African Countries Colonized by Portugal

Portugal, known for its maritime prowess during the Age of Discovery, played a significant role in the colonization of Africa. As one of the earliest European powers to venture into the continent, Portugal established colonies that left a lasting impact on the countries they occupied. In this article, we will explore the African countries colonized by Portugal and examine the enduring legacy of Portuguese influence in Africa.

African Countries Colonized by Portugal

African Countries Colonized by Portugal

1. Angola

Angola, situated along the western coast of Southern Africa, was first encountered by Portuguese explorers in the late 15th century. The Portuguese navigator Diogo Cão reached the mouth of the Congo River in 1484, marking the initial contact with the region. The subsequent voyages of other explorers further solidified Portuguese presence along the Angolan coast.

The country was Established as a colony in the 16th century, Angola became the crown jewel of the Portuguese Empire due to its vast natural resources, particularly minerals and agricultural products. The Portuguese exploited Angola for its slave trade and later turned to plantations for crops such as sugar, coffee, and cotton.

Angola remained under Portuguese colonial rule for over 400 years, enduring significant social, economic, and political transformations during this period. A protracted armed conflict ensued, eventually leading to Angola’s independence on November 11, 1975.

Road to Independence:

The struggle for Angolan independence gained momentum in the mid-20th century. The Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA), the Frente Nacional de Libertação de Angola (FNLA), and União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola (UNITA) emerged as key nationalist movements. A protracted armed conflict ensued, eventually leading to Angola’s independence on November 11, 1975.

Today, Portuguese cultural influence is evident in the Angolan language (Portuguese is the official language), religion, architecture, and culinary traditions.

2. Mozambique

Mozambique, located on the southeastern coast of Africa, was first explored by the Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama during his voyage to India in 1498. The Portuguese established a trading post on Mozambique Island in the early 16th century, which became a crucial hub for trade along the Indian Ocean.

With its strategic position along the Indian Ocean trade routes, Mozambique became a gateway for Portuguese maritime exploration and commercial activities. The Portuguese established trading posts and settlements, primarily focusing on the extraction of gold, ivory, and later, slaves.

Mozambique remained under Portuguese rule for approximately 477 years, enduring various periods of exploitation, forced labor, and social inequality.

Road to Independence:

The Mozambican struggle for independence intensified in the 1960s, with the formation of the Frente de Libertação de Moçambique (FRELIMO). A protracted armed conflict between FRELIMO and the Portuguese colonial forces ensued, resulting in Mozambique’s independence on June 25, 1975.

The legacy of Portuguese colonization is evident in the widespread use of Portuguese in Mozambique, as well as in the country’s architecture, religion, and cuisine.

African Countries Colonized by Portugal

3. Cape Verde

Cape Verde, a volcanic archipelago located in the Atlantic Ocean, was encountered by Portuguese explorers in the 15th century. Portuguese mariners, led by Diogo Gomes, reached the islands in 1456, establishing the first European settlement. Due to their strategic location as a stopover point during transatlantic voyages, the islands quickly became a crucial trading post.

During the colonial period, Cape Verde served primarily as a center for the transatlantic slave trade. The Portuguese established settlements on several islands and transformed Cape Verde into a key hub for slave trading operations. Cape Verde also played a vital role in the expansion of Portuguese influence along the African coast.

Cape Verde remained under Portuguese colonial rule for approximately 519 years, enduring profound cultural, economic, and demographic changes.

Road to Independence:

The pursuit of independence for Cape Verde gained momentum in the 1950s and 1960s, fueled by nationalist sentiment and the Pan-African movement. The African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) emerged as the leading liberation movement. Through a protracted armed struggle against the Portuguese, Cape Verde achieved independence on July 5, 1975, in a unified state with Guinea-Bissau. However, the two countries later pursued separate paths.

Today, the cultural influence of Portugal is evident in the Cape Verdean language (Cape Verdean Creole, which has Portuguese as its lexifier) and the country’s music, including morna and coladeira.

4. Guinea-Bissau

Guinea-Bissau, located on the west coast of Africa, was first encountered by the Portuguese in the 15th century. The Portuguese established trading posts and fortified settlements along the coastline to facilitate trade in goods such as gold, ivory, and later, slaves. Portuguese influence gradually expanded into the interior regions.

Portuguese control over Guinea-Bissau solidified in the late 19th century when they established administrative structures and imposed forced labor systems. The colonial administration focused on exploiting natural resources, particularly cashew nuts and peanuts. Guinea-Bissau also played a significant role in the resistance against Portuguese rule in collaboration with Cape Verde.

Guinea-Bissau remained under Portuguese colonial rule for approximately 494 years, marked by economic exploitation, social inequality, and resistance movements.

Road to Independence:

The independence struggle in Guinea-Bissau intensified in the 1960s with the emergence of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC). Under the leadership of Amílcar Cabral, the PAIGC waged a protracted guerrilla war against the Portuguese. Guinea-Bissau finally achieved independence on September 24, 1973, becoming the first sub-Saharan African country to break free from Portuguese colonial rule.

5. São Tomé and Príncipe

São Tomé and Príncipe were discovered by Portuguese navigators in the late 15th century. It was the Portuguese explorer João de Santarém who first set eyes on the islands, naming them after the respective saints’ days on which they were encountered. The Portuguese soon established settlements on the islands, primarily utilizing them as a base for trade in goods such as sugar, coffee, and later, cocoa.

During the colonial period, São Tomé and Príncipe played a significant role in the transatlantic slave trade. The fertile volcanic soil of the islands made them ideal for cultivating cash crops, and large-scale plantations were established. Enslaved Africans were brought to the islands to work on these plantations, which contributed to their economic prosperity but also caused significant human suffering.

São Tomé and Príncipe remained under Portuguese colonial rule for approximately 485 years. This lengthy period witnessed the exploitation of the islands’ resources and the impact of the slave trade on the social fabric of the archipelago.

Road to Independence:

The struggle for independence in São Tomé and Príncipe gained momentum in the 20th century. The Movement for the Liberation of São Tomé and Príncipe (MLSTP) emerged as the leading nationalist movement. Inspired by the wave of decolonization sweeping across Africa, São Tomé and Príncipe intensified their demands for self-determination.

After a protracted struggle, São Tomé and Príncipe finally achieved independence from Portugal on July 12, 1975. Following independence, the MLSTP formed the country’s first government, and the archipelago embarked on a path of nation-building and development.

Today, São Tomé and Príncipe bear the cultural influence of Portugal in their language, architecture, and culinary traditions.

Mr Madu
Mr Madu
Mr Madu is a freelance writer, a lover of Africa and a frequent hiker who loves long, vigorous walks, usually on hills or mountains.

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