The continent of Africa has a rich history of colonization and decolonization. Many African nations underwent significant transformations after gaining independence, including changing their names to reflect their new identities. This article explores African countries that changed their names following independence, categorizing them by region and providing a brief overview of the country and when they adopted their new names.
1. Benin (formerly Republic of Dahomey)
In 1958, French Dahomey became the self-governing colony called the Republic of Dahomey and gained full independence in 1960. It was renamed in 1975 the People’s Republic of Benin and in 1991 the Republic of Benin, honoring the historic kingdom of Benin.
2. Guinea Bissau (formerly the Portuguese Guinea)
The entire country became a Portuguese colony in the 19th century, known as Portuguese Guinea. In September 1973 the country declared independence as Guinea-Bissau.
3. Ghana (formerly the Gold Coast)
In 1957, the Gold Coast gained independence from British colonial rule and adopted the name Ghana, inspired by the ancient Ghana Empire.
4. Côte d’Ivoire (formerly Icory Coast) – 25 years after independence from France in 1960, the country formally adopted the name Côte d’Ivoire in 1985, emphasizing its French heritage.
5. Mali (formerly French Sudan)
In 1960, French Sudan became the independent nation of Mali, harkening back to the Mali Empire’s glory.
6. Cabo Verde (formerly Cape Verde)
In 2103, Cape Verde, previously a Portuguese colony, changed its name to Cabo Verde, asserting its unique identity.
7. Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta)
In 1984, Upper Volta adopted the name Burkina Faso, signifying the country’s commitment to revolution and a brighter future.
8. Guinea (formerly french guinea)
Guinea, under the name French Guinea, was a part of French West Africa until it achieved independence in 1958.
1. Tanzania (formed from the union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar)
In 1964, Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged to form the United Republic of Tanzania.
2. Burundi (formerly Ruanda-Urundi under Belgian administration)
Burundi adopted its name upon achieving independence from Belgian rule in 1962.
3. Malawi (formerly Nyasaland)
Malawi adopted its name upon gaining independence from British colonial rule in 1964.
4. Mozambique (formerly Portuguese East Africa)
Mozambique emerged from Portuguese colonial rule and chose its name at independence in 1975.
5. Somalia (formerly British Somaliland & Italia Somaliland)
British Somaliland re-united with the Italian possession to form a United Republic of Somalia in 1960.
6. Djibouti (formerly French Territory of Afar and Issas)
Djiboutu adopted its name upon gaining independence from French colonial rule in 1977.
7. Rwanda & Burundi (formerly Ruanda-Urundi)
Ruanda-Urundi was a twin territory in East Africa that was administered by Belgium. The territory broke up into two separate States in 1962. Ruanda became Rwanda and Urundi went on to become Burundi.
1. Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)
The Republic of the Congo was established on 28 November 1958 and gained independence from France in 1960.
2. Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Republic of Zaire)
The Democratic Republic of Congo has undergone several name changes throughout its history. Initially, from 1885 to 1908, it was known as the Congo Free State, during a period marked by harsh rule under King Leopold II of Belgium. It later transformed into the Belgian Congo, followed by Congo-Leopoldville. After gaining independence in 1960, it was briefly known as the Republic of Congo before adopting the name Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 1971, under the dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko, it was rebranded as the Republic of Zaire. Following Mobutu’s downfall, the name was restored to the “Democratic Republic of the Congo” in 1997.
3. Central African Republic (formerly Ubangi-Shari)
In 1976, Ubangi-Shari became the Central African Republic 16 years after independence from French colonial rule.
4. Equitorial Guinea ( formerly Spanish Guinea)
Formerly a colony of Spain with the name Spanish Guinea, the country achieved its independence on October 12, 1968. and changed its name to nd the country becomes the Republic of Equatorial Guinea.
1. Zimbabwe (formerly Southern Rhodesia)
In 1980, the nation of Zimbabwe emerged from British colonial rule and adopted its name.
2. Zambia (formerly Northern Rhodesia)
The territory of Zambia was known as Northern Rhodesia from 1911 to 1964. It was renamed Zambia in October 1964 on its independence from British rule.
3. Eswatini (formerly Swaziland)
In 2018, Swaziland officially became the Kingdom of Eswatini, reflecting its Swazi heritage.
4. Namibia (formerly South-West Africa)
In 1990, Namibia gained independence from South African administration and officially adopted its current name.
5. Lesotho (formerly Basutoland)
Basutoland became the Kingdom of Lesotho upon gaining independence from Britain in 1966.
6. Botswana (formerly Bechuanaland)
Bechuanaland became a republic in 1966 after it gained its independence and then changed its name to Botswana.
None in this region.