Skip to content

The Queen’s Legacy in Africa

The passing of Queen Elizabeth II has prompted an outpouring of tributes and testaments, but also difficult questions that may pose a challenge to King Charles III as he seeks to continue his mother’s work in Africa. A key moment was the Queen’s dance with Kwame Nkrumah, president of Ghana, in 1961. This sent a powerful anti-racist message, underlining that the Queen would treat leaders of new countries as equals. But if the Queen’s charm offensive was instinctive and authentic, it also served British strategic interests. The dance in Ghana – the first of 14 former British colonies in Africa to win independence during her reign – was credited with stalling both Nkrumah’s tilt towards the USSR and his country’s departure from the Commonwealth. The Queen cared deeply about the Commonwealth, which was key to London’s continuing influence on the continent. The royal family has recently sought to address Britain’s imperial past, often appearing well to be ahead of Downing Street in tackling difficult issues. As prince, Charles gave a conciliatory speech in Barbados last year referring to the “appalling atrocity of slavery” that “forever stains British history”. But though he has travelled widely on the continent, the new king may still struggle to match his late mother’s combination of charm and knowledge. From Cape Town to Algiers to Kampala – which she visited in 1947, 1980 and 2007, respectively – the Queen was respected by rulers and welcomed by hundreds of millions of people.