Breaking Rules and Making Change in Modern Africa
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In her debut book, Nigerian-American journalist Olopade finds qualified cause for optimism about Africa’s future.

Distinguishing “lean” from “fat” economies, the author, a Knight Law and Media Scholar at Yale, observes that Africa is perhaps uniquely well-prepared for a future marked by scarcity. In a time when global food needs are expected to rise by 70 percent by 2050, “African agriculture holds an obvious value proposition for the rest of the world—one that defeats local poverty and hunger at once.” In other words, making of Africa a world breadbasket will both enrich the continent and keep people from starving. Yet, as she notes, there are numerous structural impediments to effecting this green revolution, not least the lack of irrigated farmland and of the technology needed for irrigation, to say nothing of larger problems such as inefficiency and corruption. African nations, she argues, can overcome these difficulties. For example, she cites the case of the region of Somalia known as Somaliland, which, against all the odds, has in the last two decades “held four peaceful rounds of elections, established a central bank, printed its own currency, and built an elaborate security apparatus.” Announcing a distaste for the word “development,” Olopade writes persuasively of the need for Western-style aid that is adapted to local customs and institutions, allowing for a mix of traditional and modern, market-based solutions to address challenges such as the lack of credit and the uneven distribution of resources. For all those challenges, she argues, the various “maps” of Africa—technological, commercial, agricultural, natural—all point to a wealth of possibilities to help “build wealth, strengthen formal institutions, and aid the least fortunate.”

A refreshingly hopeful argument, well-grounded in data and observation—of considerable interest to students of geopolitics, demographics and economic trends.

Pub Date: March 4th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-547-67831-3
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2014


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