Africa, the cradle of humanity, has come a long way from nurturing the earliest humans to prevailing over colonialism.
In the spirit of celebrating freedom, here are six countries celebrating their independence in October.
Uganda celebrated a major milestone in 2022 — it turned 60! The landlocked country gained independence from her colonists on October 9, 1962, and the annual independence event was commemorated with elaborate nationwide celebrations.
Uganda has a land area slightly smaller than Oregon, USA, but its population of 46 million people is about ten times more than Oregon’s. Uganda has a median age of 15.8 years, making it a country with the youngest population in the world.
This small nation has been inhabited for at least 50,000 years, according to the stone tools found in the region. However, the colonization of the area by the British didn’t begin until 1890. Four years later, Uganda officially became a British protectorate.
Geo-data reveals Uganda has rich, underexploited deposits of rare minerals, including gold, oil, uranium, phosphates, etc. In 1908, Winston Churchill called Uganda the “Pearl of Africa” in his book, “My African Journey,” because of the nation’s biodiversity, ranging from attractive wildlife to stunning natural scenery and beauty.
Ugandans are famous for speaking a localized version of English called Uglish (pronounced you-glish). While football is the national sport in Uganda, the national team—The Crane—has never qualified for the FIFA World Cup.
In 2011, Uganda’s Kirra Motors Company, a state enterprise, designed and built Africa’s first electric vehicle.
Lesotho is a country with a population of about 2 million people and a land size that’s about the size of Belgium. Despite its small size, Lesotho is a fascinating country.
First, it is a country within a country, because the Kingdom of Lesotho is actually located in South Africa. It is one of three independent nations that have their borders contained within another country. Lesotho is also the world’s highest country—its lowest point seats at about 1,400 miles above sea level. Hence locals refer to their country as the “kingdom of the sky.”
As a result of its high elevation, Lesotho is the coldest country in Africa, and it is one of the few African countries that experience all four seasons of the year. When one thinks of ski destinations, Africa isn’t one of the places that comes to mind. However, Lesotho has snowy peaks that are perfect for skiing, and it hosts one of the few ski resorts in Africa.
It is also one of the few African countries that operate a constitutional monarchy—it has been governed by kings since it gained independence from British rule on October 4, 1966. Unlike most African nations with numerous ethnic groups, Lesotho is homogeneous—more than 80% of the population is from the Basotho ethnic group. The official languages are Sotho and English.
Lesotho operates a large textile industry. In fact, one of its textile companies—Nien Hsing Textile Co—makes jeans for Levi Strauss, The Children’s Place, and Kontoor Brands (Wrangler owner). Lesotho’s total textile exports to the USA reached $305.4 million in 2020.
Sixty-two-year-old Nigeria is home to more than 200 million vibrant people, making it the most populous African country and the world’s seventh-most populous country. What’s more, the growing population is expected to reach 400 million by 2050, according to Statista.
Petroleum offers the government 80% of its revenue, ranking Nigeria as the largest economy among African countries. Hence, her moniker, “The Giant of Africa.”
Although English is the official language, Nigerians are known to speak pidgin English. Nigeria is also one of the world’s most ethnically and linguistically diverse countries, with over 525 native languages spoken by more than 350 ethnic groups. The Igbos, Hausa-Fulanis, and Yorubas are the major ethnic groups.
The Nigerian movie industry—Nollywood—is the world’s second-largest producer of movies after Bollywood. Nollywood produces about 2,500 films annually worth an estimated $6.4billion in 2021.
Nigeria also has the world’s fifth-largest internet population, according to Internet World Stats.
Cameroon, previously known as Kamerun, is a central African country colonized by different countries. It became a German colony in 1884. Then in 1916, after the world war, it became a colony of the French and the British.
French Cameroon gained independence on January 1, 1960. The following year, on October 1, 1961, English Cameroon gained independence and unified with French Cameroon. The unification of these regions birthed the United Republic of Cameroon.
National Day is celebrated every May 20, signifying the day in 1972 when the Cameroon government dissolved the federal system of government and voted for a unitary state.
