Decolonisation of Africa

African countries in order of independence

The Decolonisation of Africa followed World War II, when colonised 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 colonies 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 colonisation 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 Rudyard Kipling's poem "The White Man's Burden", some Europeans who benefited from colonisation felt that colonialism was needed to civilise Africans.[5][6]


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.[7] 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.[8] 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 colonisers 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 (Tanganyika, now Tanzania), Léopold Sédar Senghor (Senegal), Nnamdi Azikiwe (Nigeria), and Félix Houphouët-Boigny (Côte d'Ivoire).


This table is the arranged by the earliest date of independence in this graph; 58 countries have seceded.

Country[9] Colonial name Colonial power[10] Independence date[11] First head of government Independence won through
Liberia Republic of Liberia United States United States of America 26 July 1847 Joseph Jenkins Roberts
South Africa Union of South Africa  United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

31 May 1910[12]

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

28 February 1922[13]

Fuad I
Ethiopian Empire Ethiopian Empire Kingdom of Italy Italian East Africa Kingdom of Italy Kingdom of Italy 31 January 1942 Haile Selassie I
Emirate of Cyrenaica United Kingdom British Military Administration United Kingdom United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1 March 1949 Idris I
Libya United Kingdom of Libya 24 December 1951 Idris I
Sudan Republic of Sudan United KingdomEgypt Anglo-Egyptian Sudan 1 January 1956 Ismail al-Azhari Egyptian Revolution of 1952
Tunisia Kingdom of Tunisia Tunisia French Protectorate of Tunisia France French Fourth Republic 20 March 1956 Muhammad VIII al-Amin
Habib Bourguiba
See Tunisian independence
Morocco Kingdom of Morocco
  • 2 March 1956[17]
  • 7 April 1956
  • 10 April 1958
  • 4 January 1969
  • 14 November 1975
Mohammed V
Ghana Ghana Gold Coast (British colony) Gold Coast United Kingdom United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland[18] 6 March 1957 Kwame Nkrumah
Guinea Republic of Guinea France French Fourth Republic 2 October 1958 Sékou Touré
Cameroon Republic of Cameroon
  • 1 January 1960[19]
  • 1 June 1961
  • 1 October 1961
Ahmadou Ahidjo UPC rebellion
Togo Togolese Republic French Togoland France French Fifth Republic 27 April 1960 Sylvanus Olympio
Mali Republic of Mali Mali Mali Federation 20 June 1960[20] Modibo Keita
Senegal Republic of Senegal Mali Mali Federation 20 June 1960[20] Léopold Senghor
Madagascar Malagasy Republic Madagascar Malagasy Republic 26 June 1960 Philibert Tsiranana Malagasy Uprising
Democratic Republic of the Congo Republic of the Congo Belgian Congo Belgian Congo Belgium Kingdom of Belgium 30 June 1960 Joseph Kasa-Vubu and Patrice Lumumba Congo Crisis
Somalia Somali Republic
  • 26 June 1960
  • 1 July 1960[21]
Somaliland Republic of Somaliland 18 May 1991 Abdirahman Ahmed Ali Tuur Somali Civil War
Benin Republic of Dahomey
  • 1 August 1960
  • 31 July 1961[22]
Hubert Maga
Niger Republic of Niger France Republic of Niger France French Fifth Republic 3 August 1960 Hamani Diori
Republic of Upper Volta Republic of Upper Volta Republic of Upper Volta Republic of Upper Volta 5 August 1960 Maurice Yaméogo
Ivory Coast Republic of Côte d'Ivoire France French Ivory Coast 7 August 1960 Félix Houphouët-Boigny
Chad Chad France French Chad France French Equatorial Africa 11 August 1960 François Tombalbaye
Central African Republic Central African Republic France Ubangi-Shari 13 August 1960 David Dacko
Republic of the Congo Republic of the Congo France Middle Congo 15 August 1960 Fulbert Youlou
Gabon Gabonese Republic France French Gabon 17 August 1960 Léon M'ba
Nigeria Federation of Nigeria United Kingdom United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  • 1 October 1960
  • 1 June 1961
  • 1 October 1961[23]
Nnamdi Azikiwe
Mauritania Islamic Republic of Mauritania France Islamic Republic of Mauritania France French Fifth Republic 28 November 1960 Moktar Ould Daddah
Sierra Leone Republic of Sierra Leone Sierra Leone Protectorate United Kingdom United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 27 April 1961 Milton Margai
Tanganyika Tanganyika[24] Tanganyika Territory 9 December 1961
Burundi Kingdom of Burundi Belgium Kingdom of Belgium 1 July 1962 Ntare V
Rwanda Republic of Rwanda 1 July 1962 Grégoire Kayibanda Rwandan Revolution
Algeria People's Democratic Republic of Algeria France French Algeria France French Fifth Republic 3 July 1962 Ahmed Ben Bella
Uganda Uganda Protectorate of Uganda United Kingdom United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 9 October 1962 Milton Obote
Kenya Kenya Colony and Protectorate of Kenya 12 December 1963 Jomo Kenyatta Mau Mau Uprising
Zanzibar People's Republic of Zanzibar Zanzibar Sultanate of Zanzibar 12 January 1964 Abeid Karume Zanzibar Revolution
Malawi Republic of Malawi Nyasaland Nyasaland Protectorate 6 July 1964 Hastings Kamuzu Banda
Zambia Republic of Zambia Northern Rhodesia Protectorate of Northern Rhodesia 24 October 1964 Kenneth Kaunda
The Gambia The Gambia Gambia Colony and Protectorate 18 February 1965 Dawda Kairaba Jawara
Rhodesia Rhodesia Rhodesia Colony of Southern Rhodesia 11 November 1965 (unrecognised)
17 April 1980 (recognised)
Ian Smith (unrecognised)
Robert Mugabe (recognised)
Unilaterally declared independence
Botswana Republic of Botswana United Kingdom Bechuanaland Protectorate 30 September 1966 Seretse Khama
Lesotho Kingdom of Lesotho Territory of Basutoland 4 October 1966 Leabua Jonathan
Mauritius Mauritius Mauritius 12 March 1968 Veerasamy Ringadoo
Swaziland Kingdom of Swaziland Swaziland 6 September 1968 Sobhuza II
Equatorial Guinea Republic of Equatorial Guinea Spain Spanish Territories of the Gulf of Guinea Spain Kingdom of Spain 12 October 1968 Francisco Macías Nguema
Guinea-Bissau Republic of Guinea-Bissau Portugal Overseas Province of Guinea Portugal Portuguese Republic 24 September 1973 (unrecognised)
10 September 1974 (recognised)
Luís Cabral
Mozambique People's Republic of Mozambique Portugal State of Mozambique 25 June 1975 Samora Machel
Cape Verde Republic of Cape Verde Portugal Overseas Province of Cape Verde 5 July 1975 Aristides Pereira Guinea-Bissau War of Independence
Comoros Union of the Comoros France French Comoros France French Fifth Republic 6 July 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 12 July 1975 Manuel Pinto da Costa
Angola People's Republic of Angola Portugal State of Angola 11 November 1975 Agostinho Neto
Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic[25] 27 February 1976 El-Ouali Mustapha Sayed
Seychelles Republic of Seychelles Seychelles United Kingdom United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 29 June 1976 James Richard Marie Mancham
Djibouti Republic of Djibouti France French Territory of the Afars and the Issas France French Fifth Republic 27 June 1977 Hassan Gouled Aptidon
Namibia Republic of Namibia South Africa South-West Africa South Africa Republic of South Africa 21 March 1990 Sam Nujoma Namibian War of Independence
Eritrea State of Eritrea Ethiopia Provisional Government of Eritrea Ethiopia Transitional Government of Ethiopia 24 May 1993 Isaias Afwerki Eritrean War of Independence
South Sudan Republic of South Sudan South Sudan Southern Sudan Sudan Republic of Sudan 9 July 2011 Salva Kiir Mayardit 2011 South Sudanese independence referendum

