Photography gives us a peek into distant events—inextricably drawing us together, and allowing us to celebrate our commonalities and appreciate our differences. In these selected photos from 2017, we see this unifying, and sometimes tragic, features represented across Africa. They captured some of the biggest stories of the year. Sometimes the photos were the story.
Through it all, we get a peek into a world that is so far yet so close. Looking at these photos, we can’t help but ask: what comes next? And at what cost?
Donald Trump came to the US presidency deeply skeptical about the place of Africa in US foreign policy. But in Nairobi and other African cities, many stood in solidarity with the Women’s March in Washington DC. And in contrast to Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, Ghana’s new president Nana Akufo-Addo announced open borders for all Africans as the nation marked 60 years since independence.
Anti-immigrant protests against Nigerians, Zimbabweans, and Somalis rocked Pretoria, stoking fear and xenophobia. And in a move to recast Nollywood’s image on the global stage, Iké Udé released his much-anticipated coffee table book Nollywood Portraits: A Radical Beauty.
As a cash crisis loomed in Zimbabwe, citizens lined up outside banks—and even slept overnight—just to get some cash back. But there was no cash crisis in the hilly town of Maua in eastern Kenya, where women khat traders were ruling the business.
Protests against president Jacob Zuma gained momentum in South Africa, after he axed the finance minister and his deputy and shuffled 18 other cabinet members in a dramatic move. Both Standard & Poor’s and Fitch cut South Africa’s bond ratings to junk too. And Kenya launched its $3.2 billion Nairobi-Mombasa rail line, with a little help from China.
Sports continue to hold a central spot in African societies: football and basketball are making a comeback in Somalia; Kenya introduced a five-fold tax hike to deter child gambling and sports betting; Usain Bolt said Wayde van Niekerk will be the world’s next big athlete, and racial epithets continued to dog African soccer stars in Europe.
Emmanuel Macron, who has amped his engagement with Africa since he was elected, said Africa had a “civilizational” problem encompassed in demographics and population growth.
Both Kenya and Rwanda held elections in August, with president Kagame securing a third term after winning over 98% of the vote. Kenya’s election was marred with “irregularities and illegalities,” with the opposition saying it was hacked in the president’s favor.
Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA), the largest contemporary art museum in Africa opened. It is the first African museum to showcase art strictly from the continent and the diaspora. Located near a harbor in Cape Town, South Africa, the building used to be Cape Town’s grain silos, a factory part of an industrial area.
More than 500 people died and 300 others injured after a truck bomb tore through an open intersection in the Somali capital Mogadishu. The country’s nascent tech scene stepped in to help the victims and a Somali-Italian architect even designed a memorial—the country’s first since the civil war broke in 1991. And two weeks before Kenya’s repeat presidential election, Egypt qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1990.
In a major milestone, the Zimbabwean army took matters into their own hands and president Robert Mugabe was ousted after after 37 years in power.
The African National Congress picked Cyril Ramaphosa as the party’s leader—making him the nation’s likely president in 2019. Nigeria’s annual year-end long lines for fuel started forming again across Africa’s largest oil producer.