The history of Africa from ancient times to the present has been characterized by contact and trade with the outside world. The first civilizations grew in contact with cultures in the Middle East and since the cultures around the Mediterranean. Over the centuries, trade routes across the Sahara and down the East African coast promoted the emergence of states and culture. The arrival of Europeans and eventually colonization shaped the states as we know them today.
Modern man was developed in Africa some 300,000 years ago. 5,000 years ago, one of the first great civilizations here also emerged, ancient Egypt. For 3000 years, this civilization extended from the Mediterranean to the present-day Sudan, linking early communities in the Sahara and Mediterranean cultures. According to Allcitycodes, Cairo is the capital city of Egypt and 20 is the area code of Egypt.
Around 800 years before our time, the Phoenicians controlled the western part of the Mediterranean. Their headquarters was Carthage in today’s Tunisia. The Greeks also settled on the North African coast, including the Kyrene of today’s Libya. In 332 BCE. Alexander conquered the great Egypt.
The increased influence of the Roman Empire around the Mediterranean was to affect Africa as well, and after the three Punic wars, Carthage finally fell to Rome in 146 BCE. North Africa’s connection to the Mediterranean and the cultures here also laid the foundation for a network of commerce and eventually ideas that would last for centuries. Two world religions, first Christianity and then Islam, also spread along these routes.
In the first centuries of our era, a number of kingdoms grew up just south of the Sahara, known as the Sudan culture. These soon came into contact with traders who crossed the Sahara from the emerging Islamic kingdom just north of the desert.
Also further south, in Central and East Africa, state formation emerged, often linked to trade routes north or along the coast of East Africa. Goods such as gold and ivory were gradually followed by slaves. After the arrival of the Europeans on the West African coast towards the end of the 1400s, the slave trade was to dominate.
The extensive slave trade led to wars and many of the existing kingdoms went down or were greatly weakened. Eventually, the continent also became the scene of a growing European rivalry. When the slave trade was stopped, this rivalry led to a race for control of trade routes and resources. The race ended with the European states agreeing to share the continent during the Berlin Conference. Towards the end of the 19th century, European influence expanded into the interior of the continent. In many places the race and colonization led to local uprisings.
In the early 1900s, most of the continent was under European control, but with the exception of southern Africa and Algeria, where control was followed by European settlement, the colonial rule was usually very superficial. The colony’s economy was closely linked to the colony’s need for resources.
First and Second World War was partly fought in Africa. The experiences of Africans during both world wars fueled a new desire for independence in several parts of the continent. During the 1950s and 1960s, most African countries became independent.
|Country||Main export goods||Largest trading partner|
|Algeria||natural gas, oil, dates, metals, phosphates, iron ore||France, China, USA, Italy, Spain, Germany|
|Angola||crude oil, diamonds 1||China, Portugal, USA, South Africa, India (2013)|
|Benin||cotton, coconuts, cashews, shea butter, textiles, oil palm products, seafood||Bangladesh, India, China, France, Togo, Nigeria|
|Botswana||diamonds, copper, nickel, textiles, meat, potash, salt||South Africa, UK|
|Burkina Faso||gold, cotton, sheanuts||Ivory Coast, France, China|
|Burundi||coffee, tea, sugar cane, gold, precious stones (2017)||India, China, Kenya, United Arab Emirates, Congo-Kinshasa, Switzerland (2017)|
|central African Republic||diamonds, timber, cotton, coffee||China, Belgium, Congo-Brazzaville, South Korea, the Netherlands|
|Comoros||cloves, ylang-ylang (for perfume essence), vanilla||France, Turkey, United Arab Emirates|
|Djibouti||re-export of goods, livestock, hides and skins||Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, China, United Arab Emirates (2016)|
|Egypt||oil, food, clothing, textiles, cotton yarn, iron and steel products||EU, USA, Libya, Saudi Arabia, China|
|Equatorial Guinea||oil, oil products, natural gas, timber (2018)||USA, China, France, Japan, Spain (2018)|
|Ivory Coast||cocoa, timber, coffee, canned fish, cotton||EU, USA|
|Eritrea||copper, gold, leather, cotton (2016)||China, Italy, India, Saudi Arabia, Canada (2016)|
|Ethiopia||coffee, oilseeds, live animals, leather goods, gold, pearls, precious stones (2017)||China, USA, Somalia, India, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Netherlands (2017)|
