A Timeline of African History

By Tim Lambert

Early Africa

c. 100,000 BC Humans migrate from Africa to other parts of the world

C. 5,000 BC Farming begins in Egypt

C. 3,118 BC King Menes unites the kingdoms of Upper and Lower in Egypt

C. 2,600 BC The first pyramid is built in Egypt

C. 2,000 BC Bantu speaking people begin to migrate southwards

C. 1,700 BC The kingdom of Kush arises south of Egypt

C. 650 BC Iron working spreads in North Africa

C. 480 BC The city of Carthage is founded in Tunisia

202 BC The Romans defeat Carthage at the battle of Zama in North Africa

30 BC Egypt becomes a province of the Roman Empire

C. 50 AD The kingdom of Axum arises in what is now Ethiopia

C. 350 AD Bantu speaking people arrive in Zambia

C. 500 AD Iron working reaches southern Africa

642 AD The Arabs conquer Egypt

C. 650 AD Muslims travel across the Sahara on camels to trade

698 AD The Arabs capture Carthage

C. 800 AD Trading towns are formed on the east coast of Africa

C. 1100 AD The kingdom of Ife in Nigeria becomes important

C. 1300 AD The kingdom of Benin in Nigeria becomes important

1324 Mansa Musa ruler of Mali makes a pilgrimage to Mecca and shows off his great wealth

C. 1350 AD The kingdom of Songhai arises in west Africa

1415 The Portuguese conquer Ceuta in North Africa. It is the first European foothold in Africa.

1464-1491 Under its ruler Sunni Ali the kingdom of Songhai in west Africa conquers territory and expands

1488 The Portuguese sail round the Cape of Good Hope.

1508 The Portuguese begin to settle in Mozambique

1517 The Turks conquer Egypt

1518 Onward African slaves are transported across the Atlantic by Europeans

1551 The Turks capture Tripoli

1562 England joins the slave trade

1564 The Songhai Empire in west Africa destroys the Empire of Mali

1575 The Portuguese begin to settle in Angola

1581 The Moroccans begin to expand across the Sahara

1590 The Moroccans capture Timbuktu

1591 The Moroccans destroy the Empire of Songhai

1652 The Dutch found a colony in South Africa

1700 The rise of the Ashanti kingdom in West Africa

1787 The British found a colony for freed slaves in Sierra Leone

1792 Denmark bans the slave trade

1795-1797 Mungo Park explores the River Niger

19th Century Africa

1806 The Dutch colony in South Africa becomes a British colony


Sierra Leone and Gambia become British crown colonies

Britain bans the slave trade

1808 The USA bans the slave trade

1822 The USA founds a colony for freed slaves in Liberia

1828 Shaka king of the Zulus is assassinated

1830 The French invade Algeria. Over the following years the French build up an empire in North Africa

1847 Liberia becomes independent

1855 David Livingstone discovers the Victoria Falls

1858 John Speke discovers Lake Victoria

1859-1869 The Suez Canal is built in Egypt

1879 The Zulus defeat the British at Isandlwana but they are defeated at Ulundi

1880-1881 War between the British and Boers (Dutch-speaking farmers) in South Africa

1882 The British army occupies Egypt and Sudan


The Germans take Namibia, Tanzania, Togo and Cameroon

The Mahdi leads an anti-British uprising in Sudan


Italy takes Eritrea, Belgium takes The Republic of Congo and Britain takes Botswana

The Mahdi captures Khartoum and British general Gordon is killed


Kenya becomes a British colony

Gold is discovered in Transvaal

1888-89 The British take control of Rhodesia (Zimbabwe)

1894 The British take Uganda

1896 The Italians invade Ethiopia but are defeated by the Ethiopians

1898 The British defeat the Sudanese at the battle of Omdurman

20th Century Africa

1910 The Union of South Africa becomes independent from Britain

1912 Italy conquers Libya

1935-36 Italy conquers Ethiopia

1941 The British drive the Italians out of Ethiopia

1942 The British defeat the Germans and Italians at El Alamein in Egypt

1943 German and Italian forces in North Africa surrender

1948 Apartheid is introduced in South Africa

1951 Libya becomes independent

1952-55 The Mau Mau uprising in Kenya takes place


Morocco and Sudan become independent. So does Tunisia

Oil is discovered in Nigeria

1957 Ghana becomes independent

1960 Senegal becomes independent

The Sharpeville massacre in South Africa

1962 Uganda becomes independent. So does Algeria.

1963 Kenya becomes independent

1964 Zambia and Malawi become independent. The state of Tanzania is formed.

1965 Gambia becomes independent

1966 Botswana becomes independent

1967 Diamonds are discovered in Botswana

1967-70 Civil War in Nigeria

1969 Colonel Gaddafi takes power in Libya

1971 Idi Amin seizes power in Uganda

1974 Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia is deposed

1975 Angola and Mozambique become independent

1979 Amin is overthrown

1980 Robert Mugabe becomes prime minister of Zimbabwe

1990 Namibia becomes independent

1993 Eritrea becomes independent


Nelson Mandela becomes president of South Africa

Ethnic massacres in Rwanda

1997 Zaire is renamed Democratic Republic of Congo

1999 Thabo Mbeki becomes president of South Africa

2013 The economies of African countries are growing rapidly. The continent is developing fast.

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