Saturday, February 18, 2012

February 18, 2012 4:30 PM--Book Reviews

Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows that I sometimes recommend movies, but I have yet to recommend any books on this blog.  So I’m changing it up a little.  I have two books I want to recommend.

The first book is Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles by Richard Dowden. 

Many people, when they found out that I was going to Uganda, couldn’t help but say “Idi Amin”.  A lot of people only think of Idi Amin when they think of Uganda.  They don’t even realize that Amin hasn’t ravaged this country in over thirty years.  They saw The Last King of Scotland, and this is all they know.  When I told people I was going to Rwanda for Christmas, most people responded with “Is that safe?”  My response to that was “We’re not living in 1994 anymore”.  All people know about Rwanda is that there was genocide, but many people don’t even know when the genocide started or ended.

This book by Richard Dowden is about Africa.  It is meant for people who have never been and maybe never will go to Africa.  It emphasizes how many people in the western world think they know what Africa is, but, in fact, they have no idea.  All they know is what they see in movies and in the little bit of news that is reported from Africa.

Richard Dowden is a British journalist.  The first two chapters of the book are about Uganda because he was a teacher here for a couple years back in the early 70’s.  After that he spent over thirty years travelling in Africa as a journalist.  He discusses the problems in many different countries and how these countries got this way.

It is a good read and I feel like it explains things about Africa a lot better than I could.  You can read my blog til your face turns blue, but I would suggest reading this book if you want a different perspective on it with a more expansive explanation of Africa as a whole.


Foreign countries donating aid to Africa doesn’t help and it never has helped.  This book takes a very academic look at why aid doesn’t work and discusses alternatives to aid, such as trade, foreign direct investment, capital markets, remittances, micro-finance and savings.

Dambisa Moyo is an African woman who has gotten advanced degrees from the United States and the UK.  She talks about how foreign aid from western countries is more about the western countries than it is about Africa and how the corrupt governments of this continent swallow up aid money and the poor people never see a dime.  She is really focused on fixing this problem.

It is a very good book, but it takes a more academic approach as compared to the first book.  It is more like reading an extensive college paper whereas the first book is more like having a conversation.  However, if you fully want to understand why I think foreign hurts economies such as Uganda, read it (it’s only about 100 pages)!

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