Fossils from East and South Africa show that modern
humans, Homo sapiens , originated in Africa
100,000-150,000 years ago. Agriculture, with the cultivation
of grain and animal husbandry, was run in Northeast Africa
10,000–12,000 years ago. Agriculture led to strong
population growth and, together with the spread of iron
smelting technology, became a driving force in settlement
development until the beginning of our era.
Africa's first state formation took place in Egypt around
3000 BC, in Kush in present-day Sudan around 1000 BCE. A
little later, the Aksum kingdom emerged a little further
south in present-day Ethiopia.
First Phoenicians, and later Greeks and Romans, founded
colonies along the Mediterranean coast. Population growth
also led to several groups migrating from Savannah areas
south and east through tropical forests in the last
The three Punic wars led the Romans to destroy the
Phoenician naval power of Carthage in 146 BCE. Then they
first created the province of "Africa" and later several
provinces in North Africa. The colonies led to the spread of
Christianity in the area during the first centuries of our
era. Check African acronyms on
The Arabs conquered North Africa in the latter part of
the 600s. Parts of the Berber population eventually
converted to the religion of rulers Islam. Arabic language
and culture gradually characterized North Africa.
Further south a number of larger kingdoms arose.
Important state formation in western, central and southern
Africa in the Middle Ages was Aksum, Benin, Ghana,
Kanem-Bornu, Mali, Congo and Songhai. In southern Africa,
several state formation arose from around the 8th century.
Most famous is the Zimbabwe Empire, which left behind ruins
of impressive dimensions in the current country of Zimbabwe.
In the 15th century, Portuguese seafarers and traders
began to colonize the coast of West Africa and in 1488
Bartolomeu Dias Cape rounded up the good hope. At the same
time, Arab advances took place in the Sahara and on the
coast of East Africa. Slaves, gold, copper and ivory were
the most important commodities; European states started the
transatlantic slave trade from African ports in the early
16th century. The slave trade led to great unrest in the
African hinterland and several kingdoms that had flourished
in the Middle Ages were now falling.
The Cape land at the far south of Africa became the Dutch
colony in 1652, and from the beginning of the 18th century,
farmers invaded South Africa to conquer and colonize lands.
From the north, explorers needed south toward Lake Chad,
which was discovered by Europeans in 1819.
The colonization of Africa started with trade and
mission, and was followed by political, military and
economic control. Many areas were greatly weakened by the
slave trade. Some areas were subject to European rule as a
result of campaigns, others through negotiations and
agreements. The latter included agreements on the protection
of local rulers through the establishment of what were
formally protectorates. By the end of the 19th century,
there was a race for Africa, which ended with European
powers dividing the continent at the Berlin Conference in
France conquered Algeria as early as 1830, and
surrendered large parts of central and western Africa.
Britain was the second great colonial power, with colonies
in western, eastern and southern Africa. Portugal was the
third great colonial power, and the one that held its
longest. Other states also had possessions, including
Belgium, Italy, Spain and Germany, while Denmark-Norway
previously had trading stations on the Gold Coast, in
today's Ghana . The colonization took place at the same time
as an intensive exploration of inner Africa. With the
exception of Liberia and Ethiopia, the entire continent was
World War I did not change borders in Africa, but Germany
had to abandon its colonies (Rwanda - Urundi, Togo,
Cameroon, Tanganyika and South West Africa). Before the war,
Italy conquered Libya from the Ottoman Empire.
The decolonization of Africa began after World War II. In
1957, the Gold Coast became the first independent
sub-Saharan colony, such as Ghana. Most African states
achieved independence around 1960. In most cases, this took
place peacefully, elsewhere through liberation struggles,
especially in Algeria (independent in 1962), the Portuguese
colonies of Angola, Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique (1974/75),
southern Rhodesia, later Zimbabwe (1980), and South West
Africa, independent Namibia (1990). Eritrea tore loose from
Ethiopia in 1993 after a long liberation war, and South
Sudan erupted from Sudan in 2011. The only remaining colony,
Western Sahara, is occupied by Morocco.
From the 1980s, the global HIV/AIDS epidemic hit
sub-Saharan Africa more severely than any other region in
the world, and several times much of Africa has been hit by
drought and hunger - especially in the Sahel and in the Horn
of Africa. Parts of Africa depend on foreign aid and have
considerable foreign debt. In recent years, several African
states have experienced significant economic growth.
Several countries have also been the scene of civil wars
since independence; including Angola, Burundi, Ivory Coast,
Congo, Liberia, Mozambique, Nigeria (Biafra War), Central
African Republic, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Chad and Uganda.
There have also been cases of war between African states,
including Eritrea-Ethiopia, Somalia-Ethiopia and
Tanzania-Uganda. In 1994, there was an extensive genocide in
Rwanda after the civil war. In the wake of this, rebellion
broke out Democratic Republic of Congo. The war in the
eastern Congo has continued despite several agreements to
end the last twenty years.
While in the 1970s and 1980s Africa was still
characterized by military coups and military regimes, most
African countries have introduced multi-party systems and
gained democratic regimes. During the Arab Spring of 2011,
this led to regime change in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia -
after starting in Tunisia. The rebellion led to civil war in
Libya, and a vacuum of power that has helped make the
country an important starting point for the comprehensive
migration to Europe. The collapse in Libya also led to a
flare-up of civil war in Mali in 2013. In 2011, Africa's
youngest country was also created, South Sudan. Two years
later, however, in 2013, a new civil war broke out.
Other turmoil has also characterized the continent in
recent decades. Several terrorist groups have operated in
Africa, al-Qaeda targeted its first attack on US embassies
in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, and an al-Qaeda in Maghreb
(AQIM) has backed operations in several countries. In
Nigeria, the Boko Haram terrorist group has been behind a
series of attacks against civilians; In Somalia, al-Shabaab
has also attacked targets in Kenya, including a shopping
mall in Nairobi in 2013. In North Africa, the Islamic State
(IS) has gained a foothold especially in Libya.