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The Challenge for Africa    by Wangari Maathai order for
Challenge for Africa
by Wangari Maathai
Order:  USA  Can
Anchor, 2010 (2009)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

Activist Wangari Maathai has worked in the trenches to 'break the wall that separates the peoples of Africa from justice, wealth, peace and respect.' Creating the Green Belt Movement to help communities plant trees and so improve their livelihoods and protect their environment, she has seen from firsthand experience how grassroots programs can make a difference in people’s lives.

This experience, coupled with her service with the Kenyan government and participation in numerous international efforts to assist Africa and protect the environment, has not only shaped her worldview but also informed the approaches, examples, analyses, and solutions she sets forth in this book.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate offers a unique perspective on the challenges facing Africans today. In this book she describes what Africans can and need to do for themselves to improve their lives.

Maathai divides her book into five sections. First, she looks at the contemporary face and cultural and historical background of the challenges facing Africa. That is followed by a closer investigation of 'the economic, political, and international context and dimension of these challenges'.

In the sixth and seventh chapters the author discusses the challenge of leadership and good government at the top of society and at the grassroots before she delves into the problematic relationship of ethnic identity to the nation-state in modern Africa.

The closing section investigates both the issue of the 'centrality of the environment to Africa's development challenges and solutions to them' and how individual Africans must deal with and overcome the problems facing the continent.

This forward looking assessment of not only where Africa is but, more importantly, where is must go will interest anyone concerned about the fate of the vast area. From North Africa to the southern tip of the continent, the region is plagued by many problems, but Maathai sees there is a way out of the numerous problems facing its citizens.

'The current (international financial) crisis offers Africa a useful lesson and its greatest challenge: nobody knows the solution to every problem, rather than blindly following the prescriptions of other, Africans need to think and act for themselves, and learn from their mistakes,' she writes. The author then goes on to explain why a collection of 'cohesive macro-nations, where all can feel free, secure, and more at peace with themselves and others' is the way to move Africa towards a better, more productive existence.

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