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THE STATE OF AFRICA: A HISTORY OF FIFTY YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE by Martin Meredith The Free Press, 20 [pounds sterling], pp. 752, ISBN 0743232216 [telephone] 18 [pounds sterling] (plus 2.25 [pounds sterling] p&p) 0870 800 4848
Martin Meredith ended his 1984 book on Africa, The First Dance of Freedom, with a quote from a recent report by the Economic Commission for Africa which looked ahead to the continent's future over the next 25 years. On existing trends, it predicted, poverty in rural areas would reach 'unimaginable dimensions', while the towns would suffer increasingly from crime and destitution. 'The picture that emerges is almost a nightmare.'
Africa has not disappointed Meredith. Twenty years on he is able to conclude this volume on the cheerful note that 'African governments and the vampire-like politicians who run them are regarded by the populations they rule as yet another burden they have to bear in the struggle for survival'.
This conclusion somewhat contradicts the quotation from Pliny on the title page: 'Ex Africa semper aliquid …