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The African coast was formerly controlled by many different peoples and nations, including Numidia, Carthage, Cyrene and Garama. The region came under Roman rule in the 2nd century BC and became a hotbed of Roman culture, with several emperors being of African origin. It was lost to the Vandals in the early 5th century, was reconquered by the great general Belisarius in 533, and subsequently became part of the restored Western Roman Empire. Africa became independent once more in 715 following the division of the Western Empire, and quickly became a powerful kingdom in its own right.
During the 9th and 10th centuries the Utican dynasty of Africa, a branch of the Wambids, conquered the Eastern Empire and drove the Bulgars out of Anatolia and the Balkans. The capital was moved to Antioch and Africa itself slowly became a backwater, far from the centre of political power - but nevertheless this would have important implications, as it introduced Africa and Western Europe to the new doctrine of Islam which was already so common in the east. African missionaries would play a major role in spreading the faith - so much so that in 1142 the Caliph elevated the Archbishopric of Carthage to a Patriarchy, on equal standing with Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria.
Nevertheless Africa remained neglected economically, and discontent grew so much that in the 1617 the exarchate broke out into open rebellion. At another time perhaps things would have gone differently, but the Empire was already struggling to put down revolts in Italy, Hungary, Bulgaria and Croatia and could not spare any troops for Africa. With support from Aquitaine and the Italian rebels, Africa was able to defeat the imperial garrisons and achieve full independence, which was eventually recognised by the war-weary Empire in 1632.
Since then Africa has played a major part in the politics of Europe. It has enjoyed close relations with Aquitaine and Italy for centuries, and notably joined Aquitaine in revolution in 1851 by overthrowing its monarchy and establishing a republic. The monarchy was restored following the end of the First World War, but Africa remained allied with Aquitaine and fought on its side during several later wars.
From the mid-19th century onwards the country came under increasing Italian influence as Italian capitalists and industrialists increasingly invested in a country which was only a short journey away by sea. This culminated in the coup of 1924, when Italian-supported African dissidents in the army overthrew the government and invited King Fernando III of Italy to take over. Fernando did not claim the African throne himself but instead nominated his second son, Paolo, as king, but in practice Africa became an Italian dependency and subject state. Africa was liberated in 1943 following a successful Allied campaign during World War 3, and fought on the Allied side for the remainder of the war. It was unable however to dissuade the Allies from supporting the independence of the vast Tinariwen region, which had never truly been pacified by either African or Italian troops.
Today, Africa is formally a constitutional monarchy with a king as head of state. However, the king possesses no executive powers and has no political role, as all of the prerogatives of the Crown are delegated by the constitution to the Regent, who is elected in a general vote once every ten years. In fact, currently there is no king at all, as the various branches of the royal dynasty have since 2002 been unable to come to an agreement as to who should have succeeded the childless Sergio III, leaving Africa in the unusual situation of being a republic in all but name.
The head of government is the Prime Minister, who is typically the leader of the largest party or coalition in Parliament. Parliament itself is bicameral, with the lower Assembly being elected once every five years under the first past the post system, and the upper Senate being appointed by the Regent according to a list of nominations made by the Senatorial Appointments Commitee. The Senate is empowered to debate and amend bills passed by the Assembly, though it cannot block budgetary measures altogether or delay other bills for longer than two years. It can, however, decide that a prerequisite of the bill's passage into law should be its approval by the electorate in a national referendum.
Africa is defined as a federal state divided into seven self-governing provinces - Cesarra, Getulia, Zogitanna, Bizacenna, Fasania, Tripolitania and Cyrenaica. Defence, foreign affairs, the currency and human rights remain matters for the national government.
Many languages are spoken in Africa. Greek was the lingua franca during the era of imperial rule, and there are still some Greek-speaking communities in Cyrenaica. However, most of the people living along the coast speak as a first language African, a Romance language descended from Vulgar Latin, and the tribes dwelling in the interior speak various dialects of Berber.
Today, however, Italian has come to be the common language used for official purposes, and almost all African citizens are at least bilingual in it. There are fears that the traditional tongues are under threat, and campaigns have been set up to try to promote their use.