Governments In Africa

Various forms of government can be found in Africa. Morocco is a monarchy. Virtually all other African countries are republics, at least in name. Their constitutions usually provide for the forms of parliamentary democracy, but many of them are virtual dictatorships. Some of these governments are based on military power; others are one-party regimes that prohibit political opposition.

The reasons for the often undemocratic nature and, even more frequently, unstable character of African governments are many. There is a high rate of illiteracy. Trained leaders are scarce. There is little unity within the countries.

When the European powers carved out their colonial empires, they drew arbitrary boundaries, often without regard for the ethnic makeup of the people. When the colonies became independent, they inherited those boundaries, so that many African countries have populations consisting of members of a number of peoples, with different languages and cultural heritages. And agitation for ethnic unity, which would require the redrawing of national boundaries, is a source of unrest.

Another problem is economic. According to 19th-century economic theory, the purpose of colonies was to provide raw materials for the industries of the colonial power. As a result, little was done to develop industry in the colonies themselves. In addition, many African countries are poor in natural resources. Both these countries and those whose resources are underdeveloped must rely on economic aid from other countries.

Almost all the African countries are members of the African Union. The AU works to promote economic and political cooperation. The AU consists of several administrative bodies, including a Pan-African Parliament and a Peace and Security Council. These bodies are set up to promote good government, justice, and peace across Africa. Almost all the African countries are members of the African Union. (See African Union.) Other inter-African organizations include the African Development Bank, Economic Community of West African States, and Southern African Development Community.