The Challenge for Africa

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 10/19/2010
  • Publisher: Anchor

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Wangari Maathai,Nobel Peace Prize laureate and founder of the Green Belt Movement, offers a refreshingly unique perspective on the challenges facing Africa, even as she calls for a moral revolution among Africans themselves, who, she argues, are culturally deracinated, adrift between worlds. The troubles of Africa today are severe and wide-ranging. Yet what we see of them in the media, more often than not, are tableaux vivantes connoting poverty, dependence, and desperation. Wangari Maathai presents a different vision, informed by her three decades as an environmental activist and campaigner for democracy. She illuminates the complex and dynamic nature of the continent, and offers "hardheaded hope" and "realistic options" for change and improvement. With clarity of expression, Maathai analyzes the most egregious "bottlenecks to development in Africa," occurring at the international, national, and individual levelscultural upheaval and enduring poverty among themand deftly describes what Africans can and need to do for themselves, stressing all the while responsibility and accountability. Impassioned and empathetic,The Challenge for Africais a book of immense importance. From the Hardcover edition.

Author Biography

Wangari Muta Maathai was born in Nyeri, Kenya, in 1940. She is the founder of the Green Belt Movement, which, through networks of rural women, has planted 40 million trees across Kenya since 1977. In 2002, she was elected to Kenya’s Parliament in the first free elections in a generation, and in 2003, she was appointed Deputy Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources, a post she held until 2007, when she left the government. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate of 2004, Matthai has been honored around the world for her work, including a recent  appointment to the Legion d’Honneur by France and the Order of the Rising Sun by Japan. She is the author of two previous books: The Green Belt Movement and Unbowed, a memoir, and she regularly speaks to organizations around the world. Maathai has three grown children and lives and works in Nairobi.

Table of Contents

Introduction: On the Wrong Busp. 3
The Farmer of Yaoundép. 9
A Legacy of Woesp. 25
Pillars of Good Governance: The Three-Legged Stoolp. 48
Aid and the Dependency Syndromep. 63
Deficits: Indebtedness and Unfair Tradep. 83
Leadershipp. 111
Moving the Social Machinep. 129
Culture: The Missing Link?p. 160
The Crisis of National Identityp. 184
Embracing the Micro-nationsp. 211
Land Ownership: Whose Land Is it, Anyway?p. 227
Environment and Developmentp. 239
Saving the Congo Forestsp. 260
The African Familyp. 274
Acknowledgmentsp. 291
Notesp. 293
Select Bibliographyp. 303
Indexp. 305
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.


One The Farmer of Yaoundé

THE CHALLENGES Africa faces today are real and vast. Just as I began work on this book, my own country of Kenya was plunged into a pointless and violent postelection political conflict and humanitarian crisis that claimed more than a thousand lives and left hundreds of thousands homeless. As I write, internecine fighting still wracks the Darfur region of Sudan, Chad, southern Somalia, the Niger Delta, and eastern Congo. Zimbabwe’s most recent election was marred by violence and a failure to tally the vote properly and reach a negotiated political settlement. Meanwhile, a series of violent attacks in South Africa against immigrants from other African countries left more than forty dead and forced tens of thousands to flee from their homes. South Africa, a political and economic beacon in the region, appeared in peril of facing the conflicts many other African nations have experienced.

Drought and floods affect many countries in both western and eastern Africa. Natural resources are still being coveted and extracted by powers outside the region with little regard for the long-term health of the environment or poverty reduction; desertification and deforestation, through logging and slash-and-burn agriculture, are decimating species, water supplies, grazing grounds, and farmland, and contributing to recurring food emergencies. Shifting rainfall patterns, partly as a result of global climate change, directly threaten the livelihoods of the majority of Africans who still rely on the land for their basic needs. At the same time, sub-Saharan African countries are falling short of the benchmarks for health, education, gender equality, and environmental sustainability, which are among the eight Millennium Development Goals agreed on by the United Nations in 2000.

Although poverty rates in Africa have declined over the past decade, they remain stubbornly high. HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis—all preventable diseases—still take too many lives. In sub-Saharan Africa, one in six children dies before his fifth birthday, comprising fully half of the world’s child deaths. Conflicts ravage too many communities as rival groups vie for political and economic power. And the importance of Africans’ cultural heritage to their own sense of themselves still isn’t sufficiently recognized.

Nevertheless, in the half century since most African countries achieved independence and in the nearly two decades since the end of the Cold War, the continent has moved forward in some critical areas of governance and economic development. More African countries have democratic forms of governance, and more Africans are being educated. Debt relief has been granted to a number of African states, and international trade policies are now subject to greater scrutiny to assess their fairness, or lack of it. South Africa has made a successful, and peaceful, transition to full democracy from the time of apartheid. In 2002, Kenya held its first genuinely representative elections in a generation. Decades-long civil wars in Angola and Mozambique have ended. Liberia has emerged from a devastating series of internal and regional conflicts. In 2005, it elected to the presidency Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the first woman to head a modern African state, and the process of reconciliation and reconstruction is under way. Rwanda, a decade and a half after the 1994 genocide, has a growing economy, and Rwandan women constitute almost half of its parliament, the highest percentage in the world.

After decades of dictatorship, instability, and extreme poverty, and a conflict that has claimed upward of five million lives, in 2006 the Democratic Republic of the Congo held elections overseen by the United Nations that were judged largely free and fair. A fragile peace holds between northern and southern Sudan, and efforts continue to bring an end to the civil war in northern Uganda. Since th

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