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Africa History Timeline

African Timeline:

  • (5 - 2.5 million years ago) Ancient fossils, rocks and skeletal remains uncovered in the Rift Valley
  • (600,000 - 200,000 years ago) Homo Sapiens band together to form nomadic groups; use of fire develops
  • (6000 BC - 4000 BC) River People emerge along Nile, Niger and Congo Rivers; agriculture is spread south of Sahara Desert
  • (3118 BC) Upper and Lower kingdoms of Egypt united by King Menes
  • (2600 BC) First Egyptian pyramid constructed
  • (2500 BC) Civilizations in Mesopotamia and Egypt flourish
  • (1370 BC) Queen Nefertiti and Akhenaten reign over Egypt
  • (814 BC) City of Carthage founded in Tunisia
  • (500 BC) Colonies established by Greek along Red Sea
  • (247 BC - 183 BC) Hannibal rules Carthage
  • (196 BC) Rosetta Stone inscribed
  • (69 BC - 30 BC) Cleopatra rules Egypt
  • (30 BC) Egypt conquered by the Roman Empire
  • (350 AD) Bantu tribes arrive in Zambia
  • (642) Arabs conquer Egypt
  • (700) Islam sweeps across North Africa
  • (800) Trading towns established along eastern coast of Africa

1000 AD - 1700's

  • (1000) Ghana Empire reaches height of power
  • (1230) Mali Empire established; Ghanas declines
  • (1250) Zimbabwe constructed in southeastern Africa
  • (1390) Kongo Kingdom flourishes on Congo River
  • (1400) Swahili flourishes along eastern African coast
  • (1441) African slaves begin being transported across the Atlantic
  • (1488) Morocco invades Mali
  • (1550) Portuguese trade in Africa attracts Europeans
  • (1652) Dutch establish colony in South Africa at Cape of Good Hope
  • (1787) Freetown founded on west African coast
  • (1795) British seize control of Cape Colony
  • (1799) Rosetta Stone discovered


  • (1855) Victoria Falls discovered by David Livingstone
  • (1858) Lake Victoria discovered by John Speke
  • (1859-1869) The Suez Canal is built in Egypt
  • (1860s) End of Atlantic slave trade
  • (1867) Diamonds discovered at Hope Creek
  • (1870s) Zulu Wars fought against Great Britain
  • (1882) Egypt and Sudan occupied by Britain
  • (1884) Namibia, Tanzania, Togo and Cameroon taken over by Germany; Mahdi leads an uprising in Sudan against British
  • (1885) First railroad and telegraph line opened from Kimberley to Cape Town
  • (1886) Gold discovered in Transvaal; Kenya established as British colony


  • (1907) Gandhi organizes Indian civil disobedience against racism and injustice in South Africa
  • (1914-1918) World War I; entirety of Africa divided amongst Europe, African colonies are prepared for independence at wars end
  • (1933) First mass political party formed in Africa, The Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM)
  • (1935) Italy invades Ethiopia
  • (1939-1945) World War II
  • (1947) African's push for decolonization
  • (1956) Morocco, Sudan, and Tunisia all receive independence; oil discovered in Nigeria
  • (1961) Zaire receives independence from Belgium
  • (1962) Algeria receives independence from France
  • (mid-1960s) European colonial era of Africa ends, most African nations gain independence
  • (1963) Organization of African Unity forms
  • (1964) Nelson Mandela imprisoned in South African prison for 25 years
  • (1967-1970) Nigerian civil war
  • (1973) Ethiopian famine kills hundreds of thousands
  • (1976) Ebola virus emerges in Sudan and Zaire
  • (1981) HIV epidemic begins
  • (1990) Nelson Mandela freed; violence erupts between South African black majority groups and white Nationalist groups
  • (1994) Nelson Mandela elected president of South Africa; Hutus massacre millions in Rwanda, millions more flee
  • (1996) Rwanda refugees migrate back to escape fighting in Zaire


  • (2001) Gabon and Congo experience Ebola epidemic
  • (2002) 2,000 killed when Senegalese ferry capsizes off Gambia coast; African Union forms after dissolution of OAU
  • (2003) Civil war begins in Darfur region of Sudan, several hundred thousand killed in conflict that lasted six years
  • (2006) War in Somalia involving Ethiopia and Somali Transitional Federal Government
  • (2007) Togo holds first democratic elections
  • (2010) Sudanese government and Darfuri rebels sign ceasefire agreement
  • (2011) South Sudan receives independence

About the Author

John Moen is a cartographer who along with his wife are the orignal founders of worldatlas.com. He and his wife, Chris Woolwine-Moen, produced thousands of award-winning maps that are used all over the world and content that aids students, teachers, travelers and parents with their geography and map questions. Today, it's one of the most popular educational sites on the web.

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This page was last updated on September 19, 2016.