Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles by Richard Dowden

EXCELLENT book, confirms my opinion that the best writers of history are non-historians. African history is mostly a depressing subject, but this book was so well written that I could not put it down. There is a good dose of white liberal guilt sprinkled throughout the narrative, as well as a typical tendency to blame non-Africans for the problems of Africans, but overall the author offers a penetrating analysis of the problems that beset modern Africa and their historical roots. As far as Africa’s leaders go, should we accept Nelson Mandela’s argument that we should excuse their greed and corruption on the grounds that they come from a culture of poverty? The author is a great admirer of Mandela, but agrees that this speech was not one of his finer moments. These days China is becoming more and more economically involved in Africa, while the West is withdrawing. China sees Africa as a bonanza, the West as a sinkhole for aid. Will Africa finally see prosperity? There is hope.

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