The New York Times' recent man in Africa, Howard French, has come out with a memoir, A Continent for the Taking. Allafrica.com reviews the book positively, saying that it balances harsh realities with hope, and criticism of Western involvement with a recognition that African governments must do more for their people:
French's book does feature massacres, illness, violent elections and other African cliches in significant volume. But unlike many of those who have written comparable volumes, he has made common cause with Africa's people, rather than seeing them, from afar, as unfortunate victims.
In what now seems like another time, Frantz Fanon, Walter Rodney and similar voices dominated the discourse on Africa with their uncompromising message about who was responsible for Africa's predicament. French is certainly in their camp. But I think he would also endorse a new mantra that is as important for these times as was the challenge to colonialism in theirs.
Africa's most impressive thinkers today argue that Africans have to take responsibility for our own experience and, above all, that we are up to that task. Such a self-confident approach implies an ability to own one's faults rather than blaming others.
The new determination in Africa to bring change to the continent is not contradicted by French's conviction that the international community can serve Africa better. On the contrary, the possibility that the two views may combine should give readers new hope for the future.