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The Challenge for Africa (2010)

by Wangari Maathai

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1354169,852 (3.65)10
Taking a view far from the dependent Africa typically portrayed by Western media, Maathai lays bare the complex and multi-layered culture of the continent, offering optimistic yet feasible ways to improve the quality of life that literally start from the ground up. Maathai analyzes the major impediments to development at three key levels--international, national, and individual. By stressing personal responsibility, Maathai focuses on what Africans can do for themselves to empower individual change at the community level.… (more)
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A book outlining the difficulties facing the people and countries of Africa, and what can be done to overcome them.

The book's chapters cover topics such as foreign aid and debt, leadership and corruption, loss of traditional cultures, the tension between ethnicity and nationality, and environmental issues. Given the large breadth of topics covered, much of the content consists of broad generalizations, while the solutions offered often seem overly abstract and non-specific. For example: leaders should serve the people rather than seeking to stay in power, citizens need to hold their governments accountable, poor people must take initiative and not wait for foreign aid to save them, and so on. The parts of the book I found most interesting were when the author described specific issues in Kenya and her own work with the Green Belt Movement, rather than speaking in generalities.

Ultimately, I think this book is hampered by its overly-broad scope and lack of focus. While it does provide a rough outline of many of the issues facing Africa in the modern day, it doesn't offer much beyond that. ( )
  gcthomas | Sep 5, 2021 |
Kenya.

Wangari Maathai brings a wealth of knowledge, experience, and evidence to this sweeping critique of colonial and post-colonial policy in Africa. Though she often gives examples from Kenya, she addresses issues from many African nations and micro-nations. I don't agree with all of her arguments and opinions, but some are so persuasively made that I assume I ought to rethink the ones I questioned. I still have a strong impression that she reveals her own tension about how to validate and reclaim African history pre-colonialism. She has plenty to say about what's been problematic about colonial and post-colonial policies and practices, but little critique of pre-colonial life. This creates some over-valorization, but raises the excellent question of how to reclaim a suppressed and forgotten history.
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  OshoOsho | Mar 30, 2013 |
This book was assigned as summer reading for the history department of the school where I work. I think it would make an excellent textbook for a class on modern Africa, however, I do not think it is a good summer reading book for high schoolers. Maathai does a good job of laying out what needs to be done to strengthen Africa and its countries, but many times she is repetitive. While she is certainly an accomplished woman, there is also a bit much of her tooting her horn so to speak.

Several places she has great analogies that fit with her argument and/or topic, but they are front-loaded and the end of the book seems to drag. The last few chapters in particular. I would recommend to anyone who wants a closer look at current African problems and to see how one woman would make changes. ( )
  weejane | Jul 23, 2011 |
Wahgari is an inspiration to women world-wide. She deserves to be the President of Kenya. Her journey has been long and arduous but she never gives up. Thank God for the Wangaris of the world!!! ( )
  AEmberly | Feb 10, 2010 |
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Taking a view far from the dependent Africa typically portrayed by Western media, Maathai lays bare the complex and multi-layered culture of the continent, offering optimistic yet feasible ways to improve the quality of life that literally start from the ground up. Maathai analyzes the major impediments to development at three key levels--international, national, and individual. By stressing personal responsibility, Maathai focuses on what Africans can do for themselves to empower individual change at the community level.

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