The controlled decolonization of Africa began only after
World War II. One of the foundations was that the education
system was greatly improved after 1945. Then more and more
Africans received higher education in Europe, especially in
the UK and France, partly in Portugal and some in the USA.
After 1945, many soldiers, who had fought in the European
armies both in Africa and in Europe, also returned home. In
the British or French army, they had experienced than some
equal treatment with their European fighting brothers. Now
they reacted to the discrimination they experienced upon
returning to the colonies, where the rights had been related
to skin color.
Increased education and greater contact between people
from different colonies contributed greatly to discussion
and awareness - and to the organization of both national and
multinational movements for political liberation. Gradually,
a Pan-African movement emerged, with a philosophy still
alive. This was not least developed in the meeting between
blacks from Africa and America - in the US and Europe.
Already in the interwar period, a number of African
politicians had contact with the black freedom movement in
the United States, and several of the leading American
thinkers and activists had a major influence on the
political and ideological development of African
nationalism, notably Marcus Garvey, William EB Du Bois and
George Padmore - the last ones of which were originally from
the Caribbean. In French Africa, Caribbean intellectuals,
especially Frantz Fanon and Aimé Césaire, both originally
from Martinique, also had a great influence.
A number of Pan-African congresses were held in Europe
from 1919, the most important in the mid-1940s in the United
Kingdom. During these meetings, African leaders such as
Kwame Nkrumah ( Gold Coast, later Ghana), Isaac
Wallace-Johnson ( Sierra Leone ) and Jomo Kenyatta ( Kenya )
met. Several of the leading nationalists from French Africa
participated in the political and intellectual life in
France, including Léopold Sédar Senghor of Senegal and Félix
Houphouët-Boigny, where the so-called négritude movement
grew - also in collaboration with Caribbean thinkers.
In the 1950s, several colonies gained internal autonomy.
Kwame Nkrumah became prime minister of the Gold Coast in
1952 after his party won national elections, and in 1957 the
Gold Coast became the first sub-Saharan African colony to
become independent under the name Ghana. See
Countryaah. In 1954, the
Federation Nigeria was established and Nigeria became an
independent state in 1960. While the United Kingdom from
1948 actively started the decolonization process, France's
attitude was another. France regarded its overseas
possessions as permanent and worked for the colonies to be
assimilated with France.
French West Africa was the largest part of the French
colonial empire, and in 1946 a common political party was
formed by nationalists from various parts of this unit, the
Rassemblement Démocratique Africain (RDA), which
played a key role in the decolonization of French Africa.
From 1946, French West Africa became part of the Fourth
French Republic. Several prominent African politicians were
members of the parliament and government of Paris; Ivory
Coast's later President Félix Houphouët-Boigny, for example,
sat in five successive French governments of 1956.
When General Charles de Gaulle took over as president of
France in 1958, he wanted the overseas territories to be
autonomous parts of the French federation. The colonies were
asked to choose participation in "la community" or
independence. In Guinea, a clear majority of the voters, led
by Ahmed Sékou Touré, elected independence, and the country
became independent in 1958. The other colonies entered the
Commonwealth, but became independent in 1960.
Egypt had formally become independent in 1922, but really
only after the officers' coup in 1952. Egypt was then an
important support for the struggle for independence in a
number of African countries, primarily in North Africa.
Similarly, Ghana's independence in 1957 was a source of
inspiration in sub-Saharan Africa. In April 1958, the
independent African states, except the Union of South Africa
- ie Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Liberia, Libya, Morocco, Sudan
and Tunisia - met for a pan-African conference in Ghana's
capital Accra. There were also nationalist leaders from a
number of colonies, including Patrice Lumumba from Congo and
Tom Mboya from Kenya.
The Accra Conference decided that all African states
should become involved in the continent's common liberation.
And now things went fast. In 1960, which was later called
"the year of Africa", as many as 13 French colonies gained
their independence. Britain gave up British Somaliland and
Nigeria, and Belgium gave up Congo. For the next three
years, the vast majority of the remaining British and French
territories and colonies followed. Towards the end of the
decade, some Portuguese territories, South Africa and its
South West Africa ( Nambia ), Rhodesia and Spanish Western
Sahara territories were still subject to European or
In 1963, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was
formed. In the ensuing decades, it was the one who would
overlook a new era for development in the newly independent
states, pushing for the establishment of majority rule in
the remaining colonies and states with minority rule.