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on 28 June 2007
We are advised to buy 'Fate of Africa' together with 'State of Africa', but they are the same book - 'Fate' is the US edition, 'State' is the UK edition. It's a very good account of the history of Africa, but I for one don't need two copies and would not have bought 'Fate' if I'd known it was the same as 'State', which I bought from Amazon 2 years ago. This is not the first time I have been misled in this way; Amazon really needs to provide better bibliographic details to help customers avoid wasting their money.
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on 18 July 2005
This is a new book just released by the author Martin Meredith. He was an African based reporter for 15 years and more recently an Oxford fellow. He is the author of many pieces including about a half dozen books on Africa. Some examples are the following: Our Votes, Our Guns: Robert Mugabe and the Tragedy of Zimbabwe, Elephant Destiny: Biography of an Endangered Species in Africa, Nelson Mandela: A Biography. There are probably few people anywhere in the world today that are more qualified to write this present book than is Meredith. In my humble opinion, the book is essential nonfiction reading for anyone interested in current events and world history. Africa is a continent with 800 million people, and by any reasonable measure probably they are in the most dire straights of all the earth's peoples.
The author has written the present book that covers the last fifty years in detail, but really it covers most coutries farther back with many references going back to the mid 19th century and earlier. This is a comprehensive 700 page book in medium to small font and I think it takes a few weeks to read and absorb all the details. He has a very brief introduction with historical maps of Africa and it is followed up with about ten pages of notes and comments at the back of the book, plus a number of references for further reading. I have just begun to read the book, but I have skimmed most of the book briefly to get an overall grasp of the writings. He goes through essentially every country in Africa from the north to the south tip, east to west, country by country, decade by decade describing colonial intrusions, resource and country trading by the big colonial powers, revolution, dictatorships, wars, military actions, famines, economic disasters, racism, and on and on.
He has 35 chapters divided into four broad catagories: colonialism and revolution, consolidation and revolution, developments and failures, and then the modern era. Those four section titles are my inventions, not his, to simplify the book and the 35 chapters. The divisions in the book are a bit more complicated with many subjects overlapping time periods and countries, and I am simplifying here.
The chapters tend to run in parallel, rather than simple chronological order. He starts out with Kwame Nkrumah (1909-1972)the preseident of Ghana elected in 1957 with the new independence. It was British West Africa, a colony part of the "Gold Coast". He then goes on to Egypt and King Farouk (1920-1965) who was thrown out in a 1952 military coup led by Nasser. By the way, the coup took place while Farouk was at the gambling tables, living the carefree high life, and he dismissed the idea of the coup when his entertainment was briefly interrupted by a telephone call from his foreign minister who reported the coup. He goes on to cover Algeria and France's abandonment of the colony to the independence movement, and he covers the flight of the non Muslims back to France. He goes through most of the countries discussing the politics, the leaders, the history, the corruption, and where we are today.
If you can digest the boook, you will in effect know the modern history of Africa in detail, and you will be able to understand the myriad of map changes, tribal rivalries, etc. He has three sets of black and white pictures that show the flight from Rwanda, the corruption of Zimbabwe, and they reference the leaders of the Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, etc. We see pictures of many famous leaders from South Africa to Gadaffi, some shaking hands with Bush or dancing with Queen Elizabeth. We learn what colonial power dominated what region, when there was an overthrow of the colonials, who took charge, how the government evolved, and who were the people that have run and now run each country.
Truly an impressive book.
Clearly 5 stars.
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on 13 August 2005