|Gabon||oil||China, USA, France (2017)|
|Gambia||peanut products, fruits and vegetables, fish||India, Great Britain, France, China, Senegal|
|Ghana||oil, gold, cocoa, wood products, manganese, diamonds||The Netherlands, Great Britain, France, USA, China, Nigeria, Ivory Coast|
|Guinea||bauxite, aluminum, gold||China, the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, India|
|Guinea-Bissau||cashews, fruit, crude oil, fish||India, Portugal, Singapore, Vietnam|
|Cameroon||oil, oil products, timber, cocoa, cotton, coffee (2017)||China, France, Italy, Spain, India, Belgium (2017)|
|Cape Verde||re – export of fuel 2||Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands|
|Kenya||tea, cut flowers, coffee, oil products, cement, fruits, vegetables||Uganda, China, India, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Netherlands|
|Congo-Brazzaville||oil, timber, plywood, sugar, cocoa, coffee, diamonds||USA, China, France, India, Italy|
|Congo-Kinshasa||copper, cobalt, wood, crude oil, gold, coffee||China, South Africa, Zambia, South Korea|
|Lesotho||water, hydropower, textiles, diamonds||South Africa, USA|
|Liberia||rubber, timber||Germany, USA, South Africa, Japan, China|
|Libya||crude oil, oil products, natural gas||Italy, Germany, France, Spain, China|
|Madagascar||Vanilla, clothing and textiles, nickel, cobalt, cloves, shellfish (2018)||France, China, USA, United Arab Emirates (2018)|
|Malawi||tobacco, tea, sugar, rice, cotton||South Africa, China, India, France, Germany, Egypt, Zimbabwe|
|Mali||gold, cotton, cattle||Senegal, South Africa, China, Switzerland-Liechtenstein, France (2016)|
|Morocco||textiles and leather goods, phosphoric acid and crude phosphate, fish, fruit and vegetables||France, Spain, India, USA, China|
|Mauritania||Fish, iron ore, copper, gold, oil (2018)||China, EU countries, USA (informally Senegal and Morocco)|
|Mauritius||miscellaneous industrial goods, especially textiles and clothing, sugar, flowers and fish||EU, South Africa, India, China, USA|
|Mozambique||aluminum, electricity, shrimp, tobacco, sugar, cotton, cashews||South Africa, Zimbabwe, the Netherlands, Portugal, USA|
|Namibia||diamonds, uranium, other minerals, fish||South Africa, Switzerland, Botswana, Angola|
|Niger||uranium, gold, oil, livestock, vegetables (2018)||France, China, Thailand, Nigeria (2018)|
|Nigeria||oil, liquefied natural gas||USA, China, India, Brazil, Spain, Netherlands, France|
|Rwanda||coffee, tea, precious stones, metals (2018)||China, India, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Congo-Kinshasa, Hong Kong, Switzerland-Liechtenstein (2018)|
|São Tomé & Príncipe||cocoa, copra, coffee (2019)||Portugal, Angola, China, Belgium, Netherlands (2019)|
|Senegal||fish, peanuts, phosphate, chemicals||Mali, India, France, Italy, Nigeria, Germany|
|Seychelles||canned tuna, re-export of petroleum products||France, Great Britain, United Arab Emirates, Italy, Spain (2012)|
|Sierra Leone||iron, diamonds, rutile, bauxite||China, Great Britain, Benin, Senegal|
|Somalia||livestock, livestock products, bananas||Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Djibouti, Kenya|
|Sudan||Oil and oil products, gold, sesame seeds (2019)||China, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, India (2018)|
|Swaziland||fruit concentrate, sugar, textiles, cotton yarn, refrigerator, citrus fruits, canned fruit||South Africa, USA, EU|
|South Africa||minerals, metals, vehicles, machinery, food (2019)||China, Germany, USA and UK (2019)|
|South Sudan||Oil||China, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia|
|Tanzania||gold, other metals, precious stones and pearls, agricultural products (2018)||India, China, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Switzerland (2018)|
|Chad||oil, gold, cotton (2016)||USA, France, Cameroon, United Arab Emirates (2016)|
|Togo||cotton, phosphate, coffee, cocoa (2017)||China, France, Japan, Netherlands, Burkina Faso, Benin, Ghana (2017)|
|Tunisia||textile and clothing products, foodstuffs (mainly olive oil), oil, oil products, phosphoric acid, chemical products, phosphate||France, Germany, Libya, Spain (2010)|
|Uganda||coffee, fish, gold, tea||Kenya, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, the United States, the United Arab Emirates, South Africa, India|
|Zambia||copper, cobalt, electricity||South Africa, China, Congo-Kinshasa, Switzerland|
|Zimbabwe||tobacco, cotton, gold, platinum, steel and iron alloys||South Africa, China, Congo-Kinshasa, Botswana, Zambia|
Islam and the Sudan culture
In the late 600s, the Arabs conquered North Africa. The Berber people in the west soon turned to Islam. In Maghreb, the Arab conquest led to strong economic and cultural progress, and it was not long before independent Berber dynasties emerged. Arabic language and culture gradually penetrated all over North Africa, although the Arab population was relatively small, especially in the western regions.
