An unkind thought keeps coming to mind as you read this book: perhaps Henry Ford was right, after all. It is unkind because so much of Guy Arnold’s great opus is admirable. As an account of the main political events that have taken place in Africa since 1960, it is awe-inspiring, some might even say awesome. Arnold’s ability to assemble facts, everywhere from the Cape to Cairo, from Dakar to Djibouti, is as commendable as his clear, jargon-free style. Yet, if his history is not bunk, it is certainly deeply unsatisfying. It contains hardly an original observation and provides no clear answers to the difficult questions about Africa, in particular, ‘What’s wrong with the place and why doesn’t it work?’
It does, to be fair, devote thousands of words to coups, wars, one-party politics, despotism and economic failure, and even subjects like corruption, genocide and the dearth of democracy are tackled.