Most contemporary states have multiple levels or spheres of government to provide services to their diverse communities. The local government
sphere/level is a creation of each state and its functions and powers are dependant on the structure and policies of the national government. Therefore local government in each country will have unique characteristics. In strongly democratised countries, local government will probably be assigned more powers and functions than in an autocratic system of government. The article considers the functions and powers of local governments in selected African countries. It is argued that the composition of society in a state will have a particular effect on the system of government as it applies to regions and urbanised areas. A deeply divided society would require a more
centralised system of government, while a stable diverse society will allow a more decentralised form of government with a strong local government e.g. as the case is in South Africa. Co-operative arrangements are required in all states with multiple levels/spheres of government. The success of such arrangements depends on the
demarcation of the functions and powers of each level/sphere. It is argued that the South African system still requires acceptance of the democratic system of government created in 1994.