It has been suggested that African empires be merged into this article. (Discuss) Proposed since November 2023.
Pre-colonial states in Africa

This is a list of kingdoms in pre-colonial Africa, which existed before the Scramble for Africa (c. 1880–1914) when most of the continent came under the control of European powers.

Some kingdoms, such as the Kingdom of Ardra in Benin, Buganda in Uganda, or the Kingdom of Bailundo in Angola, still exist today as non-sovereign monarchies, with varying legal and constitutional statuses within their respective countries.


Historian Jan Vansina (1962) discusses the classification of Sub-Saharan African Kingdoms, mostly of Central, South and East Africa, with some additional data on West African (Sahelian) Kingdoms distinguishing five types, by decreasing centralization of power:

  1. Despotic Kingdoms: Kingdoms where the king controls the internal and external affairs directly. Examples are Rwanda, Ankole, Busoga and the Kingdom of Kongo in the 16th century.
  2. Regal Kingdoms: Kingdoms where the king controls the external affairs directly, and the internal affairs via a system of overseers. The king and his chiefs belong to the same religion or group.
  3. Incorporative Kingdoms: Kingdoms where the king only controls the external affairs with no permanent administrative links between him and the chiefs of the provinces. The hereditary chiefdoms of the provinces were left undisturbed after conquest. Examples are the Bamileke, Lunda, Luba and Lozi
  4. Aristocratic Kingdoms: the only link between central authority and the provinces is payment of tribute. These kingdoms are morphologically intermediate between regal kingdoms and federations. This type is rather common in Africa, examples including the Kongo of the 17th century, the Cazembe, Luapula, Kuba, Ngonde, Mlanje, Ha, Zinza and Chagga States of the 18th century.
  5. Federations such as the Ashanti Union. Kingdoms where the external affairs are regulated by a council of elders headed by the king, who is simply primus inter pares.

The intercontinental Islamic empires that included parts of North and Northeast Africa do not fall into this categorization and should be discussed as part of the Muslim world.

History periods

Ancient history refers to the time period beginning with the first records in writing, approximately 3600 BC. It ends with the fall of several significant empires, such as the Western Roman Empire in the Mediterranean, the Han Dynasty in China, and the Gupta Empire in India, collectively around 500 AD.

The Postclassical Era, also referred to as the Medieval period the Middle Ages, begins around 500 AD after the fall of major civilizations, covering the advent of Islam. The period ends around 1450–1500, with events like the rise of moveable-type printing in Europe, the voyages of Christopher Columbus, and the Ottoman Empire's conquest of Constantinople.

Modern history (1500–present)

Main article: Modern history

The Modern Period covers human history from the creation of a more global network (i.e. contact between the Americas and Europeans) to present day.

List of African kingdoms

Non-exhaustive list of known pre-colonial kingdoms and empires on the African continent.

North Africa

Further information: History of North Africa


Ancient Carthage and its dependencies in 264 BC.



East Africa

Domains of the Aksumite Empire and the Adal Sultanate.

Further information: History of East Africa




West Africa

Further information: History of West Africa



13th-century Africa – Map of the main trade routes and states, kingdoms and empires.


West Africa circa 1875

Central Africa

Further information: History of Central Africa

UN Macroregion of Central Africa




Southern Africa

Further information: History of Southern Africa



See also


  1. ^ Smith, Robert (1988). Kingdoms of the Yoruba. University of Wisconsin Press.