The Fatimids were a Shiite Muslim caliphate that originated in North Africa. They ruled for a time a kingdom that extended from the Atlantic to Mesopotamia. The almoravids were also a caliphate based in North Africa; their influence extended from Spain in the north to Niger in the south. In Egypt, the real power soon came into the hands of the caliphate military aristocracy Mameluk, which was recruited from Turkish slave markets in Asia.
Sudan culture is the name of a whole series of kingdoms that originated in the Sahel belt south of the Sahara, from today’s Senegal to the Red Sea. Islam also spread in the areas of Sudan culture as a religion for the ruling class and the trade people. Among the early kingdoms where Islam became the dominant religion was Kano in today’s Nigeria and Kanem by the Chad. The political center of gravity shifted in the late Middle Ages to other realms in the Niger region, such as the Kingdom of Mali (1250–1450) Songhai (1450–1700) and the Hausa states of Northern Nigeria. Trade through the Sahara flourished, and the foremost urban states of the Sudan culture as Timbuktu, Kano and Katsina, gained reputation as centers of learning in the Islamic world. These cities were also important terminals for the cross-Saharan trade. Among the coveted items were textiles, gold, salt and slaves.
State formation in tropical Africa
Also in the West African forest belt south of the Guinea coast, urban states were formed at this time. A bronze casting technique was practiced in Ife and Benin, which seems to have its roots back to the enough culture in Northern Nigeria. See other related countries on Countryaah.
Metalwork was also central to the states that grew further south, in mineral-rich parts of Central Africa. In Katanga, in today’s Democratic Republic of the Congo, archaeological finds from Lake Kisale testify to a numerous and highly specialized population as early as the 800-900s, and from the late Middle Ages we see state formation under the leadership of the Luba and Lunda dynasties throughout the southern savannah. West of Luba and Lunda, the Kingdom of Congo was formed.
Already in the first century of our era, Greek sources can tell of a well-established trading network down the east coast of Africa. Ivory and slaves were standard goods in the East African trade from the beginning, but around the year 1000 AD gold and copper from the rich rents in Central Africa became the most important commodities. The trade was partly driven by Arab merchants, but also by merchants from the large Swahili cities of La mu, Zanzibar and Kilwa.
The monarchy monarchy south of Zambezi expanded in the 15th century over much of the area that now constitutes Zimbabwe. The historic name has landed from a collection of stone citizens, known as the largest stone buildings in sub-Saharan Africa.
The World Wars in Africa
World War I was partly fought in Africa. It did not change the Africa map itself, but Germany had to give up its colonies, with which the League of Nations gave other states supervisory authority. Accordingly, Belgium was given responsibility for Rwanda-Urundi (Rwanda and Burundi), France was given control of Togo, while Cameroon was divided between France and the United Kingdom. Tanganyika was left to the United Kingdom, and South Africa took over the administration of South West Africa (Namibia). Prior to the war, Italy conquered the coastal areas of what later became Libya from the Ottoman Empire, which disintegrated as a result of the World War.
Italian dictator Benito Mussolini had ambitions of several African colonies. Italy used Somaliland and Eritrea as a springboard to invade Abyssinia, present-day Ethiopia, in 1936. In 1939, Libya was incorporated into Italy as a province. During World War II, Abyssinia was invaded by Britain, and Italy abandoned its territory in 1941. The following year, the Italian and German forces were driven out of Libya by British troops. Tripolitania and Kyrenaika came under British military administration, Fezzan under French. The decisive battle was at the Egyptian village of El Alamein in the fall of 1942.
As part of the 1947 peace treaty, Italy lost all rights to Italian Somaliland, and in 1950 Italy was given the task of leading the territory, now a UN mandate, to independence – which happened in 1960. Eritrea’s future became a case for the UN, which in 1950 ruled that Eritrea should be incorporated as an autonomous entity in Ethiopia. After the war, the Allies failed to agree on Libya’s future, and the question was put to the UN, which in 1951 decided to merge Tripolitania, Kyrenaika and Fezzan and to give the territory independence.