A FATE OF AFRICA is a beautifully written work that provides a fascinating insight into the continent's history, underdevelopment and civil strife. Devoid of sentimentality and full of objectivity, the author conveys the deep message, which explains not only the resilience of the continent but also the ravages that it has been subjected to throughout its turbulent history. Behind the tragedies of the continent are the heavy hands of the ex-colonial masters and the exploitative drives of some business concerns working in partnership with African dictators, psychopaths and administrative kleptomaniacs that have power and are excluding the people in the running of the land. With more piteous prospects than any other continent, Africa mirrors the failures of humanity as well as its hopes and reams.
Other titles that treat this African malaise are DISCIPLES OF FORTUNE , AFRICA UNCHAINED, THE SCHACKLED CONTINENT, TRIPLE AGENT DOUBLE CROSS. Together these titles exposed the personal and collective problems of the people and the personal and collective efforts made, and the means and ways to take the Africa forward despite all the constrains.
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In its 750 pages, this book thoroughly and meticulously charts the history of Africa since independence. Dealing with every single country, it explores and analyses the reasons for the continent's dismal failure. Although it provides a plethora of facts and figures, the work is an accessible and compelling read as it charts the bitter history of 50 years of independence from its hopeful beginnings to today's poverty and despair. Some passages may however upset the sensitive reader.
Africa has been cursed with corrupt and incompetent leaders who never cared for their people. There have been at least 40 successful and many more unsuccessful coup attempts over the past five decades, whilst the latest fashion is to hold sham elections as happened recently in Zimbabwe. Wherever there are natural resources like oil, the money ends up in the pockets of small ruling cliques while most ordinary people live in misery.
The rest of Africa has followed Ghana's example. The first African state to gain independence in 1957, the country was bankrupt within 8 years. Upon taking power, African leaders appointed their cronies in government instead of properly trained civil servants, of which there weren't many to begin with. These ruling elites indulged in corruption, oppression and bribery from the beginning. Today the whole continent produces less than Mexico.
The rogue's gallery of African despots includes Amin, Bokassa, Mobutu, Nyerere, Banda, Mugabe, Kaunda, Kenyatta, Mengistu, Nasser, Nguema and Nkrumah. The extent of the corruption has given rise to the term Kleptocracy. Meredith also looks at other reasons for the failure of Africa, for example rapid population increases and trade protectionism in the West.
The pattern set by Ghana is still repeating, leading to coups d'etat, oppression, misery, murder, refugees and the collapse of civil society. In the 1990s there was the tragedy of Rwanda and most recently, the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. Throwing money at the problem has never resolved anything but may instead have made things worse. Africa has had the equivalent of six Marshall Plans but most of the money ends up in overseas bank accounts. The author points out the relentless tide of graft that characterizes government and business in Africa.
Meredith also looks at the exceptions, like Botswana, South Africa and Senegal. These countries are multiparty democracies with well-run economies. They represent some hope that Africa might one day become a decent place to live. The book includes maps, black & white photographs, explanatory notes and bibliographic references. Well-researched and well-written, it will remain the standard work on the modern history of Africa for a long time to come.
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on 17 August 2012
This book is a brilliant insight to the problems that Africa has and is still facing.....
Read before visiting any of the african countries so that you understand its people a little better......walk in their footsteps even for a short time will teach you to be a better person
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on 26 January 2008
I knew the post-independence years in Africa were bad, but didn't realize how bad. Never perhaps has Lord Acton's comment that "power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely" been applicable on a wider scale.