See also


  1. Birmingham, David (1995). The Decolonization of Africa. Routledge. ISBN 1-85728-540-9.
  2. "Berlin Conference of 1884-1885". Retrieved 11 January 2015. External link in |website= (help)
  3. "A Brief History of the Berlin Conference". Retrieved 11 January 2015. External link in |website= (help)
  4. Evans, Alistair. "Countries in Africa Considered Never Colonized". Retrieved 11 January 2015. External link in |website= (help)
  5. Siddiqui, Habib. "WHITE MAN'S BURDEN: THE NEVER-ENDING SAGA". Retrieved 11 January 2015. It was a “White man’s burden” to “civilise” the so-called “uncivilised”, “savage”, “Negroes!” Within a few years, the entire Africa was colonised by the Europeans, and her mineral resources looted out to Europe and her people put into chains to work External link in |website= (help)
  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. "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. External link in |website= (help)
  8. Karski, Jan (2014). The Great Powers and Poland: From Versailles to Yalta. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 330. ISBN 9781442226654. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. The dates of decolonization for territories annexed by or integrated into previously decolonized independent countries are given in separate notes.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.[14] 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.[16]
  16. Robert O. Collins, A History of Modern Sudan
  17. Cape Juby was ceded by Spain to Morocco on 2 April 1958. Ifni was returned from Spain to Morocco on 4 January 1969.
  18. The British Togoland mandate and trust territory was integrated into Gold Coast colony on 13 December 1956.
  19. After the French Cameroun mandate and trust territory gained independence it was joined by part of the British Cameroons mandate and trust territory on 1 October 1961. The other part of British Cameroons joined Nigeria.
  20. 1 2 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.
  21. The Trust Territory of Somalia (former Italian Somaliland) united with the State of Somaliland (former British Somaliland) on 1 July 1960 to form the Somali Republic (Somalia).
  22. Independent Benin unilaterally annexed Portuguese São João Baptista de Ajudá in 1961.
  23. Part of the British Cameroons mandate and trust territory on 1 October 1961 joined Nigeria. The other part of British Cameroons joined the previously decolonized French Cameroun mandate and territory.
  24. After both gained independence Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged on 26 April 1964
  25. 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,[26] 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).
  26. UN General Assembly Resolution 34/37 and UN General Assembly Resolution 35/19


External links

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