By Larbi Arbaoui
By Larbi Arbaoui
Morocco World News
Taroudant, May29, 2012
The Shackled Continent: Power, Corruption, and African Lives, by Robert Guest – former Africa editor for the Economist – is an exhaustive and lively book that tries to explain the reasons behind Africa’s poverty.
It accounts for the hard economic situation in African and how to make it better «Africa- is in a bad way and this book is my attempt to explain why.» R. Guest. The author makes it clear from the beginning of the book that he means by “Africa” the sub-Saharan Africa, excluding the Arab countries of North Africa. Africa is a mineral-rich continent, with tourism potential and a fertile ground advantageous for agricultural. However, despite these strengths, it is growing poorer. Guest notes that so many factors are the stumbling block to the development of African nations: geography, the legacy of slavery and colonialism, AIDS and bad governance, to name but a few.
Most of the African countries are tropical. Such weather is convenient for many deadly diseases to flourish. “Africa has the worst of them: Malaria, Yellow Fever, rare but deadly viruses such as Ebola, and a host of energy sapping parasites.”
Another factor to blame for Africa’s misfortune is slavery. Although Guest doesn’t consider slavery a serious element contributing to Africa’s poverty for the reason that « the Trans Atlantic slave trade ended in the 19th Century,” so that can hardly explain 21 st Century problems, but, in fact, it has tremendous negative aspects on the history of most of African countries.
Guest admits that it is « easy to find colonial roots for modern problems ». South Africa, for instance, was one of the first African countries to gain independence; however, it remained under the control of a white minority through a biased and unfair system of racial segregation known as apartheid until 1994. African countries have gained their independence, but the colonialists have left most countries under ethnic conflicts and disputes over borders that were intentionally left ambiguous with neighboring countries. Guest claims that the colonialists « left deep scars.» but he adds « they also left behind some helpful things such as roads, clinics and laws.» Despite all these problems handed down from the colonialists, Guest still doesn’t consider all these unfortunate defects as excuses for the modern problems believing that «If colonialism was what held Africa back, you would expect the continent to have boomed when the settlers left. »
AIDS in Africa is the most threatening disease, regardless of all the advances achieved in modern medicine. Guest points out that not only do soldiers and migration help the virus to cross borders, but prostitution, witchcraft, and some cultural beliefs worsen the problem «some young African women believe that without regular infusions of sperm, they will not grow up to be beautiful » these myths must be « rebutted » he adds.
Guest, with powerful arguments and an exceptional lively style, is able to convince the reader that the misery of Africa is caused by African themselves. To solidify his statements, he quotes from the great African Novelist, Chinua Achebe: “The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, of the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership. » In fact, all the external factors mentioned so far can be successfully overcome if the people in power were not corrupt. African countries would have progressed, he added, if their leaders believed in democracy and engaged seriously in promising projects.
In conclusion, Robert Guest in his amazing book has shed light on the major problems hindering Africa’s improvement. He clearly believes that African countries can improve. It is through access to primary education, reducing bureaucracy, privatization and fundamentally embracing the free market that these countries will prosper.
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