10 October 2007

the state of africa (what we're reading)

Africa, as almost everyone on the planet knows, is not the greatest continent in the world. Politically, it is filled with corruption. Economically, there is no place that is poorer. In terms of health, the problem cannot be understated – AIDS, TB, malnutrition, and Malaria conspire to kill well over 10,000 people every single day.

But why? Why Africa?

I have been reading a book called The State of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence by Martin Meredith.

Activist Bob Geldof said that this book was necessary for anyone hoping to understand why Africa is where it is. And he was right.

Imagine. Most African countries have only been independent for a few decades. And many of the boundaries between these countries were poorly thought out. For instance, Nigeria was formed (by colonial powers) up of over 100 different tribes, each with its own unique language and culture.

But as colonial powers fled Africa in the mid-20th century, they left a myriad of political and cultural (not to mention educational) time-bombs behind. Is it any wonder that despots reign? Is it any wonder that civil wars rage? Is it any wonder that money that could be used to fight AIDS is instead used to buy weapons that will only kill more Africans? And should we really be surprised? The US Civil War occurred almost a full 100 years after American independence. One would expect similar proceedings here as infant countries begin to sort themselves out. It doesn’t make it right. And it certainly doesn’t make it palatable.

But, as this book has shown me, the problems are infinitely more complex than they look at first glance. And the future must always be framed in light of the past. This future looks bleak. With a better understanding, maybe it can begin to look a little better.

1 comment:

  1. i've been reading this book too, although here it is titled "the fate of africa." it's large and dense and it's taking me a little while to get through it, but i'm enjoying it. i'm better understanding, with frustration, the complex and corrupt state of africa.

    two of my favorite books about africa are:
    "Witness to AIDS" by edwin cameron. i highly recommend y'all to read it. i found it at that office supply store at campus square. i also saw it at exclusive books.

    "The Shackled Continent" by robert guest is pretty awesome too. kyle, he's the africa editor of the Economist!