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Africa Unchained: The Blueprint for Africa's Future Hardcover – December 23, 2004

14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"A superb analysis of the continent and its recent ordeals"--The Wall Street Journal
"A controversial and thought-provoking book"--Ian Taylor, International Affairs
Praise for Ayittey's Africa in Chaos:
"Crucial for anyone seeking an understanding of Africa's condition . . . Read it now, before it's too late." --The Washington Times

". . . robust, provocative...Ayittey takes no prisoners." --The New York Times Book Review

". . . Ayittey knows Africa well...a brave and reflective book." --The Wall Street Journal

Book Description

Why haven't the poorest Africans been able to prosper in the twenty-first century? Celebrated economist George Ayittey thinks the answer is obvious: economic freedom was denied to them, first by foreign colonial powers and now by indigenous leaders with similarly oppressive practices. As war and conflict replaced peace, Africa's infrastructure crumbled. Instead of bemoaning the myriad difficulties facing the continent today, Ayittey boldly proposes a program of development--a way forward--for Africa. Africa Unchained investigates how Africa can modernize, build, and improve its indigenous institutions, and argues forcefully that Africa should build and expand upon traditions of free markets and free trade rather than continuing to use exploitative economic structures. The economic model here is uniquely African and takes little heed from the developed world; this is sure to be a highly controversial plan for moving Africa forward.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; 1st edition (January 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1403963592
  • ISBN-13: 978-1403963598
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,616,538 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Dr. J. Peter Pham on March 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
For too long written off as irrelevant to international affairs except as the stage for proxy conflicts during the Cold War or the recipient for the world's charity, Africa is nonetheless poised to play an increasingly important role in the global community of the 21st century. Within the decade, West Africa alone will provide more than one-fourth of North America's petroleum imports, surpassing the entire Middle East. The continent also boasts the world's fastest population growth: by 2020, there will be an estimated 1.2 billion Africans-more than the combined populations of Europe and North America. Yet despite the dynamic potential implicit in these natural and human resources data, Africa remains the world's economic basket case: per capita GDP is barely $575 while thirty-two of the thirty-six countries classified by the United Nations Development Program are to be found in Africa.

Why this apparent contradiction? Defying the conventional wisdom that has long infantilized Africans by blaming colonial exploitation, superpower rivalries, intergovernmental aid agencies, impersonal market forces-anyone and everyone external to the continent-Dr. George B.N. Ayittey, himself a son of Africa, points his finger at the causes closer to home: the "vampire states" and "coconut republics" whose undemocratic and illegitimate rulers have done more harm to their own people than any external agents. In short, Africa Unchained is an unusually frank truth speaking to power-or rather, a dose of tough love for the tough challenges faced by the nations and peoples of the continent.

Unlike many works on Africa, however, Dr. Ayittey's does not end on a pessimistic note.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By E. Odjidja on March 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
It is perplexing to read Ayittey's book and still be aware that some have called him a sell-out. His love for Africa is apparent in this book. His description of the "low level" efficiencies that make Africa work is lovely to read. What he calls the "astonishing degree of functionality, participatory form of democracy, rule of customary law and accountability of the traditional African society," is respectful and easy to applaud. These are words of facts as well as love. He cannot be the Afro-pessimist his detractors sometimes call him. Otherwise, how could he put so much faith in the simple African peasant he calls "Atingah"?

E. Ablorh-Odjidja

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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Tanya Abramovitch on October 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is the most brilliant text on Africa I have read, and I don't say that lightly. With almost 500 pages of small text, it's not exactly a breeze to get through, but it is worth every second spent. The author unapologetically describes the mess that the "Hippo" generation following decolonization made, and how it ruined the continent. His prescriptions, which amount to `Africans must solve their own problems in their own way, growing out of African traditions', is right on. I hope that anyone interested in Africa reads this book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I saved this book for last (I read in threes and fours to rapidly sense competing and complementary perspectives). The other three:
The Challenge for Africa
The Trouble with Africa: Why Foreign Aid Isn't Working
Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa

This book (Africa Unchained) is really two books in one, and as I conclude this summative review, will suggest to the author a third book needed now to complete the trilogy.

BOOK ONE: Chapters 2-7 focus on the problems of the past and are less interesting to me than the author's clear rejection of all tendencies to blame the past, the West, the banks, or anyone other than Africans themselves, for the failure to develop. These chapters merit careful reading if one is to be fully engaged in Africa, but here I sum them up as "four strikes and out" in the author's own words:

Strike One: State control model never worked

Strike Two: Rush to modernize industry while neglecting agriculture (where 65% of African live and die in largely subsistence mode)

Strike Three: Aped (sic) alien systems and ignored--demeaned indigenous political and economic systems that had worked for centuries

Strike Four: All the above required massive external investments and dependencies

BOOK TWO is the Chapter 1 and Chapters 8-11.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By V.H. Amavilah on January 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
"Africa Unchained" is a very interesting book. It proposes "the blueprint for Africa's future." To find out how workable the proposal is one has to read the book. However, here is how the author goes about the subject. First, he explains why Africa is poor. Four themes form the answer. One, Africa is poor because of the failure of Western policies. Second, Africa is poor because of the ill-conceived development model African countries pursued upon political independence - its ideology, strategies, mistakes, and a feeble leadership. Third, colonial and neo-colonial policies hampered progress "by imposing an alien system that destroyed Africa's heritage". Finally, Africa is poor because of unfavorable development finances, which made possible a resource curse, widened resource gap, and facilitated aid dependency.

Out of the failure emerged a new set of problems such as an exploitative state, which promoted wrong-headed industrialization policies, along with self-destructive agricultural, inflation, and foreign debt policies.

To avoid further failure and get out of poverty, Africa needs a new approach. The proposal recommends development of indigenous economic systems which are supportive of property rights, and free market and voluntary exchange mechanisms. The book cites Botswana as an example that development is possible in Africa if one follows the "Atinga development model". The Atinga model centers on a new strategy that is taking place at the village level, is inclusive of the informal sector and invests in it. If that happens, an African Renaissance will follow.

This is a credible effort, indeed. My hesitation is that focus on Africa, instead of African countries is unlikely to produce helpful results. In the age of globalization, endogenous systems are likely more productive than indigenous systems. Strongly recommended.

Amavilah, Author
Modeling Determinants of Income in Embedded Economies
ISBN: 1600210465
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