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The Shackled Continent Paperback – June 1, 2005
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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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Why some African countries are poor (and some are not)
It's all about leadership (consider Zambia vs. Botswana). Read more
Thought provoking, intelligent, studiously researched - yet utterly non-judgemental and humane. The Shackled Continent is a must read for anyone who is interested in all things... Read morePublished on April 12, 2010 by TommiDeAngelo
I agree with Guest that the reasons for much of Africa's failures are due to bad leadership. But for someone like me who lives in Africa, the book is shallow, and is not... Read morePublished on April 19, 2009 by MDL
Chapter by chapter, Guest takes up a number of the challenges facing Africa and examines them. Beginning with the rapacious and rabidly corrupt power lechers who have headed up the... Read morePublished on April 18, 2008 by Gordon Eldridge
Robert Guest is the Africa editor for The Economist, and to me this book read like a very long version of one of the country or continent Surveys that that magazine publishes from... Read morePublished on November 27, 2007 by BGL
Sub-Saharan Africa is frequently in the headlines, but rarely does one read anything truly brilliantly-researched, extraordinarily well-written, or intelligently analytical about... Read morePublished on July 16, 2007 by Morris Goldstein
The Guest book was a kind of interesting counterpoint to The State of Africa, by Martin Meredith. The Meredith is by far the superior book, but Guest offers a more anecdotal... Read morePublished on July 8, 2007 by frumiousb
Robert Guest is a journalist, not a scholar. Only a journalist could justify covering AIDS, corruption, conflict, state infrastructure, financial reforms, labour laws, trade... Read morePublished on January 21, 2007 by H PAYNE