Decolonisation of Africa

1950s–70s independence of African colonies from Western European powers

The decolonisation of Africa is a process that largely took place from the mid-1950s to 1975 during the Cold War, with radical government changes on the continent as colonial governments made the transition to independent states. The process was often marred with violence, political turmoil, widespread unrest, and organised revolts in both northern and sub-Saharan countries including the Mau Mau rebellion in British Kenya, the Algerian War in French Algeria, the Congo Crisis in the Belgian Congo, the Angolan War of Independence in Portuguese Angola, the Zanzibar Revolution in the Sultanate of Zanzibar, and the Nigerian Civil War in the secessionist state of Biafra.

An animated map shows the order of independence of African nations, 1950–2011
Order of independence of African nations, 1950–2011


  • The process by which Africa produced thirty-odd sovereign states was an extremely complex one, characterized by an interplay of forces and calculations on the part of various groups of Africans, on the part of the colonial powers, and on the part of interest groups inside the metropolis. [...] It must be stressed that the move for the regaining of independence was initiated by the African people; and, to whatever extent that objective was realized, the motor force of the people must be taken into account.

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