The Challenge for Africa

Wangari Muta Maathai, Author . Pantheon $25 (319p) ISBN 978-0-307-37740-1

Africa's moral and cultural dysfunctions loom as large as its material problems in this wide-ranging jeremiad. Maathai (Unbowed ), a Kenyan biologist and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for organizing the tree-planting Green Belt Movement, surveys Africa's struggle with poverty and disease, political violence, climate change, the legacy of colonialism and a global economy that's stacked against it. But the deeper problem she sees is the selfishness, opportunism and shortsightedness of Africans themselves, from leaders who exploit their countrymen and loot their nations' resources to poor farmers who ruin the land for short-term gain. Maathai means this as an empowering message aimed at a mindset of dependency that would rather “wait for someone to magically make development happen”; she urges Africans to recover indigenous traditions of community solidarity and self-help, along with the virtues of honesty, fairness and hard work. Maathai shrewdly analyzes the links between environmental degradation and underdevelopment, and floats intriguing proposals, like banning plastic bags as a malaria-abatement measure. But the challenges she addresses are vast and intractable—and sadly, many of the development and environmental initiatives she extols seem to have already fizzled. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/09/2009
Release date: 04/01/2009
Paperback - 319 pages - 978-0-307-39028-8
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-4561-0979-0
Paperback - 319 pages - 978-0-09-953903-2
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