Richard Dowden is director of the Royal African Society. He spent a decade as Africa Editor of the Independent, and then another decade as Africa Editor of the Economist. He has made three television documentaries on Africa, for the BBC and Channel 4.
Dowden (director, Royal African Soc.) can be forgiven if each of the 18 chapters in his massive tome feels like an abridged version of a larger book; summarizing the history, politics, and people of an entire continent in one volume is a daunting task. Dowden, however, has a wealth of personal experience to qualify him for the job, having first visited Africa as a volunteer teacher in the 1970s and then become a highly regarded Africa-based journalist. Here he attempts to educate readers about Africa's many different nations and to counter the claim that journalists have harmed Africa by publicizing only negative news about it. He alternates chapters each devoted to a particular African nation with chapters on particular issues. Dowden writes in a conversational tone, freely offering up his opinions on controversial topics including politics, foreign investment, the AIDs crisis, and Africa's leadership vacuum. Like other recent works in English on Africa, such as Martin Meredith's The Fate of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence and John Reader's Africa: A Biography of the Continent, this work is essentially subjective; unfortunately, books that describe Africa more objectively at this time are primarily directed at juvenile readers. Despite Dowden's optimistic conclusion, much of what he discusses is deeply tragic and can leave the reader feeling discouraged about Africa's future. Recommended for informed readers; includes an introduction by famed African author Chinua Achebe.-April Younglove, Linfield Coll. Lib.; Portland, OR Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
Times UK "This book is anecdotal, engaging, realistic, and delightfully up-to-date."