The 15 Best Documentaries About Africa

Jul 23, 2023 | Best Of, Culture, History

The story of Africa is as ancient and varied as the continent itself, stretching back to a time when archaic humans first emerged in East Africa. Since then, its history has been one of constant transformation, from the birth of recorded history in Ancient Egypt to the emergence of modern nation-states across North, West and East Africa today. Along this journey have come countless cultural influences from both within and outside its borders; each adding their own unique flavour to create an ever-evolving tapestry that is African culture. In this article we explore some of these remarkable stories – stories that span centuries and continents yet are still deeply rooted in African soil.


1. Black Diamonds

Cape Town is a city full of contrasts, from the luxurious mansions to the impoverished shacks. This documentary explores how wealth in South Africa is still linked to race twenty years after apartheid ended. It focuses on a new generation of “Black Diamonds” who have broken free from centuries of oppression and found success as entrepreneurs, politicians, and educators. We’ll look at what these individuals owe their communities and country now that they’ve made it big, as well as examine African National Congress’ efforts to advocate for Black Economic Empowerment (BEE). Join us in this exploration into South Africa’s inequality!


2. Ancient Africa

Are you interested in learning about the ancient African civilizations? This video explores the different states and polities that existed in Africa, from small hunter-gatherer family groups to large Sahelian kingdoms. We focus on understanding the political organizations and rules of these different societies, including how they communicated with each other and what roles religion played. Watch this documentary to learn more about Ancient Africa!


3. Africa’s looted art

In 1897, the Benin Bronzes, some of Africa’s most valuable artifacts, were looted. Two men made it their mission to return them after a chance encounter. Steve Dunstone and Timothy Awoyemi were standing on the bank of the Niger River in a boat in 2004. The two middle-aged men, both British police officers, were on their way to Agenebode, a small town in the country’s south, as part of a journey through Nigeria organized by thePolice Expedition Society. Their group brought books and supplies with them as gifts from British schoolchildren. The local schools had been notified in advance, and a crowd gathered along the riverbanks to greet them, with a dance performance to boot.


4. Stealing Africa

This documentary tells the story of a British punitive expedition against the town of Chibok in Borno state, and their role in stealing African art during wars and colonization. It is an important reminder that thousands of pieces of African art were taken away from their original owners by Western nations. The film also shares the anti-slavery mission and the campaign to have these artefacts returned to Africa. Follow us as we explore this gripping story about how people fought back against colonial powers for justice.


5. Mother Africa

My Mother Africa is a land of great wealth, beauty and history. Its resources have been coveted by outsiders for centuries, leading to the exploitation and theft of its valuable minerals, oil and other natural resources. But perhaps the most devastating consequence was the stealing away of African people into slavery – a crime that still has repercussions today. This documentary looks at how this tragedy shaped our world over time, as well as exploring Africa’s rich culture and heritage through interviews with experts in African studies. Discover what makes this continent so special – from its vibrant music scene to its diverse cultures – while learning more about why it remains an important part of our shared global history.


6. Voodoo

Are you curious about the mysterious and powerful practice of Voodoo? Then this is the video for you! Learn about its history, how it fused with Catholicism in New Orleans, and how it’s still practiced today. We’ll also explore Marie Laveau’s famous tomb in St. Louis No. 1 cemetery on the outskirts of the French Quarter – a popular tourist attraction for those looking to delve into this magical world. Tune in now to learn more about voodoo and its fascinating history within Africa!


7. Africa Rising

Africa is experiencing a period of growth and development that has caught the attention of the world. With its rising population, booming economy, increasing mobile phone penetration, and growing middle class, Africa’s transformation into a global powerhouse can no longer be ignored. This documentary explores how these changes have come about and what they mean for the continent’s future. It also considers some of the criticisms surrounding ‘Africa Rising’, such as whether Chinese demand is driving much of this growth or if high unemployment will hamper young people’s ability to pay taxes in the long run. Join us on a journey to discover what lies ahead for this vibrant land!


