In 1963, African nations set up the Organization of African Unity, which later became the 54-nation African Union (AU). Among its chief goals are encouraging cooperation, promoting economic growth, and seeking peaceful settlements of disputes. Through the African Development Bank, it channels investment capital from foreign sources into development programs.

The UN has also promoted development. It has worked with individual countries and regional organizations like the AU to support democratic government, promote economic growth, and protect the environment. UN programs have introduced drought resistant farming methods to Ethiopia and other regions of limited rainfall. Elsewhere, they have helped poor women open small businesses, which helps families out of poverty.

Continuing Challenges to Development

Effects of Urbanization

African nations experienced rapid urbanization as millions of people moved from rural areas into cities. Today, some 40 percent of Africans live in cities or towns. As in other developing regions, the newcomers hoped to find a better life. Instead, many faced unemployment and harsh slum conditions.

City life had an impact on families. While respect for elders and for ancestors continue to be major values, modernization has created strains between traditional and modern family values. In cities—and even in some rural areas—Smaller households have replaced the larger extended family. While better health care led to a population boom across Africa, the recent trend has been toward families having fewer children.

Environmental Concerns

In Africa, as elsewhere, development and urbanization have contributed to environmental issues. Some nations, especially in the Congo Basin region, have vast forests. But millions of acres of forest are cleared each year. Deforestation, or the clearing of forests for wood and farming, has led to soil erosion and other harmful effects.

Infographic titled Lagos Nigeria emerging megacity. Sources: w w w dot p b r dot org, w w w dot reuters dot com, w w w dot the atlantic dot com.
Image Long Description

Lagos, Nigeria, is growing rapidly and is one of the biggest cities in Africa.

Analyze Data

What does the data shown here tell you about the benefits and drawbacks of rapid urban growth?


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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments