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These photos capture Africa’s 2017: A year of tumultuous change and new beginnings

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, center, arrives to preside over a student graduation ceremony at Zimbabwe Open University on the outskirts of the capital, Harare, on Nov. 17, 2017.
AP Photo/Ben Curtis
Gone with the wind.
By Abdi Latif Dahir
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

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.

Reuters/Thomas Mukoya
Demonstrators chant slogans and hold banners in protest against U.S. President Donald Trump’s during the Women’s March inside Karura forest in Kenya’s capital Nairobi.
Reuters/Luc Gnago
Ghana’s new president Nana Akufo-Addo lifts up a staff of office during the swearing-in ceremony at Independence Square in Accra, Ghana. The West African nation also celebrated 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.

AP Photo/Themba Hadebe
A metro police officer fires rubber bullets at anti-immigrant protesters in Pretoria, South Africa, on Feb. 24, 2017.
Courtesy/Iké Udé
The Nigerian veteran actress Taiwo Ajai-Lycett captured in Iké Udé’s 2017 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.

Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo
People queue to withdraw money from a bank in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, March 8, 2017.
Quartz/Benson Guantai
Rose Mugambi, a khat trade in Maua town in eastern Kenya. East African khat leaf is traded and chewed mostly by men, but it’s a global business because of women.


In both 2016 and 2017, the attacks on Egypt’s Coptic Christians and the issue of African migrants trying to reach Europe by way of Libya continued to be a pressing concern.

AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty
Blood stains pews inside the St. George Church after a suicide bombing, in the Nile Delta town of Tanta, Egypt, Sunday, April 9, 2017. Bombs exploded at two Coptic churches in the northern Egyptian cities of Tanta and Alexandria as worshippers were celebrating Palm Sunday, killing over 40 people and wounding scores more in assaults claimed by the Islamic State group.
Reuters/Darrin Zammit Lupi
Migrants try to stay afloat after falling off their rubber dinghy during a rescue operation by the Malta-based NGO Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) ship in the central Mediterranean in international waters some 15 nautical miles off the coast of Zawiya in Libya, April 14, 2017. All 134 sub-Saharan migrants survived and were rescued by MOAS.


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.

Reuters/Mike Hutchings
Supporters of various opposition parties hold placards calling for the removal of President Jacob Zuma outside the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Reuters/Thomas Mukoya
The Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) line was constructed by the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) and financed by Chinese government.


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.

EPA/Boglarka Bodnar
Dongmo Auriole of Cameroon is on her way to place third in the women’s shot put final at the Gyulai Istvan Memorial Track and Field Grand Prix in Szekesfehervar, 63 kilometers southwest of Hungary.


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.

Reuters/Christophe Archambault/Pool
Chad’s president Idriss Deby Itno speaks with French President Emmanuel Macron during a private meeting during a G5 Sahel summit, in Bamako, Mali.
REUTERS/Andreea Campeanu
Irene Lasu, 26, a spoken word poet and member of Ana Taban, poses for a photograph in Juba, South Sudan.


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.

Reuters/Jean Bizimana
Rwandan President Paul Kagame of the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) waves to his supporters during his final campaign rally in Kigali, Rwanda.
EPA/Dai Kurokawa
Maasai women wait in line to cast their votes in general elections at a polling station in Iloodokilani in Kajiado County, some 100km south of the capital Nairobi, Kenya.


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.

Iwan Baan
Outside the Zeitz MOCAA.


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.

AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh
Somali children assist other civilians and security forces in their rescue efforts by carrying away unidentified charred human remains in a cardboard box, to clear the scene of Saturday’s blast, in Mogadishu, Somalia, Sunday.
Reuters/Baz Ratner
An opposition politician of the National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition, reacts after a gas canister fired by policemen hits his car during a protest along a street in Nairobi, Kenya.
AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty, File
Egyptian fans celebrate after their win over Congo during the 2018 World Cup group E qualifying soccer match in Alexandria, Egypt.


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.

A never-before-seen image on Zimbabwean television. A military officer asking people to remain calm. It was the beginning of the end for Robert Mugabe.
AP Photo/Ben Curtis
Spectators cheer from the stands at the inauguration ceremony of President Emmerson Mnangagwa in the capital Harare, Zimbabwe. Mnangagwa was sworn in as Zimbabwe’s president after Robert Mugabe resigned, ending his 37-year rule.


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.

AP Photo/Themba Hadebe
The newly elected African National Congress (ANC) President, Cyril Ramaphosa, takes a selfie after it was announced that he had won the vote at the ANC’s elective conference in Johannesburg.
Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde
Vehicles are seen queued at the Conoil filling station, opposite the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation headquarters (not pictured) in Abuja.

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