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State of Africa Paperback – September 30, 2006

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Paperback, September 30, 2006
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--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews


'This descent from liberatory euphoria to the heart of darkness is all too symbolic of what Africa has gone through since independence, and it is this that Meredith chronicles in a series of often vivid country snapshots ... Meredith is a sure guide to this colossal, sad story R W Johnson, SUNDAY TIMES 'As a popular introduction to the subject it could hardly be bettered' Daily Telegraph 11/06 'A clear-sighted examination of Africa's plight... Contrary to the simplistic view of those who prefer to lash the West for its mishandling of the continent, there is a vast amount only Africa can put right' Daily Telegraph 18/6 'In Africa the past does matter. It explains the present and no one is going to move anywhere without it. That is why this book is important. It's about how we got here. The legions of development missionaries ... should all be given a free copy. This book is also great narrative. Delivered in digestible chunks ... Meredith is at his best telling the story of the rise and fall of each ruler ... Meredith has given a spectacularly clear view of the African political jungle from above' Richard Dowden, SPECTATOR 'As a narrative of Africa's political trajectory since independence, this book is hard to beat. Meredith packs a lot of empirical information into his text without overwhelming his reader. The book is elegantly written as well as unerringly accurate, and despite its considerable length it holds the attention of the reader to the end ... Excellent ... Some of his anecdotes are priceless ... the book is impressive in many ways' Paul Nugent, FINANCIAL TIMES Martin Meredith discussed with Yasmin Alibhai-Brown 'What's wrong with the way Africa and it problems are portrayed in Britain?' Today, BBC Radio 4 1/7 'In the time it takes to watch an all-day pop concert in Hyde Park, anyone looking for an understanding of Africa's problems can and should read Martin Meredith's authoritative analysis of the post-independence continent. The writer, who is as even-handed in this country-by-country history as he was in his biography of Robert Mugabe three years ago, does not fall into the dangerous trap of calling for debt relief or more aid ... If Meredith's conclusion is depressing, his dispassionate analysis does more than perhaps he realises to set the past 50 African years in a continuum' Alex Duval Smith, INDEPENDENT 'Any would-be demonstrator at the G8 summit in Scotland this week should take a look into this harrowing but sober volume. Martin Meredith offers an excellent account of the miseries of modern Africa, relentless in its scope. He gives in his more discursive sections a withering critique of the futility and hypocrisy of Western governments in a continent they have only made darker' Michael Fry, SCOTTISH SUNDAY MAIL 'The Bestselling History Titles in June... No 13. The State of Africa... A highly readable digest of half a century of woes in the cradle of mankind' ECONOMIST 'You cannot even begin to understand contemporary African politics if you have not read this fascinating book' Bob Geldof 'The State of Africa, Meredith's account of four decades of systematic diversion of Africa's wealth to criminal local elites and their accomplices in rich nations, provides a salutary corrective to the current interantional debate, a reminder of how discussions of African countries often lack the thing they most need: a historical perspective... Meredith's historically rooted scepticism may be pessimistic and politically inconvenient, but it is part of a debate that needs to be heard' TLS 4/11 'This magisterial history seeks to explore the myriad problems that Africa has faced in the past half-century, and indeed still faces' Sunday Telegraph 9/4 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Martin Meredith is the author of many acclaimed books on Africa including lives of Robert Mugabe and Nelson Mandela and COMING TO TERMS: SOUTH AFRICA'S SEARCH FOR TRUTH. He lives near Oxford. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Jonathan Ball Publishers SA (September 30, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1868422518
  • ISBN-13: 978-1868422517
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,095,571 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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48 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Peter Uys HALL OF FAME on August 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This impressive history of Africa is a thorough and detailed investigation of the reasons for the continent's dismal failure. Although filled with facts and figures, the work is quite accessible and readable as it charts the bitter history of 50 years of independence from its hopeful beginnings to today's total despair, in just 2 generations.

