Africa Timeline

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Africa Timeline

100 000 BCE

Humans begin to migrate from Africa to other parts of the world.

10,000 – 2000 BCE

Agriculture begins in northeast Africa with a focus on barley, wheat and the raising of cattle and sheep from southwest Asia. Donkeys also become domesticated later, spreading the practice to southwest Asia.

Pottery and the capturing and holding of cattle start to emerge, as do the building of stone settlements in some regions. The domestication of other plant life grows during this period.

Megaliths are built at Nabta Playa in the Nubian Desert which predates Stonehenge by 1000 years. The megaliths have been suggested to be astronomical devices.

A dry phase hits Africa in approximately 5000 BCE, Africa entered a dry phase, drying up the Sahara region and causing the population to move therefrom.

3100 BCE

Egypt is consolidated from multiple to one political entity by the pharaoh, Narmer. Bureaucracies became more centralized under the pharaohs, run by viziers, governors, tax collectors, generals, artists, and technicians. They engaged in tax collecting, organizing of labour for major public works, and building irrigation systems, pyramids, temples, and canals.

3100 BCE

Ta-Seti, one of the first sacral kingdoms in the Nile area of Nubia is invaded by Egypt and destroyed during the First Dynasty. Though smaller sacral kingdoms continued to exist, they soon became consolidated, eventually resulting in larger kingdoms – two of which included the Kingdom of Sai & the Kingdom of Kerma. The latter kingdom became one of the Hyksos allies when they invaded Egypt at the start of the country’s Second Intermediate Period.

3000 – 2000 BCE

Ancient Somalis domesticate camels. This later spreads to North Africa and Ancient Egypt.

Camel Profile Image Source

2200 BCE

The first pyramid is built in Egypt.

2181–2055 BCE

The First Intermediate Period of Egypt occurs. This period spanned the seventh to part of the eleventh dynasty, and was marked by power divisions and civil wars. Two power bases, Heracleopolis (lower Egypt) and Thebes (upper Egypt) fought for control of the region with Thebes eventually winning control & reuniting Egypt under one ruler during the eleventh dynasty.

2130 BCE

The Middle Kingdom emerges in Egypt

1580–1080 BCE

The New Kingdom begins in Egypt, bringing an end to the Second Intermediate Period and ushering in one of the nation’s most powerful pre-modern phases. With much political influence on the Mediterranean & Libya, the nation also gains control of Palestine and Nubia.

1000 BCE

Bantu expansion begins. People from West Africa, where Bantu-languages originated, began migrating to other parts of Africa, thus spreading the use of Bantu-based language across the continent; particularly Central, Southeast & Southern Africa. Experts approximate between 250 to 525 Bantu languages in existence.

1000 BCE

The Nok Culture, a highly centralised community of people, is established on the Jos Plateau in central Nigeria. Iron-smelting became common to the Nok by 500 BCE, and they prolifically produced art in the form of extremely lifelike animal and human figures from terracotta. Though the Nok are considered to have disappeared by 200 BCE, their influence can be seen in the Yoruba Kingdom and Benin.

Nok sculpture Louvre Image Source

814 BCE

The city of Carthage is established by Phoenicians from Tyre. The region became an influential power and trading entity in the Mediterranean. The neighbouring kingdoms of Numidia and Mauretania

730 BCE

The Nubian Empire begins. The Kingdom of Kush, possibly arising out of the Kingdom of Kerma which had rebelled for centuries after being absorbed into the Egyptian Empire, invaded Egypt & took over Thebes. The Kushites were later expelled from Nubia by Assyrian forces. The region later became a centre for cotton-cloth and iron manufacture.

525 BCE

Persians invade Egypt

509 BCE

The first known treaty between Carthage & Rome is written, outlining limitations to their commercial activities & influence over neighbouring regions. The treaty is the earliest record indicating that Sardinia & Sicily were under Carthaginian control.

