Early sources tell us that two Christians were shipwrecked off the horn of Africa and started churches in Axum, Ethiopia, which have been related to the church at Alexandria until the present day. Mission to Sudan also established a strong church before Islam. Tertullian, Origen and Augustine (Berber) were all North Africans.
Augustine’s mother was Tuareg. The Tuareg are part of the Berber peoples of North and West Africa, who traded across the Sahara to Northern Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and Côte d'Ivoire. The Berber are descendents of Ham. There was correspondence then between North and West African peoples, with archaeological evidence of churches then in such places as Mali.
Augustine was an early major theologian of the church. There was North and West African influence in his development. Augustinian theology follows the Pauline gospel and contributed largely to Reformation theology and to the present day Evangelical/Pentecostal roots.
Christianity remained dominant in a wealthy Ethiopia until the Persians conquered the trade routes in the late 500’s. Ethiopian history is less clear after that but Christianity remained dominant until a new dynasty arose in 1270AD claiming descent from Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Religion became fashioned after Solomonic and Jewish traditions and the worship of Mary.
This continued until Jihads in the mid 1500’s. Ethiopia moved its capital to Gonday, where Christian rulers remained until the military coup in 1974. Orthodox Christians in Ethiopia today comprise 43% of the population.
The Bantu populations of Africa were not widespread in southern regions of Africa until much later. This is well established by language studies and explorers in the second millennium. After initial Islamic expansion in the 7th and 8th Centuries the Bantu people began to migrate south and east from West Africa and populated much of the tropical and southern portions of Africa. It was a slow migration south, still going on well into the second millennium.
In the early years the greatest portion of the African people groups were in the northern regions of Africa and did have a witness among them of the gospel. God did not abandon Africa until the modern mission movement. When jihad pushed the people south it appears they did not take the gospel with them. It appears also that the Ethiopian church lost its life and failed to reach out.
From the 1800’s we see the rise of indigenous churches once again in Africa, but we cannot see a link between any of these and 1st millennium indigenous churches, even though some indigenous churches in southern African today bear the name “Ethiopian” to identify them with indigenous tradition. All modern indigenous churches were started after the beginning of the modern mission thrust into Africa.