A clear justification for dealing with a whole continent in a 750-page book is to allow the emergence of common traits across dozens of countries. The quote from Nigerian Claude Ake sums up a major general point: "The problem is not so much that development has failed, as that it was never really on the agenda in the first place". What seems to have been on the agenda in most countries was power and riches to us and ours and the devil take the hindmost.

The chief surprise is the almost total absence, over dozens of countries, along some five decades, of even reasonable government; only Nelson Mandela, forced to attain "maturity" in prison, and obliged by age to curtail his moment on stage, comes across as a great leader.

Given the size of the book it is a bit surprising that the author decided to lump together "Black" Africa with the Arab north: although the de-colonization process occurred in the same period the two areas have very distinct traditions. Concentration on one or the other would have allowed more space for analysis.

There is a damning account of the role of foreign governments and institutions, but if there is anything to criticize in the book's general orientation it is in relation to its cursory coverage of the illegal activities of multinational companies. By furnishing the instruments of war on one hand and ready cash on the other two key groups intensified conflict and magnified the impact of corruption: arms suppliers and minerals purchasers. This is important because it removes another piece of blame from the African governments themselves.

There is not the shadow of a doubt that this is essential reading for anyone with a serious interest in contemporary Africa. However, while Meredith's writing is concise and as clear as crystal, only someone with a very specific interest will want, for example, to wade through the complexity of years of Nigerian politics. But there is something for everybody: having lived in Kenya and the then Rhodesia, and travelled through most of eastern Africa in the early 70's, the book filled in hundreds of blank spots for me.

On the other hand, while the work could usefully serve as a reference for particular countries, I do not think it suitable for someone wanting a general introduction to post-independence Africa: the level of detail is too great.

A final word about the title, which seems inappropriate. No one yet knows the "Fate of Africa" and we won't discover it from reading the book which concludes, not with a bang, but with the wimper "In reality, fifty years after the beginning of the independence era, Africa's prospects are bleaker than ever before". So what's new!
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on 31 January 2008
I knew the post-independence years in Africa were bad, but didn't realize how bad. Never perhaps has Lord Acton's comment that "power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely" been applicable on a wider scale.

A clear justification for dealing with a whole continent in a 750-page book is to allow the emergence of common traits across dozens of countries. The quote from Nigerian Claude Ake sums up a major general point: "The problem is not so much that development has failed, as that it was never really on the agenda in the first place". What seems to have been on the agenda in most countries was power and riches to us and ours and the devil take the hindmost.

The chief surprise is the almost total absence, over dozens of countries, along some five decades, of even reasonable government; only Nelson Mandela, forced to attain "maturity" in prison, and obliged by age to curtail his moment on stage, comes across as a great leader.

Given the size of the book it is a bit surprising that the author decided to lump together "Black" Africa with the Arab north: although the de-colonization process occurred in the same period the two areas have very distinct traditions. Concentration on one or the other would have allowed more space for analysis.

There is a damning account of the role of foreign governments and institutions, but if there is anything to criticize in the book's general orientation it is in relation to its cursory coverage of the illegal activities of multinational companies. By furnishing the instruments of war on one hand and ready cash on the other two key groups intensified conflict and magnified the impact of corruption: arms suppliers and minerals purchasers. This is important because it removes another piece of blame from the African governments themselves.

There is not the shadow of a doubt that this is essential reading for anyone with a serious interest in contemporary Africa. However, while Meredith's writing is concise and as clear as crystal, only someone with a very specific interest will want, for example, to wade through the complexity of years of Nigerian politics. But there is something for everybody: having lived in Kenya and the then Rhodesia, and travelled through most of eastern Africa in the early 70's, the book filled in hundreds of blank spots for me.

On the other hand, while the work could usefully serve as a reference for particular countries, I do not think it suitable for someone wanting a general introduction to post-independence Africa: the level of detail is too great.

A final word about the title, which seems inappropriate. No one yet knows the "Fate of Africa" and we won't discover it from reading the book which concludes, not with a bang, but with the wimper "In reality, fifty years after the beginning of the independence era, Africa's prospects are bleaker than ever before". So what's new!
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on 29 July 2007
This is simply the best book to read if you want to understand why Africa is in the mess it is. What I like about this book is the fact that while it goes some way to explain the historical reasons for Africa's continuing woes, it doesn't pull punches in highlighting the abject failure in leadership that has sent the continent backward in time.

My emotional reactions to the book were complex and conflicting ones of profound sadness at the state of my beloved continent and admiration at the exellence of the author. For anyone who has even a passing interest in Africa, this is a must read book.
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VINE VOICEon 28 May 2007
I read through this book in about three days. After about two thirds of the way through, the endless cycle of killing and thievery tends to get a bit numbing. Nevertheless an excellent post-colonial survey of African history. I was lucky to find such an unbiased and informative book. Unfortunately, I am left with a couple of questions that Meredith doesn't ask: wasn't much of Africa better off under colonialism, especially under the sort of colonialism practiced in the post war years? Isn't one reason why South Africa didn't go the way of just about every other African country that the whites held on to power until the waning of Socialist Pan-Africanism?
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