Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The State of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence” as Want to Read:
The State of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The State of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  5,653 ratings  ·  433 reviews
Providing a sweeping history of post-colonial Africa, Martin Meredith explores why the continent is in such a mess and what, if anything, can be done about it.
Paperback, 752 pages
Published July 1st 2007 by Free Press (first published January 1st 2005)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The State of Africa, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Richp The European imperial powers were all badly damaged by WW2. That was not the only reason, and Kodingo's answer makes many good points.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
4.16  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,653 ratings  ·  433 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Paul Bryant
Sep 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people with strong stomachs
Shelves: africa
Five stars for this plain, urgent, and very comprehensive account of Africa since the colonial powers packed up and left, or were booted out. And as far as I know, this is the only book which covers all of Africa in the last 50 years. But I think readers should be issued with a warning. You have to ask yourselves if you have a strong stomach. Because make no mistake, this is a horror story, and it has left me with a feeling close to despair. Let me give you some examples chosen at random. From p ...more
Craig Werner
Jan 31, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa
The problems with this book begin with the second word of the title, recur in the subtitle and never diminish until Meredith limps home with a final paragraph attributing the problems of what he might as well just call "the dark continent" to the personal failures of Africa's leaders and elites. I'll detail these criticisms in a moment, but first I want to identify the book's fundamental failure: it gives no attention to *Africans* as anything other than a faceless mass; to make matters worse, h ...more
May 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History junkies and everyone with an interest in Africa
There are history books written by historians, and there are history books written by journalists. Martin Meredith is first and foremost a journalist, and this book focuses on telling stories and bringing the expansive personalities of African big men to the fore. Yet Meredith doesn't skimp on the statistics and the "hard facts," although I do wish he had a few more citations. And many of the standard criticisms of history can be leveled against this work: it tells the story of the elite, and co ...more
Martin Budd
Jan 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I consider myself a fairly cynical grounded middle aged adult male. Born into a mining community, started my working life in a tough factory as a fork truck driver. But reading this book made me feel weak,impotent and utterly helpless in the face of the litany of misery, murder and mayhem that has been the lot of the continent of Africa over the last 50 years.I cannot even begin to imagine how the living hell of so many African people can be made easier - nothing seems to work.

The book itself is
Dec 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: war-works, history
A history of the fifty years of independent Africa was never going to be a pretty read but I have to say it was traumatic in the extreme. Meredith is an incredibly well informed and articulate writer who dissects and analyses the debacle of the descent of a whole continent into misery and terror.

The initial hope-filled rush to Independence was swiftly tripped up by incompetence and inexperience, the fault of which has to be laid heavily at the feet of the ex-colonial powers of Europe, but the k
Justin Evans
Mar 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history-etc
From now on, when I'm trying to explain to someone what 'irony' does not mean, I'll use this example: while I was on a plane between LA and Phillie, the entire world was watching a half hour documentary about a repulsive lunatic, and being encouraged to start a war in Uganda (i.e., the wrong country) in order to 'bring him to justice.' I finished this book just as we landed (I'd started it before I flew; it's very, very long), checked my email, and... you can guess the rest. That is not irony. I ...more
Dec 31, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I went into this knowing little about Africa's history, whether before or after independence; now I have a better idea about the political events that followed the latter. The author, Martin Meredith, focuses on this angle more than any other. Focusing on one state at a time, he establishes the conditions of the state on the eve of independence, then describes the action of the leaders that took power and the subsequent consequences. Given that nearly every leader took full control of executive ...more
Long and sobering history of tragedies. The evil people can do to each other is revealed fully here. The scope of the work is also very impressive, as I'm not sure there are too many other works which even attempt to go on this scale while are intended for the general public.
Vicky Hunt
'Like Laying Down a Track in Front of an Oncoming Express'

The Fate of Africa is a monumental survey of Africa's modern post-colonial history. It reads like a political play-by-play of the rise and fall of a series of African leaders presented chronologically in loose 'generations.' But, the reader will not lose sight of the fact that this work is a textbook level presentation of the continent's current state of affairs. And, it is huge, both in size and impact.

To clarify up front the reason for
Michael Perkins
I read this book in 2005 when it first came out. It fits all the stereotypes of how Africa (treated as one big country, not a diverse continent) is falsely written about. Kenyan writer and intellectual, Binyavanga Wainaina, calls out the stereotypes in this article.....

