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History of Africa

The history of Africa predates the 4th Millenium BC with the rise of the Egyptian civilization, the oldest civilization in the world. The story of the journey of what has made Africa we see today consists of migrations in search of better land and economic security, trade advantages, and the availability of resources in general. Also included are the influence of religions most importantly and the rise of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.

The development of the northern part of Africa stemmed heavily from trade relations with other non-African civilizations ranging from the Phoenicians to the ancient Roman empire. Over the years, in the late 7th Century, North and East Africa were heavily influenced by the spread of Islam which led to the breading of new cultures like that of the Swahili people in the east and the Songhai Empire in the Sub-Saharan west. North Africa in history is what is now Morocco, Tunisia, and Libya. In Roman times, Mauretania (the land of the Moors, not to be confused with present-day Mauritania; which is further south) coincided roughly with modern-day Morocco. The Roman name for part of what is now Tunisia and Algeria was Numidia. Western Libya was named Tripolitania while the eastern was known as Cyrenaica.

 Throughout the history of African, there has been the movement of people within, in, and out of Africa along the northern coastal lines. The greatest movement of people out of the continent was as a result of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade lasting between the 16th and 19th century and involved a cumulated number of ten million people (10,000,000) to the new world. This along with inter-ethnic warfare is purported to be the major cause of African’s subsequent weakness and decline. As these movements were going on, wars were being fought and empires were formed as a result of the conquest by the superior ethnic group. Some of the known empires include the Sudanese Empire, the Ashanti Empire, the empire of Oyo, and many others.

With the rise of the European colonists in America needing to import labor to work on the plantations, the Negro slave labor mostly from Africa was used. As early as the 16th Century, multiple European nations had joined this lucrative trade and had become a big business. The traders established forts along the African coasts, mainly in West Africa where they exchanged European goods for ivory, gold, and slaves. The slaves were obtained through raids in the interior and sometimes agreements with the local rulers (chiefs). While the Europeans supplied the guns and gunpowder, the local rulers gave up their people as slaves in return. One of the aims of these chiefs was the protection of their lands from other invaders from other ethnic groups looking to expand their boundaries. As the years progressed, with the improvement of machines and the efforts of people like William Wilberforce, the slave trade was curtailed, and plans to free the slaves were underway.

With Africa now needing to strengthen its political foundations and local governance, various political leaders stood up to the reigns of leadership usually through coup d’etats via the military, each trying to lead their states as best as they could. As time passed, different countries have risen out of military rule adopting democracy as their way of governance while other African leaders insist on leading their countries autocratically.


Encyclopedia Britannica. (n.d.). Africa – People. Retrieved July 3, 2021, from

FOCAC. (2009, October 9). History of Africa. Fmprc.Gov.Cn/.

MacDonald, R. (2004). JSTOR: A History20047Roger C. Schonfeld. JSTOR: A History. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press 2003. 412 pp., ISBN: 0691115311 US$29.95 (hardback). The Electronic Library, 22(1), 84–85.

Standford. (2019). A Short History of Africa.