300 BCE

The Meroitic alphabet replaces Egyptian script in the influential region of Meroe. Made up of 23 characters, the alphabetic script was originally derived from Egyptian hieroglyphics.

300 BCE

Djenné-Djenno, a town in current-day Mali, is established, and is known as one of the oldest urbanised centres known. The town is associated with thriving market and agriculture – most notably the domestication of African rice. The town is also known for being one of the earliest sites of iron production in sub-Saharan Africa.

264 – 146 BCE

A series of three wars (also known as the Punic Wars) between Carthage and the Roman Republic sees Carthage destroyed and its territory renamed the Roman Province of Africa. The second of the wars (also known as the Hannibalic War) was one of the most famous of the Carthaginian military leader, Hannibal, in which he led his army (including elephants) from Iberia to Italy via the Alps. By the end of the three wars, Carthage was destroyed and the remaining citizens sold to slavery as was the custom of the time. This was the beginning of Roman hegemony in northern Africa.

100-200 CE

Jewish people come to Roman North Africa arriving after being deported from Judea for rebelling against Roman rule. While some Jewish people already settled in the area after arriving with Punic settlers, a significant Jewish presence existed in Roman North Africa with a number of Berber tribes converting to the religion.

3rd Century CE

Christianity begins to take influence in Roman North Africa.

Swahili culture begins to take shape as a result of interaction between local Bantu-speaking people and Persian and Arab merchants settling on the Swahili Coast. The culture eventually spread to Mozambique after beginning in Tanzania and Kenya, and was influenced by Bantu, Persian and Arabic traditions, as well as influences from the Far East as a result of long-distance trading routes.

4th Century CE

The area of Great Zimbabwe is settled, with Ziwa and Gokomere communities farming and mining the land as well as utilising iron. The area marks the earliest Iron Age settlements known of in the region. Great Zimbabwe would later become the capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe in the 11th century and serve as the first city in Southern Africa.

Conical tower by Marius Loots Image Source

The Ghana Empire is presumed to have been founded during this period. The empire prospered as a result of tax revenues from the trans-Saharan trade linking Sijilmase and Tiaret to Aoudaghost. Though the empire was not itself involved in production, it controlled access to goldfields and a percentage of all salt and gold which went through the territory was taken by the Empire.

300 CE

The state of Aksum in Eritrea and Ethiopia begins minting its own silver and gold coins. The region had grown to prosperity through developing significant trade links across large areas. The region was also known for its manufacture of glass crystal and its export of copper and brass.

400 – 500 CE

Khoisan-speaking people are displaced or their languages and customs absorbed into those of the Bantu-speaking settlers south of the Limpopo River. The language of the Xhosa people, the southernmost group of the Bantu-speakers, took on certain linguistic traits from the Khoi-San.

420 CE

Vandals invade North Africa, relieving Rome of her territories in the region, and resulting in the Berber Kingdom’s regained independence.

6th Century CE

Aksum’s empire grows, adding the Arabian region of Saba to its territories. With trade routes diverted from the Red Sea to the Persian Gulf, Aksum later declined and severely diminished by 800CE.

Settlers from southeast Asia and later from the east African mainland settle in Madagascar. Banana and rice cultivation are introduced by the Asian settlers, while cattle and farming techniques are introduced by the Bantu-speaking east Africans.

642 CE

Arab Muslims conquer Byzantine Egypt. Under the rule of the Fatimid Caliphate the country increased their cotton production and thrived economically. Minted gold coins called the Fatimid dinar were used for international trade. Tax collection from farms proved lucrative for the Berber overlords – soldiers who had served in the Fatimid conquest – and to the caliphs of the time.  During this time slave infantry was used in the military, made up of people from Sudan and Turkey.

711 CE

Arab Muslims have by this time conquered the entire North African region and Islam becomes the dominant religion in the region by the 10th century.

9th century CE

Kanem is founded. Kanuri-speaking nomads founded the Sudanic Empire of Kanem, which achieved power through trans-Saharan trade. Slavery was practiced & slaves were captured from the south & traded for horses from North Africa.

The Kingdom of Nri rises under the leadership of the Eze Nri. Democratically run, men and occasionally women in the Kingdom’s villages took part in decision-making processes.

10th Century CE

Syrian Shi’ite groups found the Fatimid Dynasty in Maghreb. The groups claimed descent from Muhammad’s daughter Fatima, and had conquered Maghreb by 950 CE and Egypt by 969 CE.

Sotho-Tswana states are formed on the Highveld, south of the Limpopo River. Large towns of thousands of people made up early Tswana states north-west of the Vaal River, with settlers leaving to start their own states over time.

Limpopo by TSGT CARY HUMPHRIES Image Source

Indian and Arab trade settlement begins in northern Madagascar in order to take advantage of the Indian Ocean trade. Islam was introduced by the traders.

1050 CE

Approximately 250 000 Arab Egyptian nomads settle in Maghreb, spreading the Arab languages and contributing to the decline of the Berber language.

Berber soldiers revolt after tax revenue from farms is diminished. Their violent resistance destabilised the power of the Fatimid caliphs and slowed trade in the region.

Early ironworks are used in what is currently known as Kwa-Zulu Natal.

12th Century CE

The first state in Southern Africa, The Kingdom of Mapungubwe, arises, attaining wealth from ivory, copper and gold trade with Swahili merchants. Though Mapungubwe was abandoned by the middle of the following century, it formed part of a development that would eventually lead to the creation of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe in the 13th century.

The Akan Kingdom of Bonoman is established in what is now the Brong-Ahafo region of Ghana and eastern Ivory Coast. This kingdom, along with a few others, was predecessors to the powerful Empire of Ashanti which rose in the 18th century.

1115 CE

One of the longest-running dynasties in human history, the Sayfawa (Saifawa) dynasty was founded by Humai (Hummay) ibn Salamna & was centred in Kanem, Chad & then in Borno, Nigeria. This Islamic dynasty ran for 771 years eventually losing the throne in 1886.

1140s CE

Abd al-Mu'min forms the Almohad Empire after declaring jihad on the Almoravids and uniting the northern Berbers against them.

Maghreb sees the establishment of mathematics and literacy, as well as the development of algebra.

1160s CE

European crusaders threaten Fatimid Egypt, leading to the rise of Kurdish general, Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb who became well-known for the impressive defence he and his small army provided for Muslims.

1171 CE

Saladin becomes ruler of Egypt and the Ayyubid Dynastybegins. Sunni Islam is reinstated in the region and people from Turkey and southern Russia are increasingly brought as Mamluk slaves to fulfil military infantry needs. Cairo becomes an important centre of Islamic learning

13th Century CE

Christian Nubia declines after the church and nobility diminish the monarchy’s authority. Islam slowly became introduced to the region by Sufist Fakirs.

1220 CE

The kingdom of Zimbabwe is established. During the 13th century the Kingdom would construct a series of large stone structures in its capital of Great Zimbabwe. Some of these structures, like “the great enclosure”, were the largest ancient structures in Sub-Saharan Africa.


The Empire of Ghana comes to an end with the seizing of its capital by Takrur in northern Senegal.

1235 CE

The empire of Mali is established. The empire of Mali had a huge cultural and historical influence on most of western Africa, including the construction of the Great Mosque of Djenné. The Great Mosque is considered one of the most important centres of learning in medieval Africa. The empire is ushered in by the defeat of Soumaoro Kanté, king of the Sosso or southern Soninke by Sundiata (Lord Lion) of the Keita clan at the Battle of Kirina.


Mamluk slaves in Egypt have become landed aristocracy with significant power. They succeed in establishing their own, Mamluk dynasty after overthrowing the Ayyubid Dynasty. Their military dictatorship controlled Egypt for 250 years.

