September 9

More Than a Tourist – Queen Elizabeth II’s Impact on Africa


September 9, 2022

Since her coronation in 1952 and before it, Queen Elizabeth II has had a storied relationship with the African continent. Her visits and travels, and indeed those of the royal family, are well known, and we explore them further in this blog. However, it would be remiss of us not to reflect on the impact Her Majesty made on the African continent and its rapid transformation during her reign.

Image credit: Getty Images

Decolonisation of African States

During her reign, Queen Elizabeth II oversaw the transition to independence of 20 African states. A supporter of the recognition of African nationalism, she, along with the British government, encouraged the former colonies not only to become independent but to become republics.

Cynics may suggest that this was somewhat inevitable, and the controlled loss of the empire was seen as a price worth paying for greater geopolitical influence. However, it cannot be denied that it changed the face of the African continent forever.

Image Credit: The Kenyan DAILY POST

Wind of Change

A pertinent example of this came in 1960, when British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan remarked in a speech from South Africa that the "wind of change is blowing through this continent," thereby signalling the inevitability of decolonisation.

According to Philip Murphy (Director of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies and Professor of British and Commonwealth History at the University of London), Her Majesty "took the unusual step of indicating her personal approval of Macmillan's words,". Shortly after his speech, Macmillan received a telegram with a message from London that "the Queen was very interested and much impressed by the Prime Minister's speech."

Within the space of the following four years, the process of decolonisation in East, West, and Central Africa was largely complete.

Image credit: Getty Images

Condemnation of Apartheid in South Africa

Queen Elizabeth was one of many global leaders to take a firm stance against Apartheid in South Africa, a far cry from her father's support of the Afrikaner regime. She notably disagreed with Margaret Thatcher's opposition to sanctions against the Apartheid government, avoiding taking Britain's side in the matter.

Queen Elizabeth II, amongst various other heads of state, universally condemned the Apartheid regime at the 5th Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit hosted in Zambia in 1979 as the pressure from the international community began to grow. 

The Queen would not return to South Africa until 1995, by which time democratic rule had been established under the leadership of Nelson Mandela. Alongside Nelson Mandela, she delivered an impassioned speech filled with optimism that encouraged the youth of South Africa to rebuild their nation.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Amin Dada

Finally, no story of Queen Elizabeth II's relationship with Africa would be complete if it did not mention her strained relations with Amin Dada. The self-proclaimed "King of Scotland" and "Conqueror of the British Empire" seemed to enjoy teasing the Queen.

The Ugandan dictator had a longstanding fascination with the United Kingdom and Queen Elizabeth II, even inviting her to Uganda to allow her to "meet a real man" and offering her payment to "save her crown". By all accounts, Her Majesty wasn't particularly taken with Amin when learning of his plan to attend the Jubilee Service of Thanksgiving in 1973, and she's said to have looked "rather cross and worried". 

Leader of Uganda General Idi Amin arrived in Israel for an official visit. Photo shows: General Idi Amin 1971/07/11 Copyright © IPPA 07045-000-26 Photo by IPPA Staff

When asked what she proposed to do should Amin attend, she said she had decided she would use the City's Pearl Sword, which the Lord Mayor had placed in front of her, to "hit him hard over the head with."

Looking to the Future

Britain's and the Crown's relationships with its former colonies in Africa are now those of trade, aid and diplomacy. The Queen herself has always commanded respect and been acknowledged as the head of the Commonwealth. However, as Queen Elizabeth was the final ruler of colonial Africa, it remains to be seen if her successor, King Charles III, will be afforded the same.

So, as we reflect on 70 years of Queen Elizabeth II's reign, marked by remarkable service and commitment to her duty as Sovereign, we pay tribute to the role she played in shaping the future of the African continent.

We'll never know the place Africa may have been without her involvement, but we take great pride in the place it has become with her undeniable influence.

Image credit: Jonathan Brady/Pool/AP

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About the author 

Brad Mitchell

With a deep-set love of the outdoors and making moments count in all aspects of life, nothing makes Brad happier than taking in sunrises and sunsets. He can often be found either running, surfing or playing sports somewhere in Cape Town. Having grown up a stone's throw from Kruger, Brad jumped at the chance to live in the Cape and has never looked back since! With a background in all things Marketing, he is driven by creativity and turning crazy ideas into real-life actions!

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