Cameroon has had only two presidents since its independence. And its current president, Paul Biya, has been Cameron’s leader since November 6, 1982, making him the second-longest-ruling president in Africa.
Cameroon is nicknamed “Africa in miniature” because of its diversity. It has over 27 million people and over 300 languages, including English and French.
Cameroon’s football team, the Indomitable Lions, is one of the most accomplished African football teams. They were the first African country to reach the FIFA World Cup quarter-final. They have also won the Africa Cup of Nations championship five times and have been runners-up twice.
Cameroon is one of the wettest and most fertile countries on Earth. It is home to Africa’s oldest forest — the Korup National Park, a 60-million-years-old forest that boasts over 1000 species of flora and fauna. Goliath frogs— the world’s largest living frogs, almost the size of small cats—are found in Cameroon. The country is also blessed with over a thousand species of butterflies.
Zambia was colonized in 1889 and was previously named Northern Rhodesia after the British leader Cecil Rhodes. Northern Rhodesia fought for its freedom in the mid-20th century, like other colonized countries. On October 24, 1964, the country gained independence and became Zambia.
Zambia was the first country to enter the Olympics as one country and leave as another after announcing its independence on the Olympic closing day in 1964!
Zambia, at 58, is home to more than 19 million people with about 70 diverse tribes and dialects. Even though English is Zambia’s official language, Zambians speak seven other major languages.
Zambia is Africa’s second-largest and the world’s seventh-largest copper producer, according to Mining Digital. The world’s largest artificial lake— Lake Kariba, is in Zambia. It is used for commercial fishing and is the primary source of hydroelectric power in Zambia and Zimbabwe. Zambia has some of nature’s best wildlife and game reserves. Africa’s Big Five in Zambia are preserved in South Luangwa National Park.
In 1921, one of the best-preserved fossils—the Broken Hill skull—was discovered in Zambia. The fossil dates back to an ancient human from 274,000 to 324,000 years ago.
The Republic of Guinea gained independence on October 2, 1958, after 67 years of French colonization. Since then, the country has suffered instability due to military coups, ethnic tensions, and election malpractices. The country is sometimes referred to as Guinea-Conakry (named after its capital, Conakry) to distinguish it from the other similarly-named African nations— Equatorial Guinea and Guinea-Bissau.
Guinea is home to more than 13 million people from 24 distinct ethnic groups who speak diverse languages but have French as their official language. Despite having the world’s largest bauxite reserves, enough to make it one of Africa’s wealthiest countries, Guinea is one of the world’s top 30 poorest countries.
Nonetheless, Guinea boasts of Africa’s most prestigious acrobat schools. The Keita Fodeba Centre for Acrobatic Arts, located in Conakry, has received global acclaim for training students (aged 10-20) in acrobatics and contortionism.
Chimpanzees were first seen using tools (like anvils, stones, and cleavers) to cut their food into smaller bits in Guinea.
7. Equatorial Guinea
Equatorial Guinea is the only Spanish-speaking African country. First discovered by the Portuguese in 1471, absolute control passed to Spain in 1844. After being subjected to Spain’s rule for more than 150 years, it finally gained independence on October 12, 1968.
It was first named the Western African Territories in 1904 before it was renamed Spanish Guinea. The country’s post-independence name, Equatorial Guinea, is informed by its position along the Gulf of Guinea and near the Equator.
Equatorial Guinea is home to about 1.6 million people whose official language is Spanish, but a small fraction of the population speaks French and Portuguese.
In 1995, Equatorial Guinea discovered Crude oil, which has since accounted for 90% of its total exports. The country is Africa’s 10th-largest crude oil producer. However, according to the International Monetary Fund, Equatorial Guinea’s oil reserves may be depleted by 2035. Despite its mineral wealth, more than 70% of Equatoguineans live in poverty.
The country has the second-highest (94%) literacy rate in sub-Saharan Africa after Seychelles (96%).
Like Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea has had only two presidents—Francisco Macias Nguema (1968-1979) and President Teodoro Obiang Nguema (1979-to date), whose son is the vice president.
Both presidents are regarded as the worst abusers of human rights in Africa.