In the aftermath of World War II, the colonial powers gave their African colonies independence. This is the story of those countries that took their first steps toward freedom.
After centuries of colonization, some of Africa’s nations were given independence in the 1950s. The continent was divided into colonial territories ruled by Europeans. Many of the countries had no representation in the UN until the late 1960s.
Africa has been colonized by Europeans since the 15th century. For hundreds of years, the European powers took over large parts of Africa. In 1900, the United States and European powers divided Africa into colonies and protectorates. The British ruled over most of Africa and the French-controlled most of the western part of the continent. Belgium ruled over a smaller area in the east. Germany also controlled a small region in the west.
The colonial powers fought wars among themselves, and they used their military power to rule over the African people and took over manpower and mineral resources. Many African nations were forced to give up their freedom to remain part of the European colonial empires. They were called colonies.
These nations were under the control of the colonial powers for many years. After World War II, all of the colonial powers lost control of their colonies. The African nations gained their freedom through resistance and other means. Their leaders established new governments. Here are the first 15 countries that gained freedom from colonialism.
Table of Contents
The first 15 African Countries and Their Independence
- Independence Days: March 6, 1957
- Independence from: Britain
- President at Independence: Kwame Nkrumah
- Current Presidency: Nana Akufo-Addo
The independence of Ghana was achieved by the efforts of the nationalist movement known as the Gold Coast. The nationalists wanted Ghana to be an independent country separate from British rule. In 1957 the nationalists, led by Kwame Nkrumah, launched a rebellion. Nkrumah’s nationalist movement called for the formation of a republic based on socialist ideals. This movement was opposed by the British colonial government. The movement was successful in gaining freedom from Britain.
The day Ghana became an independent country, was on Friday, March 6th, 1957. On that day Ghanaian people celebrated their freedom by dancing, singing, and partying in the streets. Most of the independence day celebration was centered around Freedom Square in the capital city, Accra.
Ghana’s freedom was a result of years of campaigning by the African nationalist movement to gain the support of the British Empire, whose colonial rule had been in place for over 150 years. It was the culmination of decades of struggle. It was a victory for the leaders of the movement. It gave the people of Ghana hope that it was possible to win independence and change the course of their lives.
- Independence Days: Dec. 24, 1951
- Independence From: Britain, Italy
- President at Independence: Idris I
- Current Presidency: Mohamed al-Menfi
The French colonization of Libya was an attempt to stop the expansion of Ottoman control in North Africa and to establish a protectorate in place of the declining Italian colonial empire. The British were particularly interested in establishing control over Egypt, but they could not agree with the Italians on the issue of Italy’s control over Libya.
The Italian government, headed by Prime Minister Benito Mussolini, was determined to maintain its control over Libya. The British wanted to use the opportunity of the Great War to take control of Libya, while the Italians wanted to keep their hold on it. The Italians were defeated by the British and French in the First World War.
In 1947, Libya was given independence from Italy after World War II. In 1952, following Idris I, Colonel Gaddafi became the country’s leader and made Libya a staunch ally of the Soviet Union. This relationship, however, started to shift after Gaddafi’s overthrow of the monarchy in 1969. In 1981, Gaddafi announced the liberation of Libya’s Sahara Desert and declared that all of the Berbers in the region should be allowed to return to their ancestral homeland.
- Independence Days: Jan. 1, 1956
- Independence From: Britain
- President at Independence: Ibrahim Abboud
- Current Presidency: Abdel Fattah al-Burhan
Sudan gained independence in 1956 after British colonial rule ended. In 1962, the country suffered a coup d’état, in which the military took over power. The military leader General Ibrahim Abboud seized control of the government and began three years of military rule under his presidency. Abboud was responsible for many atrocities, including massacres of unarmed civilians.
During his rule, he was reported to have executed at least 40,000 civilians and imprisoned many others, including children. Although Abboaud’s rule was ended in 1969, the situation for many continued to deteriorate.
- Independence Days: March 20, 1956,
- Independence from: France
- President at Independence: Habib Bourguiba
- Current Presidency: Kais Saied
In 1956, a new country was born in Africa, the Tunisian Republic, which became independent. Tunisia’s revolution against French colonization started in 1881 and ended after 80 years of continuous struggle. France recognized the independence of Tunisia in December 1956 and the two countries signed an accord, which lasted until 1960.
The first President of the Tunisian Republic was Habib Bourguiba, who had fought for the Country’s freedom from Francs. The French colonial administration was expelled from the country, and in 1959, the first elections were held in a fully representative democratic system.
- Independence Days: April 7, 1956
- Independence from: Spain and France
- President at Independence: Mbarek Bekkay
- Current Presidency: Aziz Akhannouch
As a nation in Africa and a colony of France, Morocco has been subjected to colonization for hundreds of years. The French first conquered Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and other North African territories in the late 18th century.
