Aug 11 2006

Point of Departure


Most, if not all of what we think and know about Sub-Saharan Africa, is wrong. The region is best studied through documentation and analysis of the normal, the moral and the effective. In short, embrace what works in Africa.

The emphasis on the pathological by media, aid agencies and many scholars and activists is misguided, disheartening and ultimately empty.

The study of Africa south of the Saharan should start with an understanding of what works and why.

The point isn’t to ignore African troubles but o approach African dysfunctionality, stagnation and failure in the context of Africa’s undeniable achievements and endowments. Cannot we at least agree to no longer permit the African pathological to trump all else? There are indeed many people and systems that work in sub-Saharan Africa, and they do so in spite of great handicaps.

Gain an understanding of what works in Africa, then use this understanding to fashion an analysis of what doesn’t work in the region — and how reformers can thrive.

How I apply this “mode of inquiry” to problems and possibilities of contemporary Africa is conveniently illustrated in Hotel Africa: the politics of escape, a collection of 29 essays of mine about politics, economics and development in the sub-Saharan.

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