The State of Africa

June 18, 2016 § Leave a comment

SOAExhausted and morose. That is what I felt upon completing, Meredith’s history of Africa. At 800 pages The State of Africa, spanning roughly the early half of the 20th century to the modern day, is a dense book in which names, dates, events, statistics, and figures abound. But the real source of the emotions is the knowledge that for decades an entire continent has been caught in a downward spiral of avaricious despots; of internecine feuds; demagoguery; and sheer incompetence.

How does the continent fare now? As The Economist noted in its April special report “Business in Africa”: “The economic conditions have got worse [referring to the recent commodity bust], but this is a very different continent from two decades ago…sub-Saharan Africa is now peaceful…Africa’s 1.2 billion people also hold plenty of promise. They are young…They are better educated than ever before…They are richer…” However, headlines about the murders of albinos in Malawi; a potential civil war breaking out in Libya; corruption in South Africa show that things haven’t changed all that much. Superstition and parochialism prevail. And so the question worth asking is if the people have it in them to bring about the changes that are needed. But the past has proven that it is the leaders who have led their nations to ruin; coup after coup and promise after promise of reform.

Indeed, far from being able to provide aid and protection to their citizens, African governments and the vampire-like politicians who run them are regarded by the populations they rule as yet another burden they have to bear in the struggle for survival.

Sadly, I wonder if the continent will ever be able to free itself of these shackles.

The State of Africa by Martin Meredith
published by Free Press


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