The most famous independence movement in the 20th century took place in Morocco, where the Spanish had ruled since the end of the 19th century. This movement began in 1921, after nearly 30 years of Spanish rule when the Spanish monarchy made some concessions to the nationalists. But then, in 1926, Spanish troops invaded and killed up to 50,000 Moroccans. This enraged the Moroccans, and after a military coup in 1933, they revolted. In January 1934, the nationalists succeeded in overthrowing the Spanish. Morocco became independent on April 7, 1956.
- Independence Days: Oct. 2, 1958
- Independence from: France
- President at Independence: Ahmed Sékou Touré
- Current Presidency:Mamady Doumbouya
In 1960, a coup d’état overthrew the French colonial rule in Guinea. The Guinean people have been fighting for their freedom for more than fifty years. The country’s first constitution came into force in March 1958. This period is called the Independence War. Since 1963, several military leaders have been presidents of the country.
They tried to achieve the goal of national independence through internal wars and with help of neighboring countries. From 1958 to 1960, two coups d’états have taken place. During the second coup in 1963, the independence war began. After independence, the president of the newly created state, Ahmed Sékou Touré. remained in power.
- Independence Day: 1960
- Independence From: Britain
- President at Independence: Mohamed Naguib
- Current Presidency: Abdel Fattah Saeed
For centuries, Egypt had been controlled by European colonizers who built up massive armies and conquered vast territories, from Egypt to the Nile River. With the declaration of Egyptian independence on March 28th, 1922, the British army left Egypt to become part of the British empire.
However, Egyptians still had to deal with years of colonial rule. So, in 1953, Egypt declared its independence from Britain. In 1960, the nation was officially recognized as a republic. The nation experienced political turbulence and military coups throughout the 20th century. Despite these challenges, Egypt maintained an independent identity.
- Independence Days: Jan. 1, 1960
- Independence from: France, British
- President at Independence: Ahmadou Babatoura Ahidjo
- Current Presidency: Paul Biya
It was the dawning of an era of freedom for the Republic of Cameroon. On January 1st, 1960, the Republic of Cameroon attained independence from the French colonial power. The occasion was celebrated with great enthusiasm. President Ahmadou Ahidjo laid the foundation stone for the new state in Kumba, on the outskirts of the capital Yaoundé.
The Republic of Cameroon thus became one of the few African countries to be independent after Egypt and Ghana. It was a momentous occasion for the country and the entire African continent. The Republic of Cameroon had only been formed the previous month after two years of negotiations with the French colonial power. The country was divided into 10 autonomous regions with a central government in Yaoundé. The new republic inherited the traditions of the French colonial power.
- Independence Days: April 4, 1960
- Independence from: France
- President at Independence: Léopold Sédar Senghor
- Current Presidency: Macky Sall
The country of Senegal had been under French colonial rule since 1848. It became an independent nation in 1960 after a bloody struggle, and the first president was elected. A month later, President Léopold Sédar Senghor died. He had been in office for only four months and eight days, but the people of Senegal were in mourning, and many mourned him as a martyr. His death came just two days before the country’s independence. He was replaced by Abdou Diouf.
Senegal’s freedom from France was a result of long negotiations and protests by the people who had been living in the French colonies for hundreds of years. After years of fighting for independence, African leaders came together with French Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner Charles de Gaulle to declare Senegal’s independence on April 4, 1960.
- Independence Days: April 27, 1960
- Independence from: France
- President at Independence: Faure Gnassingbé
- Current Presidency: Sylvanus Olympio
On April 27th, 1960, Togo achieved its independence from the French colonial power. After years of fighting colonialism and European influence, Togo finally got its independence in 1960. It became a republic that had its army, government, flag, and currency. Since then, Togo has had a lot of success economically and socially. In fact, according to the United Nations, it has one of the highest standards of living in the world.
- Independence Days: Sept. 22, 1960
- Independence from: France
- President at Independence: Modibo Keïta
- Current Presidency: Assimi Goïta
Malians had been under French colonial rule since 1892 when France established its protectorate over the area of modern Mali. In addition to being under the French, the people of Mali were also subjected to the cruel practices of slavery and conscription. After decades of colonial rule, a group of students who called themselves the Bamako Revolt started protesting these practices.
In 1957, the rebellion was crushed by the French military, and the leaders of the revolt were sentenced to death. Although the verdict was overturned, it was too late for some of the leaders. They died during the trial. After independence, a new constitution was adopted that would allow for all Malians to enjoy the freedom of speech and religion, and the people had the opportunity to choose their government.
On September 22, 1960, Mali became independent from France. This marked the beginning of the end of the French colonial empire in Africa. This independence was one of the last steps of a series of African political changes that began during the 19th century. In the early 20th century, Europe’s scramble for colonies was replaced by the scramble to avoid war. Africa’s newly independent nations were all vying for their place in the world and a seat at the United Nations.
