingdom of Italy Italian East Africa Kingdom of Italy Kingdom of Italy January 31, 1942 Haile Selassie I
Emirate of Cyrenaica United Kingdom British Military Administration United Kingdom United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland March 1, 1949 Idris I
Libya United Kingdom of Libya December 24, 1951 Idris I
Sudan Republic of the Sudan United KingdomEgypt Anglo-Egyptian Sudan January 1, 1956 Ismail al-Azhari Egyptian Revolution of 1952
Tunisia Kingdom of Tunisia Tunisia French Protectorate of Tunisia France French Fourth Republic March 20, 1956 Muhammad VIII al-Amin
Habib Bourguiba
See Tunisian independence
Morocco Kingdom of Morocco
  • March 2, 1956[20]
  • April 7, 1956
  • April 10, 1958
  • January 4, 1969
  • November 14, 1975
Mohammed V
Ghana Ghana Gold Coast (British colony) Gold Coast United Kingdom United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland[21] March 6, 1957 Kwame Nkrumah
Guinea Republic of Guinea France French Fourth Republic October 2, 1958 Sékou Touré
Cameroon Republic of Cameroon
  • January 1, 1960[22]
  • June 1, 1961
  • October 1, 1961
Ahmadou Ahidjo UPC rebellion
Togo Togolese Republic French Togoland France French Fifth Republic April 27, 1960 Sylvanus Olympio
Mali Republic of Mali Mali Mali Federation June 20, 1960[23] Modibo Keita
Senegal Republic of Senegal Mali Mali Federation June 20, 1960[23] Léopold Senghor
Madagascar Malagasy Republic Madagascar Malagasy Republic June 26, 1960 Philibert Tsiranana Malagasy Uprising
Democratic Republic of the Congo Republic of the Congo Belgian Congo Belgian Congo Belgium Kingdom of Belgium June 30, 1960 Joseph Kasa-Vubu and Patrice Lumumba Congo Crisis
Somalia Somali Republic
  • June 26, 1960
  • July 1, 1960[24]
Benin Republic of Dahomey
  • August 1, 1960
  • July 31, 1961[25]
Hubert Maga
Niger Republic of Niger France Republic of Niger France French Fifth Republic August 3, 1960 Hamani Diori
Republic of Upper Volta Republic of Upper Volta August 5, 1960 Maurice Yaméogo
Ivory Coast Republic of Côte d'Ivoire French Ivory Coast August 7, 1960 Félix Houphouët-Boigny
Chad Chad French Chad France French Equatorial Africa August 11, 1960 François Tombalbaye
Central African Republic Central African Republic Ubangi-Shari August 13, 1960 David Dacko
Republic of the Congo Republic of the Congo Middle Congo August 15, 1960 Fulbert Youlou
Gabon Gabonese Republic French Gabon August 17, 1960 Léon M'ba
Nigeria Federation of Nigeria United Kingdom United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  • October 1, 1960
  • June 1, 1960
  • October 1, 1961[26]
Nnamdi Azikiwe
Mauritania Islamic Republic of Mauritania Islamic Republic of Mauritania France French Fifth Republic November 28, 1960 Moktar Ould Daddah
Sierra Leone Republic of Sierra Leone Sierra Leone Protectorate United Kingdom United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland April 27, 1961 Milton Margai
Tanzania Tanganyika[27] Tanganyika Territory December 9, 1961
Burundi Kingdom of Burundi Belgium Kingdom of Belgium July 1, 1962 Ntare V
Rwanda Republic of Rwanda July 1, 1962 Grégoire Kayibanda Rwandan Revolution
Algeria People's Democratic Republic of Algeria France French Algeria France French Fifth Republic July 3, 1962 Ahmed Ben Bella
Uganda Uganda Protectorate of Uganda United Kingdom United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland October 9, 1962 Milton Obote
Kenya Kenya Colony and Protectorate of Kenya December 12, 1963 Jomo Kenyatta Mau Mau Uprising
Zanzibar People's Republic of Zanzibar Zanzibar Sultanate of Zanzibar January 12, 1964 Abeid Karume Zanzibar Revolution
Malawi Republic of Malawi Nyasaland Nyasaland Protectorate July 6, 1964 Hastings Kamuzu Banda
Zambia Republic of Zambia Northern Rhodesia Protectorate of Northern Rhodesia October 24, 1964 Kenneth Kaunda
The Gambia The Gambia Gambia Colony and Protectorate February 18, 1965 Dawda Kairaba Jawara
