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The Shackled Continent Paperback – June 1, 2005

4.2 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"'I doubt whether there is a better brief introduction to the travails of modern Africa and their causes' Anthony Daniels, Sunday Telegraph 'He is a lively and observant reporter who can describe, in a breezy no-nonsense style, the horrors and miseries of Africans in the interior...The reader can learn much from this lively and outspoken book' Anthony Sampson, Guardian 'A provocative read' The Glasgow Herald"

About the Author

Robert Guest is currently the Africa Editor for the Economist and regularly appears on CNN and the BBC. A graduate of Oxford University, he lived in Africa for three years reporting on wars, famines, crazy monetary policies and bizarre drinking games. He lives in London.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 290 pages
  • Publisher: Pan Publishing (June 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330419722
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330419727
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #349,602 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Peter Uys HALL OF FAME on August 17, 2005
Format: Paperback
In this captivating book, the author shares his experiences of Sub-Saharan Africa by exploring the reasons for the region's abject poverty and suffering. Guest takes into account factors like for example climate and history, whilst quoting African writers like Chinua Achebe, Themba Sono and Chenjerai Hove.

The text often focuses on rays of hope amidst the despair so the book is not a relentless tale of woe. Guest identifies negative issues like tribalism and corruption and the waste of aid money while pointing out positive developments in places like Botswana, South Africa, Uganda and Senegal.

He examines the good results in countries that follow sound fiscal and monetary policies as opposed to the vampire state in places like Zimbabwe or the failed state in e.g. Congo (Zaire). A very important point that Guest makes is that Africa can develop and improve the lives of its people without sacrificing its culture. Japan is proof enough that modernity does not necessarily threaten an indigenous culture.

Guest discusses Rwanda's holocaust and religious clashes in Nigeria, takes a balanced look at South Africa's successes and its failures like its lack of an AIDS policy and criticises western countries for their agricultural protectionism that is holding Africa back. More Western aid is not the answer, and in some places mineral wealth has been more of a curse than a blessing.

He makes a plea for increased trade and praises the stability that exists in those countries where property rights are respected. He also surveys the situation of the media, where both oppression and lack of money are impediments to a free press.
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Format: Paperback
One cannot help get the impression that Africa only surfaces in the news whenever there is famine in that continent, another pogrom, or when the bizarre excesses of one of its many despots is exposed.

In this highly readable and provocative book complete with detailed footnotes and a useful index, Robert Guest, African editor of the Economist, draws on his vast experience as a correspondent in sub-Saharan Africa. He chronicles the endemic poverty, egregious corruption and blatant cronyism, vicious inter-tribal feuds (including a harrowing account of the Rwanda genocide), and the squandering of millions of dollars of foreign aid in the breezy, informal style one has come to associate with the Economist.

Why is Africa so poor, indeed becoming more of a `basket case', asks Guest? Afterall, Africa has received the equivalent of six Marshall plans since 1960 (p.150). Despite this infusion of $US400 billion in aid, all but four of the 34 countries on the UN list of Low Human Development indicators are in Africa.

From the outset, Guest concedes that Africa has suffered at the hands of rapacious Western powers which ruthlessly exploited cheap labour and carved up the continent without consideration for tribal loyalties. Quoting historian, Basil Davidson, these loyalties have eclipsed any allegiance to the nation-state which have hindered efforts to govern Africa's 600 million citizens. Nor has geography been kind to Africa (pp.7-8). Extreme, warm climates contribute to the prevalence of malaria and other debilitating tropical diseases which cripple large segments of the African workforce and stall economic progress.
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Format: Paperback
Why is Africa the only continent that has not seen economic growth in the last 40 years? It is all too easy to blame just AIDS and the legacy of colonialism for all the problems. In this razor-sharp analysis Robert Guest uses examples from his experience as a traveling journalist for The Economist to explain his view on Africa's problem. Sure, AIDS and other infectious diseases is one of them, but far more important are corrupt leaders, warlords fighting for the raw mineral reserves in many countries and the enormous amount of red tape in combination with the impossibilities to get loans when you want to start a company. The appalling infrastructure (especially roads) together with policemen and other officials one has to bribe along the way do not help either to get from A to B. And often it is in the interest of the political leaders to steer up tribalism to divert people's attention from the misdeeds of the government.

Robert Guest not only describes the problems, but also discusses possible solutions, which in his opinion mainly lie in giving people opportunities to develop themselves and trade freely. A very well-written book with a lot of recognizable examples for a regular Africa traveller like myself. It's not often that I read a book like this in 1 day, but this one I did.
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Format: Paperback
This is an excellent book. The author takes what could be a dry as Karoo dust subject and makes it come alive. The basic premise is that much of the population in sub-Saharan Africa is poor while the countries are rich in resources. It doesn't need to be that way. Good government coupled with enlightened economic policies can change the region into an economic dynamo.

One of the more entertaining and, at the same time, thought provoking chapters has to do with transporting a truck load of beer from the brewery in coastal Douala, Cameroon to a distribution depot 500 km to the east. A planned two day trip becomes four on the road. The troubles encountered, 47 police checkpoints among other things, illustrates the problems to be overcome.

It is a generally up beat book that doesn't pull punches when they need to be thrown.

Like too many books these days, more and better maps would be nice to supplement the text.
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