Mameluke-in-Full-Armour" by Georg Moritz Ebers (1837-1898) Image Source


Egypt, under the Mamluk Dynasty halts the Mongol invasion at the Battle of Ain Jalut. By this time the country’s territories included Palestine and Syria and Egypt had come to be known as a protector of Islam and of Mecca and Medina.

1285 CE

Sakura, a freed slave, usurps the throne to the Mali Empire, becoming the sixth Mansa of Mali. New conquests such as Gao were made under his rule.

1300 – 1400 CE

The Luba peoples near Lake Kisale in Central Africa are unified under the leadership of Kongolo Mwamba (Nkongolo) of the Balowe clan. Through him the dynasty of Kongolo, which was later ousted by Kalala Ilunga, was founded. The Luba political system, which spread to other parts of Central Africa, western Congo, southern Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mali, Burundi and Rwanda, utilised a system of spiritual kings with direct spiritual access to ancestral spirits. The balopwe, or system of spiritual kings (mulopwe) maintained power through spiritual strength rather than military authority.

Large southeast African states such as Karagwe and Buganda emerge in Tanzania and Uganda. The Buganda Kingdom was founded by the Baganda or Ganda people whose ancestors may have migrated northwest of Lake Victoria over 400 years prior.


MansaMusa, the tenth mansa or emperor of the Kingdom of Mali, makes a pilgrimage to Mecca with a large cavalry which included slaves and animals, all carrying gold which was distributed along the way to Mecca. Eyewitness accounts tell of Musa’s impressive wealth and large procession and his pilgrimage was well-recorded by witnesses along the way. Musa’s generosity inadvertently damaged the economies of the regions he passed through and in large cities like Mecca, Cairo and Medina, gold was devalued for over ten years since his pilgrimage. Musa rectified the damage caused by borrowing excessive amounts of gold from money-lenders at high interest, marking the only occasion during which a single individual controlled the gold prices in the Mediterranean.

1330 – 1337 CE

Mansa Musa ruler of the empire of Mali cements the University of Sankore as an institution of learning. At its apex it housed one of the largest libraries in the world, with between 400,000 and 700,000 manuscripts.

1366 CE

Mamluks invade Nubia during a period of unrest.

1388 CE

After a long period of internal and external struggle, and several disputed successions, the Kanem Empire ceases to exist. The final death knell occurs when the remnants of the Empire is conquered by the Bulala people from Lake Fitri in modern day Chad. The empire was ruled by  the Sefuwa dynasty, which continued to rule the Bornu state until 1846 CE, and is counted as the longest ruling dynasty in Africa.

1390 CE

The kingdom of Kongo is established in central Africa by the Bakongo peoples. The capital, M'banza Kongo, was at its height inhabited by about 100,000 people. It was one of the largest cities of Sub-Saharan Africa.

15th Century CE

The Shilluk Kingdom is established by Nyikang, the Kingdom’s first ruler. The Kingdom’s capital was located in Fashoda, South Sudan, along the western bank of the White Nile.

Trading relationships are established between Somalia and Malacca. The main trading commodities were porcelain, cloth, and ambergris. With trade of wild animals and incense to the Ming Empire in China, Somali merchants were the leading merchants operating between Africa and Asia. This trade served to have such effects as influences over the Chinese language by introducing Somali terms to the region’s languages.

Ethiopia seeks diplomatic contact with European kingdoms in almost 500 years.

Merina is established in the central highlands of Madagascar. The region controlled the island by the 19th century.

1400 CE

The Sayfawa Dynasty moves its capital to Bornu, an empire established by the Kanuri people and led by the Sayfawa. The Sayfawa Dynasty is the first known south-Saharan monarchs to import firearms.

1430 CE

A prince from the Kingdom of Zimbabwe, Nyatsimba Mutota, travels north to expand commerce and to find new sources of salt. 350 km north of Great Zimbabwe he founds a city from which the Kingdom of Mutapa - also known as Wilayatu 'l Mu'anamutapah or mwanamutapa (Lord of the Plundered Lands) - is established.

