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The Bright Continent: Breaking Rules and Making Change in Modern Africa Hardcover – March 4, 2014

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The Bright Continent: Breaking Rules and Making Change in Modern Africa + Understanding Contemporary Africa (Introductions to the States and Regions of the Contemporary World) + Things Fall Apart
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Editorial Reviews


“A corrective to Africa’s image as a dark, hopeless place…A hopeful narrative about a continent on the rise.” —The New York Times

"The author gives a multitude of examples and a huge mass of fascinating detail. Her case is persuasive...for anyone who wants to understand how the African economy really works, he Bright Continent is a good place to start." —Reuters

Bright Continent will change your view of Africa. It's that simple. Dayo Olopade looks with the eyes of a first-generation Nigerian-American and sees a landscape of ingenuity, technological innovation, and grit. A lively and enjoyable read.” —Anne-Marie Slaughter, President and CEO of the New America Foundation and Professor Emerita of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University

“[Olopade] seamlessly traverses the continent, threading a narrative that shows how African innovation is playing a vital role in its own development…This book is filled with numerous examples that ought to make you rethink your perceptions of Africa.” —The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"Together, these maps form a new mental and strategic landscape, one based on possibilities, not merely perils, and we should be grateful to Olopade for her reimagined cartography." —The Plain Dealer

"Dayo Olopade has written a book that bracingly lives up to its title. In it, an Africa we are all too unaccustomed to seeing comes vividly to life thanks to her restless eye and keen curiosity. It is one of local solutions born of necessity and local heroes who arise from even the most fragile soil." —Howard French, Associate Professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and author of A Continent for the Taking

“This book captures the complex thoughts of a whole generation of young Africans. Olapode shows Africa as it is, a complicated space occupied by real people with the desire and the power to shape our futures.” —Uzodinma Iweala, author of Beasts of No Nation and editor of Ventures Africa Magazine

The Bright Continent is a long overdue and much needed corrective to the dominant perception of Africa. It is a book loaded with revelations of heroic, and often ingenious lives, all of which are eloquently and poignantly brought to life through Dayo’s brilliant observations.” —Dinaw Mengestu, author of The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears and All Our Name

"The Bright Continent is an absolute brightness. Sidestepping dead-end debates, the indefatigable Olopade maps out a contemporary Africa which is vital and self-reliant. Her definition of the Yoruba term kanju as 'specific creativity born from African difficulty' will enter the English language. Through strong reporting and clear thinking, Olopade demonstrates how to improve the lives of African youth stuck in a purgatory of 'waithood.' This is essential reading." —J.M. Ledgard, Director, Future Africa, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and longtime Africa correspondent, The Economist

“In her debut book, Nigerian-American journalist Olopade finds qualified cause for optimism about Africa’s future…A refreshingly hopeful argument, well-grounded in data and observation—of considerable interest to students of geopolitics, demographics and economic trends.” —Kirkus

"Nigerian-American journalist Olopade’s first book rebuts the view of Africa as mired in poverty, war, and failed aid projects, and instead offers a hopeful perspective." —Publishers Weekly


About the Author

Dayo Olopade is a Nigerian-American journalist covering global politics, development policy, and technology. She consults on frontier market strategy within the private, public, and nonprofit sectors.
Dayo has been a correspondent in Washington and in Nairobi, reporting for publications including The Atlantic, The Daily Beast, Foreign Policy, The New Republic, The New York Times and The Washington Post.  
She holds BA, JD and MBA degrees from Yale University, and currently lives in New York.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (March 4, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547678312
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547678313
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #274,354 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Navi Radjou, co-author, Frugal Innovation on March 4, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I preordered the book and received it this morning. I read it with great excitement as fast as I could -- and was not disappointed.

Through this well-written book, Olopade is shattering the dominant Western perception of Africa as a poor and corrupt continent prone to disease and famine. She vividly describes how the entire African continent is teeming with ingenious entrepreneurs who can overcome great adversity to create frugal and sustainable solutions for their local communities. These modern-day alchemists are able to transmute constraints into opportunity and generate greater social value at lower cost. Their secret weapon, according to Olopade, is "kanju" -- a frugal, flexible, and inclusive mindset that enables them to see the glass as always half full and do much more with a lot less.

