In the 1950s and 1960s, African nations gained independence from colonial rule with varying degrees of success. Although there was freedom in many places, there was also corruption, military coups, civil war, and division among different ethnic groups. However, in the 21st century, optimism is growing, with greater wealth and improving political stability.
Ghanaian independence (1957)
Kwame Nkrumah becomes the country’s first independent prime minister after years of British colonial rule. In an emotional speech, he tells tens of thousands of Ghanaians: "your beloved country is free forever."
Congo Crisis (1960 - 1965)
The Congo (modern-day Democratic Republic of Congo) dissolves into crisis after becoming independent from Belgium in June 1960. A breakaway state of Katanga exists until the United Nations (UN) intervenes in 1963. The army seizes power in 1965.
African Unity (1963)
Following the independence of many African nations from European rule, the Organization of African Unity is established by 32 African states to encourage and protect Africa’s interests.
Idi Amin (1971 - 1979)
Ugandan president Amin expels Asian minorities from Uganda and launches attacks on his Tanzanian enemies. He abuses human rights and uses violence against other ethnic groups. He is overthrown in 1979.
Angolan Civil War (1975 - 2002)
The Republic of Angola, rich in diamonds and oil, becomes independent from Portugal in 1975, but becomes impoverished by a civil war. This will be one of Africa’s longest-running conflicts.
Ethiopian famine (1984 - 1985)
Decades of war and extreme drought cause starvation in Ethiopia, where more than 400,000 people die and millions more are left hungry and poor. Many are forced to leave their homes and resettle elsewhere.
President Nelson Mandela (1994)
After decades of apartheid (racial segregation) in his country, and 27 years of imprisonment for protesting against this, Nelson Mandela is elected the first black president of South Africa. This ends 300 years of white rule.
Rwandan Genocide (1994)
More than a million people of the Tutsi ethnicity in Rwanda are killed by members of the neighboring ethnic group, the Hutus. The international community fails to stop this.
Kofi Annan (1997)
Kofi Annan from Ghana becomes the Secretary General of the United Nations. He expands the UN’s work into protecting the environment, fighting against HIV/AIDS in Africa, and improving human rights.
Civil war in Sudan (2003)
Civil war begins in the Darfur region of Sudan between rebel groups and the government. Several hundred thousand people are killed and millions flee their homes in a conflict that remains unresolved today.
Prize for Kenya (2004)
Wangari Mathai, a Kenyan feminist and environmentalist, receives the Nobel Peace Prize. Her Green Belt Movement teaches women to grow trees in order to improve their living conditions.
Rwandan reform (2010)
Rwanda manages to rebuild its economy after its devastating civil war. Life expectancy, the number of children attending school, and the amount of money spent on health care have all improved.
World Cup (2010)
The World Cup comes to South Africa, the first time an African nation has held such a prestigious worldwide event. Many people’s perceptions of the country and continent are changed for the better.
Independence for South Sudan (2011)
South Sudan votes to break away from Sudan after a bloody civil war between the mainly Christian south and the Arab Muslim north. Much of the world recognizes the new nation, but it remains one of the poorest areas in the world.
Economic boom (2011)
Africa is predicted to have the largest economic growth of any continent over the next decade, thanks to younger populations, access to water, and less poverty and disease.
Polite politics (2015)
Nigeria votes out President Goodluck Jonathan in favor of Muhammadu Buhari. Jonathan’s politeness in defeat allows a peaceful transfer of power, which is inspirational across Africa.
Ebola (2014 - 2016)
West Africa experiences the biggest outbreak of the Ebola virus ever known. Thousands die and the economies of many countries are damaged, some of which are still recovering from civil war.
HIV/AIDS vaccine trial launched (2016)
5,400 South African men and women sign up for a trial of a new HIV/AIDS vaccine, hoping for a breakthrough against the disease. Seven million South Africans are living with the virus.
Robert Mugabe steps down (2017)
Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe since 1980, loses his grip on power and resigns after the military take control. He is blamed for economic chaos, preventing political freedom, and the abuse of human rights.