Tower, Great Zimbabwe Image Source

1450s CE

Great Zimbabwe is abandoned, possibly as a result of a decline in trade, political instability, exhausted mines, and climatic change which resulted in water shortages and famine.

The Lunda peoples are united under the union between their queen Rween and a Luba member of royalty from the Ilunga Tshibinda. The Lunda kingdom was later expanded by their son, mulopwe Luseeng and his son (Naweej) in turn further expanded the empire and became the first known emperor of Lunda. His title was mwato yamvo (mwaant yaav, mwant yav), the Lord of Vipers.

1468 CE

Songhai  leader, Sonni Ali, captures Timbuktu from the Tuareg. His heirs were deposed after his death in 1492 by General Muhammed Ture who later founded the Askiya Dynasty. Under Ture’s rule, Timbuktu became a centre for Islamic learning.

480 CE

Mutope, son of Nyatsimba Mutota who founded the Kingdom of Mutapa, dies and the empire is split into two smaller empires: Torwa and Mutapa.

1483 CE

Portuguese explorers land in what was then the Kingdom of Kongo. Following this the ruling king at the time, Nzinga a Nkuwu, converted to Christianity. This was the beginning of the Portuguese slave trade in the region. It would also be the beginnings of a turbulent and often shifting relationship between the two states, which culminated in the Kingdom of Kongo becoming a vassal state of Portugal about 380 years later.

16th Century CE

The Wadai Kingdom is founded by the Tunjur people east of Bornu. The kingdom gained independence and became an aggressor against its neighbours, Bornu and Durfur in the 18th century.

The Saadis, a nomadic Arab nomad tribe that claimed descent from Muhammad's daughter, conquered and united Morocco. They removed Portugal from the western coast of Morocco and prevented the Ottoman Empire from reaching the Atlantic.

The Nubian kingdoms of Nobadia and Makuria are Islamized the last Christian region, Soba, is conquered under Abdallah Jamma. Alodia, of which Soba was the capital, later fell under the Funj Sultanate. Funj herders who migrated to Alodia and expanded the kingdom from 1504 – 1505 converted to Islam by the end of the 16th Century.

Through the establishment of markets along the Zambezi River, the Portuguese gain a measure of military and political control over Mutapa, the empire which arose out of the fall of Great Zimbabwe under Nyatsimba Mutota.

The Portuguese fail to establish commercial control on the Swahili Coast after facing Swahili resistance.

The Sakalava Kingdom is established on the west coast of Madagascar.

"Aristide Maria MHNT ETH AC 1176 Porte sculptée" by Didier Descouens Image Source

The Oyo Empire (in today’s Nigeria) rises after being conquered in 1450 by Nupe. The Empire lasted 200 years until becoming a protectorate of Great Britain in 1888.

1500 CE

By this point the Kingdom of Mutapa has conquered several surrounding kingdoms, including the Kingdom of the Manyika, as well as the coastal kingdoms of Kiteve and Madanda. At its largest expanse the Kingdom of Mutapa cowered most of modern day Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, and the northern part of South Africa.

1508 CE

Ethiopia forms relations with Portugal which was under emperor Lebna Dengel. This connection aided Ethiopia during Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi’s attacks to the empire through the provision of weapons and soldiers. The Adal general and imam, Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi (also known as "GraÁ±", or "the Left-handed"), was defeated and helped to re-establish Ethiopian rule under the emperor’s son, Gelawdewos. This was noted as one of the first proxy wars in the region, with Portugal and the Ottoman Empire took sides in the conflict.


Egypt becomes part of the Ottoman Empire after an easy defeat following the failure of the Mamluk military defence to keep up with modern weaponry technology which included handguns and canons.

1585 CE

The Luba Kingdom was established in central Africa by King Kongolo Maniema of the Upemba people. The Kingdom had one million people paying tribute to the King at its peak. The capital of the Kingdom would be a centre of trade extending both to the Atlantic and Indian oceans. The Luba culture was held in high esteem by surrounding smaller kingdoms and in return for tribute these rulers would be allowed to take Luba ancestors as their own.