- Independence Days: June 26, 1960
- Independence from: France
- President at Independence: Philibert Tsiranana
- Current Presidency: Andry Rajoelina
Madagascar, a small island country off the southeast coast of Africa, has just achieved its independence from France after a four-year war of independence. The island’s people had fought a bloody campaign to free themselves from French rule, with some 3,000 of its residents dying in the fight. During the conflict, France maintained a military occupation in the south and central parts of the country.
On June 26, 1960, Madagascar became an independent state. This happened after more than a century of French rule, during which the people of Madagascar lived under the rule of colonial power. Many of them had never known a life without the French, and many others had been taken from their homes and forced into exile. Their political struggle had lasted long years and the struggle for independence was finally won.
- Independence Days: June 30, 1960
- Independence from: Belgium
- President at Independence: Patrice Lumumba
- Current Presidency: Felix Tshisekedi
Belgium and France had been colonizing the Congo since the late 19th century. By June 1960, Belgian colonial forces had control over the major cities and the central government. Many Congolese people thought they were being governed by Belgians rather than by a democratically elected president.
After five centuries under foreign domination, the Belgian king Leopold III finally gave way to independence to his colonies in Africa. He had already taken the Congo from the Belgian King Leopold II in 1908 and granted it its parliament in 1910, but in 1960 he agreed to give it full independence. On June 30, 1960, this new country became the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
South Africa’s history of colonization began in the 1500s when the Dutch arrived. Their arrival was not welcomed, and many people were killed in the first years of the colonists’ stay. They soon became rulers, and the British took over when the Dutch relinquished control after the Dutch East India Company failed in 1652.
It was not until 1810 that the British finally left the land. There was a lot of violence during this time as the British tried to get the former Dutch people to accept them as their rulers. Many people died in these battles.
The end of British rule in Africa came quickly for all of its colonies after World War II. With Britain’s defeat, South Africa had no other choice but to throw off the yoke of white oppression and declare independence. The country held a national referendum in 1948 to decide whether it should remain a British colony or become independent.
The decision to hold the vote was made in 1946, but the British government only officially informed the people about it three months before. The South African government decided to hold the vote during the Christmas holidays of 1947. The vote was to determine the fate of the Union of South Africa as a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. With a winning vote, the country left the commonwealth declaring its independence. South Africa became a republic in 1961.
In conclusion, African independence came at the end of the second world war and it was led by the United Kingdom which had colonies on the continent. By 1950, the colonies in the continent were given independence and the first countries that were given independence were Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, and Togo. At the time of their independence, the newly independent states were small in size and lacked infrastructure. In addition, the African leaders were not always well-organized to lead their people and the countries struggled to overcome poverty.
African Country Independence dates/ who they got independence from
- Somalia-July 1, 1960-Britain
- Benin- Aug. 1, 1960- France
- Niger- Aug. 3, 1960- France
- Burkina Faso-Aug. 5, 1960- France
- Côte d’Ivoire- Aug. 7, 1960- France
- Chad- Aug. 11, 1960- France
- Central African Republic- Aug. 13, 1960- France
- Congo (Brazzaville)- Aug. 15, 1960- France
- Gabon- Aug. 16, 1960- France
- Nigeria- Oct. 1, 1960- Britain
- Mauritania- Nov. 28, 1960- France
- Sierra Leone- Apr. 27, 1961- Britain
- Nigeria- June 1, 1961- Britain
- Tanzania- Dec. 9, 1961- Britain
- Burundi- July 1, 1962 – Belgium
- Rwanda- July 1, 1962- Belgium
- Algeria- July 3, 1962 – France
- Uganda- Oct. 9, 1962- Britain
- Kenya- Dec. 12, 1963- Britain
- Malawi- July 6, 1964 – Britain
- Zambia- Oct. 24, 1964 – Britain
- Gambia- Feb. 18, 1965- Britain
- Botswana- Sept. 30, 1966 – Britain
- Lesotho- Oct. 4, 1966 – Britain
- Mauritius- March 12, 1968 – Britain
- Swaziland – Sept. 6, 1968 – Britain
- Equatorial Guinea – Oct. 12, 1968 – Spain
- Guinea-Bissau – Sept. 24, 1973 – Portugal
- Mozambique – June 25. 1975 – Portugal
- Cape Verde – July 5, 1975- Portugal
- Comoros – July 6, 1975 – France
- São Tomé and Principe – July 12, 1975 – Portugal
- Angola – Nov. 11, 1975 – Portugal
- Western Sahara – Feb. 28, 1976 – Spain
- Seychelles – June 29, 1976 – Britain
- Djibouti – June 27, 1977 – France
- Zimbabwe – April 18, 1980 – Britain