Rhodesia Rhodesia Rhodesia Colony of Southern Rhodesia November 11, 1965 (unrecognized)
April 17, 1980 (recognized)
Ian Smith (unrecognized)
Robert Mugabe (recognized)
Unilaterally declared independence
Botswana Republic of Botswana United Kingdom Bechuanaland Protectorate September 30, 1966 Seretse Khama
Lesotho Kingdom of Lesotho Territory of Basutoland October 4, 1966 Leabua Jonathan
Mauritius Mauritius Mauritius March 12, 1968 Veerasamy Ringadoo
Swaziland Kingdom of Swaziland Swaziland September 6, 1968 Sobhuza II
Equatorial Guinea Republic of Equatorial Guinea Spain Spanish Territories of the Gulf of Guinea Spain Dictatorship of Spain October 12, 1968 Francisco Macías Nguema
Guinea-Bissau Republic of Guinea-Bissau Portugal Overseas Province of Guinea Portugal Portuguese Republic September 24, 1973 (unrecognized)
September 10, 1974 (recognized)
Luís Cabral
Mozambique People's Republic of Mozambique Portugal State of Mozambique June 25, 1975 Samora Machel
Cape Verde Republic of Cabo Verde Portugal Overseas Province of Cape Verde July 5, 1975 Aristides Pereira Guinea-Bissau War of Independence
Comoros Union of the Comoros France French Comoros France French Fifth Republic July 6, 1975 Ahmed Abdallah
São Tomé and Príncipe Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe Portugal Overseas Province of São Tomé and Príncipe Portugal Portuguese Republic July 12, 1975 Manuel Pinto da Costa
Angola People's Republic of Angola Portugal State of Angola November 11, 1975 Agostinho Neto
Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic[29]
  • Morocco Kingdom of Morocco
  • Mauritania Islamic Republic of Mauritania
February 27, 1976 El-Ouali Mustapha Sayed
Seychelles Republic of Seychelles Seychelles United Kingdom United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland June 29, 1976 James Richard Marie Mancham
Djibouti Republic of Djibouti France French Territory of the Afars and the Issas France French Fifth Republic June 27, 1977 Hassan Gouled Aptidon
Namibia Republic of Namibia South Africa South-West Africa South Africa Republic of South Africa March 21, 1990 Sam Nujoma Namibian War of Independence
Eritrea State of Eritrea Ethiopia Provisional Government of Eritrea Ethiopia Transitional Government of Ethiopia May 24, 1993 Isaias Afwerki Eritrean War of Independence
South Sudan Republic of South Sudan South Sudan Southern Sudan Sudan Republic of Sudan July 9, 2011 Salva Kiir Mayardit 2011 South Sudanese independence referendum

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Birmingham, David (1995). The Decolonization of Africa. Routledge. ISBN 1-85728-540-9. 
  2. ^ "Berlin Conference of 1884-1885". Retrieved 11 January 2015. 
  3. ^ "A Brief History of the Berlin Conference". Retrieved 11 January 2015. 
  4. ^ Evans, Alistair. "Countries in Africa Considered Never Colonized". Retrieved 11 January 2015. 
  5. ^ Siddiqui, Habib. "WHITE MAN’S BURDEN: THE NEVER-ENDING SAGA". Retrieved 11 January 2015. It was a “White man’s burden” to “civilize” the so-called “uncivilized”, “savage”, “Negroes!” Within a few years, the entire Africa was colonized by the Europeans, and her mineral resources looted out to Europe and her people put into chains to work 
  6. ^ Gray, Richard. Francophone African Poetry and Drama: A Cultural History Since the 1960s. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-7864-7558-2. Retrieved 11 January 2015. The mission to civilize the African continent has historically been referred to as the 'white man's burden' 
  7. ^ Sherwood, Marika. "Colonies, Colonials and World War Two". BBC. Retrieved 26 January 2015. 
  8. ^ "Nationalism and Independence". Michigan State University. Retrieved 26 January 2015. World War II (1939-1945) had an important effect on Africa. Some important battles were fought in North Africa. Many Africans from French and British colonies were also recruited to fight for the Allies in Europe, Asia, and North Africa. 