1591 CE

Under the leadership of Ahmad al-Mansur, the newly powerful Moroccan state invaded Songhaiand held control of the region until the 17th century. There they had control over the gold trade.

17TH Century CE

The Wadai Empire emerges in in Chad and the Central African Republic. A revolt against the Islamic dynasty established by the Maba people occurred during this time.

Central East Africa 1750 Image Source

The Tsitambala Kingdom is established on the east coast of Madagascar.

The Dahomey Kingdom is established in what is presently-known as Benin, with Agbome as its capital.

1603 CE

Morocco is split into two sultanates, Fes and Marrakesh following the death of Ahmad al-Mansur.

1623 CE

Maravi (Malawi) leader, Mzura, turns on their Portuguese allies to assist the Shona after defeating his rival, Lundi.  He later (1640) welcomed the return of the Portuguese for trading purposes. The Maravi Empire ceased to exist after Mzura’s death.

1624 CE

Emperor Susenyos converts to Roman Catholicism, sparking civil unrest and revolt for many years. Ethiopia’s allied relationship with Portugal, strengthened after the Adal-Abyssinian war, had served to introduce Roman Catholicism to the region. After declaring Roman Catholicism the state religion and facing resistance from his Ethiopian Orthodox subjects, his son Fasilides restored the Ethiopian Orthodox church’s position as the state religion after his father’s forced abdication.


Following a battle, the Portuguese are able to replace leadership in Mutapa with a lord under their control and who would sign treaties in Portugal’s favour, giving them unlimited control over mineral export rights. By undermining trade, the Portuguese successfully destroyed the mwanamutapa system of government and the region was in serious decline by 1667.

1652 CE

The Dutch establish a permanent settlement at Table Bay in the Western Cape of what is currently known as South Africa after initially establishing a replenishing station for passing ships. Enslaved people from West Africa were brought in to work farms in the region.

"VOC" by Joseph Mulder Image Source

1659 CE

The first Khoi-Dutch War occurs with no apparent victors. The Dutch, however, claimed the Cape region under a ‘right of conquest’ which they assumed after the war. A series of wars between Khoikhoi peoples was instigated by the Dutch settlers in successful efforts to gain control of their land. In addition, European diseases which the Khoikhoi had no immunity to contributed to thousands of Khoikhoi deaths.

1672 CE

Moulay al-Rashid, founds Alaouite Dynasty and is succeeded by his brother, Ismail ibn Sharif(1672–1727). They reunited Fes and Marrakesh under the Morocco and imported slaves from the Sudan to build their military and in order to strengthen the unity of the country.

1673 CE

The Second Khoikhoi-Dutch War occurs, lasting four years.


The Rozwi (Rozvi) empire is established on the Zimbabwean Plateau by Changamire Dombo. The empire fought of Portuguese invasion which formed part of Portuguese attempts to gain control of their gold trade. Driving them off the Zimbabwean Plateau, the ensured that Europeans had little presence in the Eastern Highlands of the region.

18th Century CE

Bornu becomes a centre for Islamic learning.

The Cape colony under the Dutch grows, bringing slave people from Indonesia, Mozambique and Madagascar. Khoikhoi resisted the northward movement of the settlement by utilising raids, and guerrilla warfare, thus slowing the colony’s expansion for that period.

An all-female bodyguard armed with muskets is established to protect King Agaja in Dahomey, which later developed into a powerful army and assisted in the defeat of the Kingdom of Savi in 1727. Calling themselves ahosi or mino, they were referred also referred to as ‘Amazons’ by European commenters.

1701 CE

The Ashante conquer Denkyira which offers them access to European coastal trade.

1729 CE

Portuguese presence and authority is removed from the Swahili coast with the help of Omani Arabs, with the area eventually becoming part of the Sultanate of Oman. Trade was never quite recovered to earlier levels of success.

