oa Africa Insight - Ethnic diversity and political stability

Volume 8, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0256-2804



Africa has a great variety of peoples. According to some estimates there are 3 000 ethnic groups which speak at least 700 languages. As there will shortly be 54 countries in Africa (when SWA/Namibia becomes independent), it means that individual countries will have an average of 55 ethnic groups each, speaking at least 13 languages. This unusually heterogeneous pattern results directly or indirectly in all sorts of instability and conflict. Most of the conflict situations can be attributed to the fact that the nationalities principle, which led to the establishment of nation states in Western Europe, was never used as a model for nation-building in Africa, except in the case of the South African homelands and other single examples, which will be mentioned later.

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