A Continent for the Taking: The Tragedy and Hope of Africa

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9780375414619: A Continent for the Taking: The Tragedy and Hope of Africa
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Africa first captivated New York Times journalist Howard W. French more than twenty-five years ago, but his knowledge of and passion for the continent has the depth of a lifetime association. His experiences there awakened him as nothing before to the selfishness and shortsightedness of the rich, the suffering and dignity of the poor and the uses and abuses of power. And in this powerfully written, profoundly felt book, he gives us an unstinting account of the disastrous consequences of the fateful, centuries-old encounter between Africa and the West.

French delineates the betrayal and greed of the West–often aided and abetted by Africa’s own leaders–that have given rise to the increasing exploitation of Africa’s natural resources and its human beings. Coarse self-interest and outright greed once generated a need for the continent’s rubber, cotton, gold and diamonds, not to mention slaves; now the attractions include offshore oil reserves and minerals like coltan, which powers cellular phones.

He takes us inside Nigeria, Liberia, Mali and the Congo, examining with unusual insight the legacy of colonization in the lives of contemporary Africans. He looks at the tragedies of the AIDS epidemic, the Ebola outbreak and the genocide that resulted in millions of deaths in Rwanda and the Congo. He makes clear the systematic failure of Western political leaders–the nurturers of tyrants such as Mobuto Sese Seko and Laurent Kabila, whose stories are told here in full detail–and the brutal excesses of the CIA.

In helping us to better understand the continent, and indeed Africans themselves, French helps us see as well the hope and possibility that lie in the myriad cultural strengths of Africa.

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From the Back Cover:

A Continent for the Taking” is a compelling, passionate book richly informed by history and politics. It is also a moral book, an angry book by a writer who is outraged by how the west and, particularly, the United States has dealt with Africa to serve its own convenience. Never in the history of the world have so few done so much to destroy so many. French's book finally is the story of a man who loves the people and their customs—a grown-up view of Africa by a black man who is neither estranged from the place nor romantically seeking home.”
—Gerald Early
"A brilliant and nuanced meditation on the complexities of contemporary Africa. Essential reading for those of us who love Africa and for all those who wish to gain a fuller understanding of a continent that is sprawling, mysterious, and endlessly fascinating. Howard French's voice is both fresh and enlightening."
—Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

About the Author:

Howard W. French is a senior writer for the New York Times. After teaching at the University of Ivory Coast in the early 1980s, he began his journalism career writing about Africa for the Washington Post, Africa News, The Economist and numerous other publications. Since 1986, he has reported for the Times from Central America, the Caribbean, West and Central Africa, Japan, Korea and now China. In 1997, his coverage of the fall of Mobuto Sese Seko won the Overseas Press Club of America’s award for best newspaper interpretation of foreign affairs. French was born in Washington, D.C., and now lives in Shanghai with his wife and their two children.

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