The basic characteristics of African English Literature are:
1) Written in both African and European languages. The predominant African languages used are Amharic, Zulu, Hausa, and Swahili.
2) Encapsulates different periods in African history, from ancient Africa to the period of Imperialist domination (15th-19th centuries), and from the post-colonialist and reconstruction period (19th-mid-twentieth century) to the post-independent/contemporary period (mid-twentieth century-present).
3) Includes oral and written literature from more than 3,000 ethnic African groups.
4) May be regionally-based, such as West African Literature, North African Literature, South African Literature, or East African Literature.
5) Oral literature comes in varied forms such as myths, folk tales, proverbs, dramas, songs, and folk tales. They often involve stories about the creation of the world and legends about how various powerful dynasties originated in African regions.
6) During the colonization period, written slave narratives documented European atrocities and the horrors of slavery. Nationalist newspapers as well as resistance/liberation poetry critiqued European colonizers and their practices. In the 19th century, various African authors produced works in English criticizing colonialist ambitions and advocating for independence. These authors include Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, and Ngugi wa Thiong'o.
8) During the post-colonialist era, various authors denounced the practice of apartheid. These authors include Nadine Gordimer, Bessie Head, and J.M. Coetzee.
9) Last, but not least, contemporary African literature often documents how corrupt, modern African governments perpetuate the suffering of the African people.
For more information, please refer to the link and source provided.
Source: African Literature: Overview and Bibliography by Jonathan P. Smithe