The Metal Monster (Abraham Merritt, 1920)
A slightly incoherent novel in the vein of Allan Quartermain (the original pre League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) discovering an eternal goddess, only She rules over metal creatures, there is lots of technobabble, and it is set in the Middle East not Africa. But The Metal Monster by Abraham Merritt appears to be the first novel to address swarms of robots (thank you technovelgy.com). Or at least a programmable matter type of robot. Or self-replicating robots. Whatever multi-robot system concept you’re looking for, its bound to be in this book somewhere. You can access a free copy online at www.gutenberg.org. Learn more about multi-robot systems here.