The name Africa originates from an ancient area in modern day Tunisia known as ‘Ifriqiya’ or sunny place. Africa is the world’s second-largest continent stretching from Tripoli on the Mediterranean Sea to Cape Town on the South Atlantic coast. The philatelic history of Africa is dominated by the many European colonies established along its shoreline in the 1800’s, which have since transformed themselves into the modern day African nations that we are familiar with.
In northern Africa, Egypt has long been a dominate power in part due to its long history of civilization plus its size and large population. Hand stamps were first introduced in Egypt in the Napoleonic era, between 1798 and 1800. The first postal system was set up in Egypt in 1821 by the Italian, Carlo Meratti. This system was named Posta Europea in 1842 and was a private enterprise. The Egyptian government sanctioned it in 1857, giving it permission to continue with all inland postal services and postage stamps, although on the 1st of January 1865 it purchased the concession and took control of the postal service.
Officially Egypt first issued stamps in 1866 under Turkish Suzeranity. This first issue consisted of Turkish stamps overprinted for use in Egypt. However, within a year (1867) Egypt issued a set of six stamps depicting the Sphinx and Pyramid followed by similar issues through 1913. British, French, Italian, Austrian, Russian and Greek post offices also operated on Egyptian soil, mainly in Alexandria and Port Said. British troops used special stamps inscribed ‘BRITISH FORCES IN EGYPT’ or ‘ARMY POST EGYPT’. In 1914, Egypt was declared a British protectorate and issued a set of ten stamps depicting historical edifices through out the country. Egypt declared its independence in 1922 and in 1923 issued a series of stamps depicting King Faud. Most Egyptian issues depicted the king until 1951 but with the advent of the Republic of Egypt in 1953 a more colorful issuing policy was pursued with stamps commemorating Egyptian development, history and technology. In 1958 Egypt merged with Syria to form the United Arab Republic with many common stamp issues but this ended in 1961.
The Union of South Africa was formed in 1910 with the merger of Cape of Good Hope, Natal, Transvaal and Orange Free State (Oranje Vrei Staat). The best known stamp issues from these colonies are the Cape of Good Hope triangle stamps (1853 – 1864) and the Mafeking stamp issue (1900) depicting Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts. Initially South Africa, though a British colony, issued bi-lingual stamps (Afrikaans and English) since a large part of the population were former Dutch settlers. The first stamp of the ‘Union of South Africa’ was a 2 1⁄2 pence stamp which was issued on 4 November 1910. It showed King George V and the arms of the four British colonies which had formed the Union. In 1926 a new series of stamps were printed in sets of two, one being English and the other Afrikaans. One was inscribed ‘SOUTH AFRICA’ and the other ‘SUIDAFRIKA’ or ‘SUID-AFRIKA’. The se-tenant pairs of these stamps are usually much more valuable than the single stamps. This practice continued through World War II, even on the downsized war issues which were quite tiny due to paper shortages. In 1949 South Africa mostly discontinued the two stamp policy in favor of single bi-lingual stamps which continued until the late 1960’s. In 1961 South Africa changed from a Union to a Republic and commemorated this event with a colorful thirteen stamp issues depicting Flora, Fauna and famous architecture. With the implementation of South African apartheid policy, autonomous homelands were created starting in 1976 for the native populations including Bophuthatswana, Ciskei, Transkei and Venda. These homelands ceased issuing stamps in 1994 when they were reabsorbed into the Republic of South Africa. Modern South African stamps are very colorful and depict much of the life and environment of the nation.
Tanzania was formed by the union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar in 1964 however the first set of stamps issued in 1964 had both countries names on them. In 1965, a new set of fourteen stamps was the first to carry the name Tanzania. This country has issued numerous long colorful sets of stamps depicting fish, butterflies, wildlife, railroads, birds and Disney characters.
Zambia is the modern day name for the old British protectorate of Northern
Rhodesia, itself named after Sir Cecil Rhodes of early explorer fame and the discoverer of Victoria Falls. Northern Rhodesia was originally created in 1911 from territory managed by the British South Africa Company. It became an official British protectorate in 1924, and then achieved independence as Zambia in 1964. Both before and after its creation, Northern Rhodesia was to use the stamps of Rhodesia. The first Zambia stamps were issued in 1964 upon attaining independence. Zambia has issued some very attractive sets of stamps depicting wildlife, native occupations, minerals, birds, mushrooms, orchids and more.