I finished the first draft of my thesis a couple weeks ago and desperately needed a break from all the staring at pages etc. So naturally I went and got more books! Summer reading though – something light and not too serious. Well sort of.
My first purchase was The State of Africa by Martin Meredith.
It’s a history of Africa since colonial independence (mid 1950′s) and makes for a fascinating, but depressing, read. For example, Ghana began independence as one of the most prosperous tropical countries in the world. Now it is one of the most indebted countries in the world (at least in the world cup).
Overall, the message is that, while there have been natural disasters, poor development advice from the West, and other problems, it has mainly been poor leadership that has made things so bad. In one telling passage Meredith notes that:
“By the end of the 1980s, not a single African head of state in three decades had allowed himself to be voted out of office. Of some 150 heads of state who had trodden the African stage, only six had voluntarily relinquished power.” (often after 20 some odd years running the show).
It may not seem like typical summer reading but it is a great book and highly recommended if you’re wondering just how intractable some of Africa’s problems are.