U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young arrived here today at the start of his second extensive mission to Africa - a trip that has involved him in controversy with the South African government.

With [WORD ILLEGIBLE] still up in the air, as is U.S. policy towards Africa, Young sought to put his criticism of South Africa into perspective while American officials awarded the Pretoria government's decision on whether Young would be welcome to address business and student groups there next week.

A State Department spokesman said the United States was [WORD ILLEGIBLE] working on arrangements for Young's visit to South Africa. Earlier in the day Reuter reported that a South African Foreign Ministry official said in Johannesburg that Washington had been notified about his government's decision regarding Young. He would not say what that decision was.

In the wake of South African Foreign Minister P.F. (Pik) Bothald warning that "we are not Mississippi, Georgia, or Alabama," Young said in reply to a reporter's question that he did not think there was apparallel between the problems of Southern Africa and those of the American South in the 1960s.

"But," the warmer aide to the late Martin Luther Bing said, "I think there are possibly some lessons which we learned in our struggle which they [South Africa] might choose to learn from. One of those is that violence is not the only way to settle problems. Problems can be solved with a minimum of bloodshed if people take aggressive action."

That phrase was taken to mean the kind of selection economic boycott that the civil rights movement waged against some white companies in the South. Since his appointment last January as the Carter administration's unofficial troubleshooter for the Third World, Young has been known to believe that such an approach would persuade the white governments of Rhodesia and South Africa to start sharing political power with the blacks.

One of the few hard dates on Young's itinerary involves who end consultations in Lisbon with Vice President, Walter Mondale, who is scheduled to meet South African Prime Minister John Vorster next week in Vienna. Young is also to participate next week in the U.N. conference in Maputo, Mozanbique, on Zimbabwe and Namibia, the African nationalist name for Rhodesia and Southwest Africa, respectively.

Young is here to participate in the week-long conference of American ambassadors to Africa - a meeting taking place in the extension of this countrys main hotel known as the Ivory Tower - and made it clear at the outset that the administration has yet to produce an overall policy or policies for the conference.

It's not so much what I'm going to tell them, but what I'm going to hear from them," he said. "As we attempt to put together an African policy, I think the State Department felt it was important not only for a policy to come from Washington but from Africa as well."

This has happened in the early stages of previous administrations, many ambassadors say they feel somewhat at a loss about Washington's policy intention.

By and large they express relief at the departure of former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, who showed an interest in Africa only late in his texture and then largely focused on local ramifications of Soviet-American relations.

But the conference also reflected that normal civil service uneasiness over apparently untidy lines of authority among officials dealing with Africa. Young himself, Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance and Vice President Mondale.

The ambassadors themselves are divided between those who feel that there is a threat in Soviet and Cuban influence Africa in classic Cold War terms and those who feel the United States must learn to get along with the often verbally radical Third World governments on the continent.

The most obvious case in point involves Zaire, long a U.S. protege. Much to the distress of many moderate African states, the Carter administration pointedly did not endorse Zaire President Mobutu Sese Seko's claims that the Soviets and Cubans fomented the March invasion of Shaba Province and, moreover, turned down his request for arms.

Young spoke today of the administration's "very positive but restrained approach" toward Zaire while listing policy moves the administration has made in Africa.

The other steps he mentioned were repeal of the Byrd amendment, which had allowed importation of Rhodesian chrome in defiance of a United Nations vote against it, and the Western powers' pressures on South Africa to change its policy toward Namibia, a former league of nations trust territory which Pretoria still controls despite U.N. demands that it be given up.

Young is expected to hear in detail about the uneasiness among African moderates with the apparently passive role the U.S. is taking - especially in Zaire - from President Felix Houphouet-Biogny when the ambassador lunches with the Ivory Coast leader Thursday.

Increasingly, American officials are suggesting that no policy is a policy in itself - perhaps a lucid reading of the problems involved in promoting anything smacking of interventionism by a country whose Congress and people are still traumatized by the Vietnam War.

Even the Carter administration's promotion of human rights is seen by some ambassadors as a pretext for a passive American roles in Africa since few governments - black or white - on the continent could pass a test on such grounds.

Many moderate African countries also feel that the United States may be naive in thinking that leftist governments have no choice but to sell their raw materials to the West.

In an interview today, Philippe Yace, the president of the Ivory Coast National Assembly, deplored the lack of concerted Western action in the face of what he sees as a Soviet-Cuban threat.

"Once the Soviets are firmly ensconsed in Africa the West will be cut off from its sources of raw materials," he said.