Robert Guest’s ‘The Shackled Continent’

If you’re looking for inspiring stories, Robert Guest’s The Shackled Continent: Africa’s Past, Present, and Future(Pan Books, 2005) is not the book for you. But if you crave some hard-hitting analysis of what ails the Great Continent, here’s an excellent primer.

Robert Guest is a reporter for the British magazine, The Economist. His work has taken him to multiple African nations, giving him an insider’s perspective. As a Brit, to his credit, he refuses to sweep under the carpet the tragic chapter of colonialism, but he equally refuses to let current African leaders off the hook. Just as supporters of President Obama can only blame former President Bush for so long, in the same way, Guest in various ways asks: What has been going on for the last 50 years since the colonial powers left?

Much of the book addresses why Africa remains so poor. On Robert Guest’s estimate, foreign aid is not inherently ineffective, but has merely been misused. If given to responsible African governments – such as tiny Bostwana, a true success story – it can give the downtrodden not a handout, but a hand up. Unfortunately, according to Guest, too many leaders have diverted aid to their own selfish ends.

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