8. Who Controls Africa?

Africa has been a contested territory for centuries, with European nations competing to extend their reach and control. This documentary explores the history of this struggle, delving into how local circumstances have played as much of a role in shaping the scramble for African land as any larger domestic rivalries between Europe’s new industrial powers. We follow the story from 1854-1874 when France and Britain began establishing formal colonies in Senegal, Lagos, and The Gold Coast to Bismarck’s exploitation of political tensions during the Berlin West Africa Conference (1884-1885). Who Controls Africa? Is an exploration of these complex events that shaped our world today.


9. Congo: A journey to the heart of Africa

Discover the vast and mineral-rich Democratic Republic of the Congo, a country the size of Western Europe! Join Alastair Leithead on an epic journey as he uncovers lesser known stories about this beautiful yet troubled African nation. See majestic gorillas in their natural habitat in one of the world’s largest rainforests outside of the Amazon. Hunt with pygmies and explore cobalt mines that will power our electric cars in the future. Witness United Nations peacekeepers at work inside an Ebola outbreak zone, and so much more!


10. Congo’s Extravagant Millionaires: The Crazy Lives of Africa’s Ultra-Rich

Welcome to Congo, a country that has one of the highest proportions of millionaires in the world. Despite its poverty, there are those who have made their fortunes amidst chaos and they now live luxurious lives within secure enclaves in the capital city Kinshasa. In this documentary we explore these stories; from businessmen, artists, former rebel leaders, evangelists and more – all with extravagant lifestyles while others struggle to survive just meters away underground working for hours every day extracting coltan. Follow us as we uncover their incredible tales!


11. Inside the Operations of Pirate And Kidnappers in Africa

The African coasts of Nigeria and Somalia have become a hotbed of piracy in recent years. Powerful speedboats are used by kidnappers to target oil companies, whom they accuse of exploiting the region’s natural resources without giving anything back. Last year saw 73 such attacks leading to 62 abductions, with these Robin Hood-like figures demanding ransoms for their captives. In this video we explore the operations behind these kidnappings and how foreign nationals can be protected from them.


12. The life of the super-rich in Central Africa

Do you want to know about the life of the super-rich in Central Africa? This video will take you into a world of luxury and wealth, where some are able to make fortunes amid chaos. From musicians and mining bosses to entrepreneurs and preachers – they all have profited from Congo’s natural resources. We’ll explore how these new rich live in Kinshasa’s safe enclaves, while children work in coltan mines elsewhere in the country. We’ll learn about Fally Ipupa who made his money with music, Patricia Nzolantima who founded a taxi company for women, as well as Robert Seninga whose coltan mine is one of North Kivu’s largest employers.


13. The WILDEST Food in Africa’s Emptiest Country

Explore the unique and wild foods of one of Africa’s most empty countries. From unusual fruits to strange-looking fish, this video takes you on a journey through the culinary wonders of this forgotten country. Discover how local communities still manage to make incredible dishes with limited resources, and find out why it is important for us all to learn from their traditions.


14. Pirates of Africa: Abductions and Ransom

Abductions and Ransom is a documentary that delves deep into the murky world of kidnappings in Nigeria and Somalia. Through interviews with soldiers, sailors, pirates and victims, this video brings to light how these powerful speedboats are used to target oil companies for ransoms from foreign nationals. Watch as we dive into the complex motivations behind these daring raids, and explore whether or not these criminals are simply taking back what is rightfully theirs.


15. Hadzabe Tribe: The Life of The Hunter Full Documentary

Explore the fascinating culture of the Hadzabe tribe, a small hunter-gatherer community in Tanzania. Learn about their unique way of life and how they live by hunting for food and gathering resources from nature. Get an inside look at this ancient lifestyle as we explore their traditional customs, beliefs, and values. Witness first hand what it means to be part of the Hadzabe tribe!


Read On – Our Latest Top Documentaries Lists

David B