1798 CE

Egypt is invaded by Napoleon, with French occupation finally removed in 1801 with the aid of British and Ottoman forces. This marked the start of the rivalry between the British and the French for control over Egypt.

19th Century CE

Under Queen Ranavalona I, approximately 150 000 Christians are killed in Madagascar after Christianity is banned.

1804 CE

The Fulani War begins, starting as a jihad by Gobir (in present-day Nigeria) leader, Usman dan Fodio. Dan Fodio founded the Sokoto Caliphate which lasted until 1903 when northern Nigeria was conquered by the British.

1821 CE

The Funj of north Sudan are conquered by the Pasha of Egypt, Muhammed Ali.


The Mfecane (also known as Difaqane or Lifaquane) period begins during which much warfare occurs between the peoples of southern Africa. Starting with the rule of King Shaka, the period centered on King Mzilikazi’s reign from 1826 – 1836 and finally ended in approximately 1840. States such as modern-day’s Lesotho were formed during this time.


The Battle of Mhlatuze River occurs, during which King Shaka of the Zulus defeats the Ndwandwe.

Fleeing to Mozambique at around 1820 along with Ngwane chief Sobhuza, they established the Gaza Kingdom and caused the resident Tsonga people to the Northern Transvaal over the Lebombo Mountains.

1820s CE

Shaka of the Zulu people establishes a centralised Zulu kingdom. It would go on to conquer most of its neighbouring kingdoms, and in turn cause mass disruption within much of Southern Africa. Shaka is famous for various military inventions such as the short stabbing spear and a centralised military force not known to the region before.

KingShaka by James King Image Source

1826 CE

King Mzilikazi of the Matabele starts his reign in the Transvaal region of Southern Africa. During his ten-year reign he attempted to decimate all opposition and reorganised the region in efforts to establish the Ndebele order, resulting in a depopulation of the area. His reign forms part of the Mfecane or Difaqane period during which much warfare occurred between the peoples of southern Africa.

1830s CE

The Rozwi Empire on the Zimbabwean Plateau is conquered by invading Nguni from Natal and falls into ruins.

1837 CE

The arrival of Boer settlers drive the Matabele people north of the Limpopo causing them to settle in Zimbabwe in an area which is now known as Matabeleland.

1850s CE

German and British missionaries penetrate most of Southern Africa paving the way for further colonial expansion.

1870s CE

The Kingdom of Buganda (Uganda) becomes a thriving nation-state with impressive naval fleets and significant wealth. Supplanting their rivals, Bunyoro, as the most important state in the region, the kingdom later became a province of the British Uganda Protectorate in the early 20th century.

1880 CE

The first Anglo-Boer War occurs between British colonisers and the Boer settlers from the Transvaal Republic.

1881 CE

The Madhist war in Sudan was one of the most serious anti-colonial rebellions of its time. After heavy casualties the war ended in Britain’s favour, and led to the establishment of the colonial entity the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan Administration.

1883 CE

The first Franco-Hova War occurs, during which Madagascar is invaded by the French. The war resulted in the ceding Antsiranana in the north to France and a large payment  to the heirs of Joseph-Francois Lambert with whom the Lamberts charter was controversially signed by Prince Radama II in 1855. The war ended with the signing of the Treaty of Tamatave in 1886, which gave control over Malagasy foreign policy to the French.

1884 CE

Improvement of medicines, and inventions such as the machine gun and the steam boat, opens up for the European conquest of the interior of the African continent. In 1884 the Berlin Conference is held to divide Africa between the various colonial empires. This begins the scramble for Africa, a decade of rapid conquest by various European powers of the African continent. Ethiopia is the only part of Africa which remains independent.

"Afrikakonferenz" by Gartenlaube 1884 Image Source

1895 CE

Italy invades Ethiopia in an attempt to create a colonial state there. After about a year of fighting Ethiopia emerges victorious.

