Africa, a Biography on the Continent by John Reader

An amazingly comprehensive volume that covers many facets of the continent. The book was recommended many years ago to me by my neighbor on a flight to Johannesburg and since then I have made it a point to encourage as many people as I can to read this book.

The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs

This book will allow you to understand in practical terms what needs to be done to eradicate extreme poverty and help nations out of the poverty trap that too many are caught in.

Success stories of development assistance are given and it demonstrates that this assistance will not make anyone in the developed world poorer nor will it create an economic threat.

Not doing something is where the real threat sits and Jeffrey Sachs makes this very clear and writes about it with passion.

When Things Fell Apart by Robert H.Bates

The scope is 46 Sub-Saharan African countries from 1970 to 1995 where Bates looks primarily at Government behavior to explain what happened while at the same time clarifying some of the misconceptions on Ethnicity and Violence, or the significance of the value of Natural resources and state failure.

Control regimes that came about after independence, with the intention to redistribute wealth across African nations,  ended up prioritizing political interests over economic interests, with the ultimate objective to hold on to power thus impoverishing the citizens.

The significance of accountability of Public Revenues becomes paramount and here lies the answer to turn things around at the risk of introducing more political instability, at least temporarily.

Africa Altered States, Ordinary Miracles by Richard Dowden

After reading the first paragraph I immediately remembered my own first impressions arriving in Dakar as a boy with my parents. A good dozen of African countries are explored by eyes of someone who really cares to see. While very personal at times, yet realistic, David gives an insight allowing you to get  a feel for life in Africa. The critical analysis of past and present at the same time puts things in perspective and is a welcome alternative to what usually is offered to the public when in comes to reporting on Africa.

Africa Since 1800 Fifth Edition by Roland Oilver and Anthony Atmore

From precolonial up to the middle of 2003 this book provides  in great detail the history of Africa. While for instance school children in Belgium today still learn that King Leopold II was a philanthropist  because of the donations made to construct Brussels, you can read the untold stories in this book explaining at what cost these donations came about. “In more recent times even the independence ceremonies in the Congo were a disaster where King Baudouin provoked the bitter reply from Patrice Lumumba: Nous ne sommes plus vos singes ( We are no longer your monkeys)”.

Roland Oliver is Professor Emeritus of African History at the University of London and fellow of the British Academy.

Anthony Atmore has worked in education in Africa and taught African History in the UK.

Blood River,  A Journey to Africa’s Broken Heart by Tim Butcher

Tim Butcher, a reporter for the London Telegraph like Henry Morton Stanley back in 1874, wanted to understand Africa and went back where it all started, the Congo. Stanley who mapped the Congo river between 1874 and 1877, after successfully tracking David Livingstone in 1871, got the attention of Leopold II of Belgium. While most European countries were only interested in the coastal areas around the continent, Leopold II saw the opportunity.  Soon after the Congo Free State was announced European leaders met in Berlin and the Scramble for Africa started. Tim not only takes us along on his hazardous journey but at the same time explains  Stanley’s expedition, how the US and Belgium instructed the killing of Patrice Lumumba during the cold war, supported Mobutu taking control  and allowing him to run the country into decay, how Laurent and Joseph Kabila came to power with further consequences for the people of the Congo and exposes numerous outside failing interventions and neglect for human hemorrhage that still takes place today. A must read for everybody who wants to understand more about the complexity of the Congo and the “curse of Africa’s resources” when spotted by the greed of “western civilized and developed nations”.



1 Response to “Recommend reading to better understand Africa”


  1. 1 Donald Thomas
    June 21, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    Love the blog Desi, keep up the good work, hoping to come to visit you soon.

    regards

    Donald


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