Africa Index

Algeria Equatorial Guinea Mali Somalia
Angola Eritrea Mauritania Somaliland*
Benin Ethiopia Mauritius South Africa
Botswana Gabon Mayotte* Sudan
South Sudan
Burkina Faso Gambia Morocco Swaziland
Burundi Ghana Mozambique Tanzania
Cameroon Guine Bissau Namibia Togo
Cape Verde Islands Guinea Niger Tunisia
Central African Republic Ivory Coast Nigeria Uganda
Chad Kenya Reunion* Western Sahara*
Comoro Islands Lesotho Rwanda Zambia
Congo Liberia Sao Tomé Zanzibar*
Congo (Kinshasa) Libya Senegal Zimbabwe
Djibouti Madagascar Seychelles Zaire
Egypt Malawi Sierra Leone Interlacustrine

Central Africa

East Africa



North Africa

West Africa


EA Community





World Info


For Any Topic In George Matthews' Web Pages

African Union (formerly OAU - Organisation of African Unity, the regional organization of African states. )

Its Secretariat is located in Addis Ababa. Western Sahara is a member despite having no control of its territory. The OAU had little power, as illustrated by its inaction in the Rwandan, Liberian, Sudanese and Somali wars and famines. Does the change of name (2002) make any difference? Perhaps it does, as can be seen in its handling of the Togo crisis (February 2005). The AU called for elections and did not accept the president appointed by the army. Troops under the auspices of the AU have been posted to Darfur in Sudan (but have not been effective in preventing the massacres there). However, there has been little effective action in Zimbabwe.

 Ryszard Kapuczinsky

The Shadow of the Sun: My African Life


The word "Tribe" is not used anywhere else in this database. What is the difference between a tribe and a nation? A nation possesses a state, but in Europe a nation without a state, such as Poland in the 19th century, was not called a tribe. Africa is rich in ethnic groups and languages. The state system set up by the Europeans ignores them. (see Disputed Borders in "Problems"). The expression "ethnic group" is therefore used instead. Originally the word tribe meant the clans of ancient Rome, political divisions, perhaps a rough equivalent of modern wards.



What is the future of Africa's state structure? All the states, except perhaps Egypt and Ethiopia, are the result of colonial boundary setting. All states have people of the same language across the boundaries, and all contain a mixture of peoples.

Is this the cause of turmoil?

Almost all states are ruled by a small group, either the military, or a civilian oligarchy, perhaps a kind of feudalism. Because all power tends to be in the hands of a single individual, when he (always "he") falls or dies the danger is that the state will go with him - as in Somalia. These states are thus quasi-monarchies rather than modern states, of the western pattern. One interpretation could be that the states retain the authoritarian structure used by the colonial rulers.

If democracy comes about will it give a voice to people who want to change their state? Wole Soyinka the Nigerian Nobel Prize novelist says there should be a conference of the peoples to redraw all boundaries. It is difficult to see how this could happen. The OAU has forbidden public discussion of the borders, but it is a club of the people who benefit from the present structure.

Village level democracy was common, though not universal, before the colonial period. How can it be extended to larger units? So far even in those states that have elections (rather few) the results are discouraging as the representatives tend to become corrupt and self-serving. In most states the ruling oligarchy can only be displaced by the actions of outside aid donors or civil war.

That's the fundamental economic problem. Few states produce enough to pay their own way. Therefore the governments usually reflect the wishes of the aid givers. Probably most states could support themselves if the elite stopped siphoning off the produce to feed a super rich lifestyle - and overseas debt did not siphon off interest payments.

In the past the "aid donors" didn't care if they were brutal dictatorships. Perhaps they still don't, but have insisted on elections in several states, such as Zambia, Kenya and Malawi. The results have been modest. Already most of the states without government are in Africa: Somalia, Liberia (possibly improving after a fair election), Sierra Leone (possibly improving), Angola (possibly improving).

Is the real ruler of Africa the IMF?

In the main mineral producing states, such as Zambia, Angola and Zimbabwe, China is replacing the Europeans, mostly bringing in its own workers. Will Africans find these an improvement on European colonialism?

Were there trans-Atlantic contacts between Africa and the Americas in pre-colonial times? There is no real evidence for that. Here is a wikipedia article that discusses this.

Richard Dowden and Chinua Achebe

Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles

Review of this book

Useful survey of modern Africa

David Barrett - Schism and Renewal in Africa

Schism & renewal in Africa: an analysis of six thousand contemporary religious movements

E G Matthews - How to study Literature for African Students

on Kindle

Other Web site

Useful Web source

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Last revised 19/03/12

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