This resourceful kanju spirit reminds me of jugaad -- a Hindi word meaning the gutsy ability to improvise cost-effective solutions with limited resources in adverse circumstances. In my own book, I described how millions of grassroots entrepreneurs in India apply jugaad to overcome their every day challenges. These Indian entrepreneurs would be thrilled to discover, through Olopade's book, that their African brothers and sisters are equally pioneering a new approach to innovating faster, better, and cheaper.

In the West, this new frugal and flexible approach is being called "frugal innovation" and is gradually gaining traction in the academic and corporate world. I strongly encourage entrepreneurs, CEOs, academics, and policy-makers in the West to read The Bright Continent to understand how Africa is a breeding ground of frugal innovation -- and provides the entire world a proven blueprint for building inclusive and sustainable economies.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mal Warwick on April 29, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It starts with the title itself — Dayo Olopade’s challenge to the prevailing sentiment that sub-Saharan Africa today is little different in its essence from the “dark continent” perceived by nineteenth century colonialists. In The Bright Continent, Olopade catalogs an impressive number of innovative businesses, social sector ventures, and even an occasional government initiative that contribute to the fast growth of this long-underestimated region.

To put Olopade’s story in context, the World Bank recently announced that economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa is expected to rise from 4.7 percent in 2013 to 5.2 percent in 2014, compared to 3.5 percent globally. And the CIA World Factbook lists eight African countries among the twenty fast-growing nations in the world in 2013. However, these numbers must be interpreted with caution, since the measurement of economic indicators in most countries in the region is notoriously unreliable (as economist William Easterly reminded us in The Tyranny of Experts), and growth in GDP or even GDP per capita doesn’t necessarily mean that life is getting better for the seventy percent of sub-Saharan Africans (600 million) who live on $2 a day or less. Still, there is clearly a lot going on in Africa these days, and it’s time for the world to pay much closer attention.

Olopade, a first-generation Nigerian-American whose parents, both physicians, have roots in rural Nigeria, brings a fresh and well-grounded perspective to the project. She refuses to accede to conventional word usage, rejecting terms such as “developing country,” “emerging nation,” “poor country,” and “rich country” in favor of her own constructions.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By NardiViews TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 2, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In "The Bright Continent," Dayo Olopade argues that Africa isn't a basket case, but rather must be approached differently from the more industrialized Western economies. She argues that Africans have a "kanju" mindset, namely that they tend to be flexible and frugal. Where the Western entrepreneur relies upon an established legal system and formal contracts, African entrepreneurs are more likely to rely upon personal relationships and smaller scale innovations. Where a Western businessman imagines selling a finished product, an African businessmen might find opportunities to sell unfinished products to customers who are willing to finish them, thereby selling them at a lower cost. In short, there are opportunities in Africa and many Africans are finding them.

I've read several books and articles along these lines, but Olopade's is still worth reading because she makes her point well. Tthe message isn't entirely new at this point. If anything, some might err in hyperbolizing the African Renaissance. However, I think Olopade does a credible job show why we should be excited about Africa's promise without indulging in hyperbole.

Recommended for businessmen, policymakers, and travelers interested in Africa.
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22 of 28 people found the following review helpful By John Martin on April 27, 2014
Format: Hardcover
If ever there was a book that was both a five star and a one star at the same time it is The Bright Continent by Dayo Olopade. It is a five star book because Ms. Olopade depicts the positive aspects of what is still often thought of as “the dark continent.” It is a one star book because she does so in a way that I think shows “irrational exuberance,” overstating the positives and understating the negatives of present day sub-Saharan Africa. Moreover we are talking about a large and often complex number of countries with different histories and most likely different futures. Ms. Olopade describes herself as an “Nigerian-American” and thus naturally wants to present the positive side of her native country and continent. At the same time it does no good and considerable harm to create impressions that are unrealistic and in some cases quite wrong. The book generally covers five of what the author calls “maps,” which are ways of looking at issues such as the family, technology, commerce, nature and youth.

Much of Ms. Olopade’s argument is premised on the idea of “kanju” which she defines as “the specific creativity born from African difficulty.” Quite rightly she indicates that many African countries are failed states and the government sector in inept and often corrupt. However what she calls creativity is often illegal or counterproductive. Would you call drug dealers who prey on people in American ghettos “creative entrepreneurs” because economic opportunities for people in such areas are limited? Early in the book she cites the example of a family that takes over an abandoned house and lives there in at least a subsistence fashion. These kinds of squatters are common all over Africa.
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