AFRICAN (1) was built in 1872 by John Key at Kinghorn in Fife with a tonnage of 2019grt, a length of 315ft 7in, a beam of 34ft 4in and a service speed of 12 knots.
She joined the Southampton - Cape Town mail run in January 1873 but when the Trojan was introduced in 1881 she was transferred to the South African coastal service.
In November 1885, when she was due for replacement by a new African (2) she was sold to F. Stumore & Co. of London without a change of name although another vessel with the same name was about to appear. This practice would become illegal in later years.
On 15th February 1887 she was wrecked on Ras Abu Madd in the Red Sea during a voyage to Jeddah.