Issues Africa World Afrikaans Leisure General

An excellent, well balanced overview of Africa

Review by Jaco Strauss
The Africans - David Lamb (ISBN: 0394753089) - 26 May 1999

I read this book more than a decade ago and have to agree with the good reviews this book is still getting.

I was at the time pleasantly surprised to find a foreign journalist writing such a balanced account on Africa. When I read the book (in the mid Eighties) South Africa was still very isolated from the rest of Africa. This book gave me a window on Africa north of us and fascinated me. I always judge any media (newspaper, books TV, whatever) on their coverage of that with which I am familiar. If I find that to be well balanced and true, I will trust the rest of the material covering things I might not be familiar with. This book passed with flying colours. For example it pointed out the lunacy of Apartheid, while not hiding the fact that it was the only African country with a well functioning infrastructure, civil service etc

The book is neither left nor right. It gives it as it is. Indeed a very rare talent for a journalist. Lamb for example pointed out the world's hypocrisy regarding South Africa. The country was internationally isolated because of statutory racial discrimination and a lack of democracy. Yet the ethnic cleansing going on all over Africa on a grand scale was (and still is) ignored. There was (and still is) virtually no democracy anywhere, massive corruption, very little human rights etc, etc while nobody batted an eye.

That is tragically still the case. Africa is in bigger chaos than when David Lamb wrote his book, but still nobody seems to be willing to take a tougher stand and condemn African governments for what they are - useless.

He pointed out this *real* racial discrimination. South Africa was not allowed to run an undemocratic outfit because "white people can't behave like that!" Everybody on the other hand seems to expect the rest of Africa to be in chaos - "after all they are only blacks." I found this form of racism very relevant in the way the world interacts with Africa. Very few writers have this insight in where the political correct pseudo liberals lost the plot.

This is why this book is a classic and I still remember most of it, though I read it nearly 15 years ago!

The original review is available here.

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