The second Franco-Hova War occurs, with the intention of the French to bring the island completely under its protectorate. Starting with the seizing of Tamatave, the French Army marched to  Antananarivo (the capital) under General Duchesne. A treaty was eventually signed making Madagascar a full Protectorate of the French Government.

1899 CE

The Second Anglo-Boer War occurs and becomes known as the most destructive modern armed conflict in South Africa’s history.

1914 - 1918 CE

What is known as the Great War breaks out in Europe. European powers conscript large amounts of soldiers from their colonies in Africa. The returning soldiers are trained in combat and confident in their abilities to gain independence. The end of the Great War in Europe marks the beginnings of many liberation movements on the African continent.

Royal Irish Rifles ration party, Somme, July 1916 Image Source

1935 CE

Ethiopia is conquered in the second Italian-Ethiopian war. Ethiopia is however liberated by British forces in 1941 as part of the Second World War.

1939 – 1945 CE

The second world war in Europe brings with it an increased demand for independence from African states. European colonial powers are weak from the war, and American fear of Soviet influence in Africa creates a global political climate in favour of decolonisation.

1948 CE

The National Party in South Africa rises to power, paving the way for the Apartheid regime and its legislations to be implemented in South Africa.

1951 CE

Libya becomes the first of the colonised states in Africa to gain its independence.

1952 CE

Egypt gains its independence through a revolution by the Free Officers Movement. This would be the first native Egyptian regime since the Fatimids were defeated in 1171 CE.


The Algerian War for Independence from France begins on 1 November.

1956 CE

Sudan and Tunisia gained their independence.

1960 CE

Known as the “year of Africa”. Much of the former French colonial Empire was falling apart, and several British colonies also gained their independence this year. This would spell independence for a large amount of African states. Mali, Senegal, Madagascar, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Niger, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Benin, Gabon, Mauritania and Togo all gained independence in this year.

1961 CE

Tanganyika, later what was to become Tanzania, and Sierra Leone gained independence from the British Empire.

1962 CE

After a brutal war Algeriagained its independence from France. Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda also became independent from Belgium and the Britain in this year.

1963 CE

After more than a decade of various anti-colonial campaigns, such as the Mau Mau Uprising, Kenya gained its independence from Britain. Uganda also gained its independence from Britain.

1963 CE

The Organisation of African Unity is created. The stated aims of the organisation were to fight against colonialism, keep territorial integrity and better the lives of Africans in general. It was also an organisation aimed at creating broader unity within the African continent.

1964 – 1968 CE

Malawi, Botswana, Mauritius, Lesotho, Swaziland, Gambia, Zanzibar and Zambia gain their independence from Britain.

1975 CE

Portugal was one of the first European colonial nations to begin its conquest of African lands, and was one of the last to leave. Several lengthy colonial wars in Mozambique and Angola led to dissatisfaction in Portugal and a military coup. As a result São Tomé and PrÁ­ncipe, Cape VerdeAngola, and Mozambique, all became independent.

1990 CE

After a lengthy fight against the apartheid government in South Africa, Namibia is the last of the African states colonised by European powers to gain independence. This occurs on 21 March, 1990.

Tintenpalast-Windhoek Image Source

1994 CE

South Africa has its first democratic elections, ending white minority rule, and becoming the last nation in Africa to throw of its colonial shackles.

1998 – 2003 CE

The Great War of Africa would be one of the largest interstate conflicts after the second world war in Europe. It involved eight African nations and a variety of different militias. The conflict began as an internal conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but came to involve a host of various countries and militias. It is estimated that between 3 and 6 million people perished in that war.

2002 CE

The Organisation of African Unity is disbanded in favour of the African Union, as the OAU was seem as largely ineffectual and as a “dictators club”. The AU would continue with similar aims to that of the OAU.

2011 CE

South Sudan becomes an independent state after a lengthy and bloody civil war.

Last updated : 22-May-2016

This article was produced for South African History Online on 20-May-2015