  9. ^ "History of WW2: Battle of the Atlantic". History Channel. Retrieved 26 January 2015. 
  10. ^ "The Atlantic Conference & Charter, 1941". Retrieved 26 January 2015. The Atlantic Charter was a joint declaration released by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill on August 14, 1941 following a meeting of the two heads of state in Newfoundland. 
  11. ^ Karski, Jan (2014). The Great Powers and Poland: From Versailles to Yalta. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 330. ISBN 9781442226654. Retrieved 24 June 2014. 
  12. ^ Explanatory notes are added in cases where decolonization was achieved jointly by multiple countries or where the current country is formed by the merger of previously decolonized countries.
  13. ^ Some territories changed hands multiple times, so in the list is mentioned the last colonial power. In addition, the mandatory or trustee powers are mentioned for territories that were League of Nations mandates and UN Trust Territories.
  14. ^ The dates of decolonization for territories annexed by or integrated into previously decolonized independent countries are given in separate notes.
  15. ^ The Union of South Africa was constituted through the South Africa Act entering into force on 31 May 1910. On 11 December 1931 it got increased self-governance powers through the Statute of Westminster which was followed by transformation into republic after the 1960 referendum. Afterwards, 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.
  16. ^ King, Joan Wucher (1989) [First published 1984]. Historical Dictionary of Egypt. Books of Lasting Value. American University in Cairo Press. pp. 259–260. ISBN 978-977-424-213-7. 
  17. ^ On 28 February 1922 the British government issued the Unilateral Declaration of Egyptian Independence. Through this declaration, the British government unilaterally ended its protectorate over Egypt and granted it nominal independence with the exception of four "reserved" areas: foreign relations, communications, the military and the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan.[16] The Anglo–Egyptian treaty of 1936 reduced British involvement, but still was not welcomed by Egyptian nationalists, who wanted full independence from Britain, which was not achieved until the 1952 revolution. The last British troops left Egypt after the Suez Crisis of 1956.
  18. ^ Robert O. Collins, A History of Modern Sudan
  19. ^ Anglo-Egyptian Condominium Agreement of 1899, stated that Sudan should be jointly governed by Egypt Egypt and Britain, but with real power remaining in British hands.[18]
  20. ^ Cape Juby was ceded by Spain to Morocco on 2 April 1958. Ifni was returned from Spain to Morocco on 4 January 1969.
  21. ^ The British Togoland mandate and trust territory was integrated into Gold Coast colony on 13 December 1956.
  22. ^ 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.
  23. ^ a b Senegal and French Sundan gained independence on 20 June 1960 as the Mali Federation, which dissolved a few months later into present day Senegal and Mali.
  24. ^ The Trust Territory of Somalia (former Italian Somaliland) united with the State of Somaliland (former British Somaliland) on July 1, 1960 to form the Somali Republic (Somalia).
  25. ^ Independent Benin unilaterally annexed Portuguese São João Baptista de Ajudá in 1961.
  26. ^ 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.
  27. ^ After both gained independence Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged on 26 April 1964
  28. ^ UN General Assembly Resolution 34/37 and UN General Assembly Resolution 35/19
  29. ^ 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). The UN still considers Spain as administrating country of the whole territory,[28] awaiting the outcome of the ongoing Manhasset negotiations and resulting election to be overseen by the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara. However, the de facto administrator is Morocco (see United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories).


  • Ali A. Mazrui ed. "General History of Africa" vol. VIII, UNESCO, 1993
  • April A. Gordon and Donald L. Gordon, Lynne Riener. "Understanding Contemporary Africa" London, 1996
  • Dávila, Jerry. "Hotel Tropico: Brazil and the challenge of African Decolonization, 1950–1980." Duke University Press, 2010. ISBN 978-0822348559
  • Diueter Rothermund. "The Routledge Companion to Decolonization" Arlington & New York: Routledge, 2006
  • Kevin Shillington "History of Africa" St. Martin's Press, New York, 1995 (1989)
  • Michael Crowder. "The Story of Nigeria" Faber and Faber, London, 1978 (1962)
  • Vincent B. Khapoya. "The African Experience" Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ, 1998 (1994)

External links[edit]