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Africa in Chaos: A Comparative History Hardcover – December 15, 1997

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; 1st edition (December 15, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312164009
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312164003
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.9 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,910,258 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Ghanaian-born economics professor George B.N. Ayittey takes a hard, unsentimental look at the continuing economic, cultural, and political downfall of African countries. While Africa is the world's second-largest continent, containing 770 million people and much of the world's natural resources, he contends that the postcolonial African nations cannot reconcile what he calls "the two Africas," one traditional and one modern (or "Western"). That split, he says, wreaks havoc on the African people, and he comes down hard on "the elites, the parasitic minority group [that operates] by an assortment of imported or borrowed institutions." Africa in Chaos examines the collapse of Nigeria's civilian-led democracy, as well as the anarchy in Liberia, the former Zaire, and Sierra Leone, outlining the suicidal quest for power that hinders Africa's growth. Ayittey, unlike many Afrocentric apologists, does not lay all of the blame for Africa's predicament on the West, but he does insist that solid, long-term investment from Europe and America is needed to lift the motherland out of its mire. His "Ten Commandments for African Intellectuals," intended to lead the way to success, include calls for an embrace of the African past, a relationship with the private sector, and consistent freedom of expression. --Eugene Holley Jr. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From Library Journal

Ayittey (economics, American Univ.), a Ghanaian by birth, provides a harsh critique of Africa's development. Describing the undermining of basic political and economic institutions, primarily since independence, he places much of the blame for the outcomes on African leaders themselves and what he calls their "vampire states." He asserts that African leaders have ignored the strengths of indigenous systems while spouting meaningless rhetoric and resisting meaningful change. These arguments have been raised in numerous other studies by African and Western authors, but Ayittey's focus on the failure and corruption of political, business, bureaucratic, and police leadership is persuasive, if incomplete. One wishes for more viable examples of internal alternatives to the "chaos" he describes to gain a sense of optimism. Recommended for academic and large public libraries.?Bill Rau, Talkoma, Md.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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See all 20 customer reviews
Cover to cover, this book portrays Africa as it is today.
L. Lim
I enjoyed reading this book, because it helped me understand the political situation in Africa.
A fascinating book with great detail but also very readable.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Enrique Cardova on July 12, 2004
Format: Paperback
Excellent book by Ayittey showing the yet again the failures of the liberal-left vision, and its cynical collaborators in business and government bureaucracies. Yet again and again Western taxpayers are called upon to prop up these vampire states- money down an endless rathole.
The "leaders" of many of these failed states have been feted and celebrated in the liberal West, none more so than Nkrumah, Nyerere, and Kaunda. Buit it is all hypocrisy and delusion. Some claim glowing accomplishments by these leaders, but in fact things like high literacy rates are carry-overs from the colonial administrations. In short, the literacy rate and educational opportunities were ALREADY rising rapidly when the colonialists pulled out, rendering claims of "improvement" in these areas suspect. The same pattern is repeated in economic development. Agriculture and industry were ALREADY expanding when the kleptocrats and dictators took over. Under them this progress not only declined but in many cases simply vanished.
As for Nkrumah's or Nyere's much touted educational "progress" and "free" medical care, it was neither progressive or free. What use is "free" when your "health" clinics are chronically short of medicine, and competent staff? Just how much "improvement" is there when you don't have enough money to staff or maintain your "free" institutions to even minimal standards? What use is "education" amid cruimbling schools and unpaid teachers, or when you are herding forcibly herding people into dirty, poverty mired "ujamma" villages to be harangued by party hacks about "African socialism"? When has "socialism" fed starving people?
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Cashew Son on November 1, 1999
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a devestating indictment of the small percentage of the African population that keeps the rest uneducated and in poverty. Yet it is Pro-Africa in that the solutions proposed are from the continent's tribal past.
African-Americans, who want a deeper understanding of what is happening in Africa today and why it is different from the pre-colonial past, will appreciate this book. Others, such as Cynthia McKinney and Carol Mosley Braun, who would prefer to rub shoulders with the same leaders who are causing so much harm to their countries, will feel better if they continue to keep their head in the sand.
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28 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Godfrey Mwakikagile, author, on December 19, 2001
Format: Paperback
Ayittey has written an excellent book. In fact, I'm just as critical of Africa's despotic and kleptocratic regimes in all the books I have written. But I don't entirely agree with his assessment of Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, and Kenneth Kaunda.
He says his focus is not on the leadership qualities of any of the African leaders but on their policies. It is true that socialism failed to fuel economic growth. But an objective evaluation of what Nkrumah, Nyerere, and Kaunda did, shows that they had some success in a number of areas. Yet, Ayittey has almost nothing good to say about them in his book, "Africa in Chaos." In fact, these are the three leaders of whom he's most critical in his book, devoting several pages to them more than any other African leader.
Under Nkrumah, Ghana had the highest per capita income in sub-Saharan Africa. It was Nkrumah who laid the foundation for modern-day Ghana. He built the infrastructure that has sustained and fuelled Ghana's economic development through the years. It is true that there were also many failures under Nkrumah, and after he was gone; for example institutional decay and crumbling infrastructure. But who built those institutions and the infrastructure?
Nkrumah built schools, hospitals, roads, factories, dams and bridges, railways and harbors. Tens of thousands of people in Ghana who are lawyers, doctors, engineers, nurses, teachers, accountants, agriculturalists, scientists and others wouldn't be what they are today had it not been for the educational opportunities provided by Nkrumah.
Ayittey talks about quality, saying that what mattered during Nkrumah's reign was quantity, not quality. What's the quality of the Ghanaian elite, including Ayittey himself, educated under Nkrumah? Are they not as good as anybody else?
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By "jbarreh" on March 13, 2001
Format: Paperback
I have to commend Mr. Ayittey for writing from fresh point of view. I liked the fact that he emphasized that Africa has to look inwards to solve its problems. I have two problems with the book a) Small factual mistakes which may not be serious but never the less undermine the confidence in the author's littany of figures and facts. One such example is the dedication to Mr. Joe Modise which the author claimed to be dead but an other reviewer mentioned that he is well and alive. One mistake I noticed is that the author said that North Somalia was colonized by the Italians and Southern Somalia by the British when the fact is exactly the opposite. b) The Author built a good case that African leaders are to blame for the misery in Africa. I kept asking myself through out the book "but what caused the majority of African leaders to take the wrong path?" I waited and waited for an answer through the whole book but the only explanation that Mr. Ayittey could come up was to fall back to the very thing that he claimed very vociferously at the start of the book that he is against, to blame colonialism. He explained the failure of African leaders is due to the fact that they are product of colonialism. I believe that Mr. Ayittey did dileneate the problems clearly and he did offer the obvious solutions but his analysis of the causes of the problems were not deep enough, even though I believe is started the right discussion, the debate of interaction of western/alien ideas and African ways of self rule. Also as an other reviewer put it, the Author should put himself in the shoes of millions of Africans who fight daily ( and lose their lifes often) for the ideals he is spousing.
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