Ghana was the first African state to gain independence in 1957; it was ruined within 8 years. Today the whole continent produces less than Mexico. Upon taking power, African leaders appointed their cronies in government instead of properly trained civil servants, of which there weren't many anyway. These ruling elites indulged in corruption, oppression and bribery from the beginning.

The continent has been cursed with corrupt, incompetent and greedy leaders who never cared for their subjects. There have been at least 40 successful and many more unsuccessful coup attempts these 5 decades. The latest fashion is to hold sham elections. In oil producing countries like Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Nigeria and Cameroon, all the oil money ends up in the pockets of small ruling cliques while ordinary people subsist in misery.

The chapters are arranged according to this rogue's gallery of leaders like Amin, Bokassa, Mobutu, Nyerere, Banda, Mugabe, Kaunda, Kenyatta, Mengistu, Nasser, Nguema, Nkrumah. Other reasons for the failure are also considered, for example the rapid rise in population and unfavourable trade terms with the West.

But always the pattern repeats: coup d'etat, cruelty, misery, murder, refugees and the collapse of infrastructure. No matter how much money the West throws at the problem. Africa has had the equivalent of six "Marshall Plans" but the money ends up in Swiss bank accounts.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Most of us probably think about Africa in terms of famines, wars, massacres, AIDS and bottomless sink for foreign aid. Depressingly, as "The State of Africa" by Martin Meredith makes clear, these impressions are only too true and are not likely to change in the foreseeable future.

The book does an excellent job of describing the history of Africa's disparate states in the fifty years since independence. In general, the coverage of them all is balanced and thorough, with ample facts and references to aid readers who want to dig more.

Virtually without exception, the jumble of artificial states left behind by departing colonial powers like Britain, France, Belgium and Portugal descended rapidly into one-party states ruled by violence, spectacular corruption and ethnic cliques intent only on grabbing power and accumulating loot. Assets and revenues of the state were merely spoils to be stolen at will by all and sundry politicians and officials. Individuals or ethnic groups who seemed likely to impede the feeding frenzy were attacked with unbridled ferocity.

One struggles to find any morality, any sense of duty to the nation or even common decency among the sordid thugs and thieves who grabbed power while mouthing slogans about "democracy" and "the people" as if they were upright guardians of liberty and stalwart defenders of the national interest.

Meredith meticulously documents all this. The number of people killed, wounded and displaced during these decades of madness run into countless millions. The war dead alone possibly exceed ten million, an almost incomprehensible number.

Why did this slow-motion massacre happen in so many superficially different countries?
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Gordon Eldridge on April 1, 2008
Format: Paperback
Few writers could do justice to the mammoth task of covering 50 years of the turbulent history of an entire continent in a single volume, but Meredith achieves just that and with considerable power and finesse. The task necessitates skipping between countries and back and forth in time but Meredith manages very successfully to bridge the potential confusion this could have created with themes that run through the post-colonial history of most of the states of Africa. Though there are variations to the theme, most African countries passed from the euphoria and hope of early independence to domination by dictators who justified their single party policies as the only answer to potential tribal conflict. Dictatorships caused unrest, which often lead to coup attempts with the coup leaders promising an end to repression and corruption, but soon falling into the same patterns as their predecessors.

The book is a litany of incompetent government, of insatiable greed and exploitation on the part of leaders and their cronies, of unbelievable power lust and the resulting repression, of megalomaniac leaders with delusions of grandeur, of ludicrous levels of corruption and of the suffering of millions of ordinary people. Meredith's coverage is comprehensive and his style is easy to read. The inclusion of fascinating details about particular events or the personal lives of particular leaders brings the narrative to life. The tales he has to tell are gripping (though horrific) and you will fly through the nearly 700 pages.

Meredith skillfully establishes the historical similarities between almost all African countries. His explanations show only too well how poor leadership and economic management has led to the continent becoming the most desperately poor and underdeveloped region on earth.
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