The Challenge for Africa

by Wangari Maathai

In her book, Nobel Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai is on a journey of rediscovering the wealth of Africa; its people and culture, flora and fauna and the challenges of responsible stewardship. Maathai laments that many African countries 'fall short of genuine democracy'. She uses the apt example of the traditional three-legged stool to outline the prerequisites of good governance: respect for what each and every person thinks; respect for the environment; and a general, positive and respectful disposition contributing to a culture of peace.While placing the blame on African leaders who are best placed to effect change and set goals for the future, Maathai acknowledges the problems they face in being fully accountable to the people they represent. She notes a 'reluctance to embrace the concepts of accountability and transparency' in many leaders but points out that 'it is in no one’s interest to have governments threatened by guns, or coups, or civil wars.' Instead she suggests, they should be ‘threatened by votes, cast in free and fair elections. Maathai struggles with the question of the appropriateness of Western goodwill, something which often masks opportunism and a new scramble for African resources. While 'Soviet trawlers off the Angola coast' are busy fishing, Nigeria’s economy has been almost wholly reliant on oil exports. While acknowledging that multinational corporations reap huge benefits, the author also lets us know what became of the Chinese arms destined for Zimbabwe.Ever hopeful, Maathai retraces her own journey of self-discovery and encourages a re-embracing of African-ness and community. With such common ground we can strengthen our identity, she contends, and pass on to future generations something they can hold onto as they take their place on the world stage. This is the beginning of self-determination. While most of what Maathai says has a familiar ring, it is every bit of as relevant today as before. I think the question is one of alternatives. Do they exist? Is there a common sense approach to counter the fear that gives rise to corruption, ethnic tensions and poor governance? Is there an alternative model for the relationship between Africa and the West, one which affirms Africa’s cultural identity and yet enables the equitable sharing of resources? Maathai creates tension as she explores these difficult questions, offering some suggestions, but mainly encouraging a reframing of problems and solutions. I would strongly recommend more people to read this book because it offers a good insight of how Africa could look like if we fixed the damage our present leaders have done by doing the right thing in the future. Maathai gives a good view of where Africa came from, how is it being run and provides us with a wide field of ideas to think and evaluate how the future of our generation is going to look like if we correct the mistakes of our present leaders or if we keep on depending on the Westerners for our survival. This book gives us the knowledge about the future through the history of Africa and begs us to determine whether we are going to be brave and make the difference or let things flow as they have always been flowing.

Evance Henrico

Rating: 5 Recommend