The Shackled Continent: Africa's Past, Present and Future by Robert Guest - review by Christopher Ondaatje

Christopher Ondaatje

Developing the Dark Continent

The Shackled Continent: Africa's Past, Present and Future


Macmillan 280pp £20 order from our bookshop

ANYONE WHO WANTS to be reminded of the horrors of Africa, economic or otherwise, will be interested to read this intelligent but light treatise by Robert Guest, the Africa editor of The Economist. In The Shackled Continent he sets out to explain, as the jacket blurb neatly states, why 'Africa is the only continent to have grown poorer over the last three decades'. In order to do so, he must answer a number of subsidiary questions: 'Why are so many African nations at war? Why has Aids affected Africa so much more than any other region? . . . Why are so many African governments corrupt, inept and despotic? Why has foreign aid proved such a failure?'

How poor is Africa? 'The numbers are staggering: half of sub-Saharan Mica's 600 million people live on just 65 cents a day. . .. The median African country has a gross domestic product of only $2 billion - roughly the output of a small town in Europe; . . .

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