The unspoken thesis of "The Fate of Africa" is that post-colonial Africa (all lumped together) is a failure. Africa's "Big Men" have taken over and old tribal conflicts have emerged, wreakin
Dec 18, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A great history reference but gets stuck on the narrative of Africa being so victimized that it neglects the hope somewhere in there and intentionally or not, seems to throw its hands up in surrender. And maybe that's part of the point of the book, but I refuse to believe that an entire continent and its people are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the colonists and corrupt governments over and over again. It's likely unfair of me to judge it based on that since the author specifically points out ...more
Nelly Thoithi
Jun 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
For the most part, I thought this was an excellent book. A comprehensive account of 50 years post-independence for an entire (extremely diverse) continent. Meredith is a story teller and links various events across the continent in a way that makes one have several Eureka moments while reading as he provides sufficient context with his facts.

My criticism of him would be his Afropessimism, for lack of a better word. There’s no denying Africa has been more than “blessed” with greedy, corrupt, sel
Kevin Keating
Dec 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
This is a very large book and goes over the history of many African countries since independence in the 50's and 60's. Very depressing. Bottom line is that corruption has quickly taken hold of almost all of the new nations (and S. Africa and Rhodesia after white rule was ended) and robbed the people of any chance to succeed in the world. The story is repeated ad nauseum. "Big Men" take over, drag their cronies with them, loot the economy and send profits to personal overseas bank accounts, all t ...more
Sep 03, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The author tries to argue that colonialism in Africa ended sooner than it should have. It neglects two facts one that colonialism should not have happened in the first place because it short circuited the development process that was already taking place albeit at a slow pace. Secondly he glosses over the atrocities of colonialism, the looting of African wealth, the beheadings, mental colonialism and social disintegration. He then presents the mistakes of post colonial African governments as a f ...more
Mikey B.
A Very Powerful Book

This is a history of Africa since the end of the colonial era. The author does not tread lightly on Africa's rulers' since that time. The level of brutality and corruption is exposed and elucidated relentlessly. Crimes against humanity are so common that one wonders why the cycle is so self-perpetuating. Although statistics and trends are analyzed the main focus is primarily on the personalities - history is made by people.

Chapters are well sectioned and the writing is very
Aug 25, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book covers African states from independence to the present in a fairly straightforward narrative. Political instability is stressed to the point that a more appropriate title might be "What Went Wrong in Africa". The story is told in a generally matter-of-fact, journalistic style and concentrates on failed states. By concentrating on the coups and dictatorships the book leaves out important and possibly revealing counter-examples. Botswana, for example, enjoyed decades of stable democracy ...more
Dylan Groves
Oct 03, 2013 rated it liked it
puzzle: why is it called the state of africa in britain and the fate of africa in the united states?

a totally fine run through of major developments in african politics since independence. because it is mostly a narrative of the proximate causes of political events (X dude overthrew X dude), it privileges leadership-focused explanations.

its long but I kind of wish it was a bit longer.

three takeaways:

1 - its difficult to distinguish between poor leadership (incompetence, incapacity) and malicious
Chris Barry
May 11, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A pitifully biased synopsis. Reading this was likened to a government social worker scolding its recipient. It troubles me that Mr. Meredith summarizes this continent so bleakly. I wonder if he would recommend re colonization as a solution. The real issue here is not how corrupt some of these governments have been, but why has corruption been so profitable. It is easy to conclude failure when that is what the money giver expects. I implore those reading this to also look into the developments an ...more
Jan 09, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ebookwormy1 by: Melissa Fey Greene, "There is no Me without You" Bibliography
Meredith's journalistic style makes his excellent historical account more readable, even if his subject matter is extremely difficult to digest. Other books may provide more detail, but this is the only book I've found that gives insightful overviews into what has happened across countries in Africa. I would like to own a copy myself to use as a reference for future consultation. After reading the entire work cover to cover, I had to ruminate on it a bit before I was able to pull together these ...more
Susan Stuber
Jan 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
I am amazed at how Meredith was able to put this book together in a way that made it half-way readable, taking into account all the different countries involved. What a task! But he does an admirable job, incredible research, and if some parts the reader finds too detailed, well he can skip that and go on. Generally speaking, it is a pretty sobering read. There was so much energy and hope evolving when the African countries, one after another, gained their independence, but the great majority of ...more
Melhim Bou Alwan
Masterpiece. A very sad and thorough journey through Africa. It took me months to read as the enormity of the events that happened is hard to digest swiftly.
Frank Stein
Aug 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A shockingly comprehensive, well-written, and insightful look at Africa over the past 50-odd years. The author somehow succeeds in covering just about every African country's history while keeping a general narrative of Africa and its troubles always in sight. And this IS overwhelmingly a story of Africa's troubles. Although he notes the many advancements made by the continent, especially the fall of white regimes in Rhodesia, Angola, Mozambique, and, finally, South Africa, and the moderate rise ...more
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The state of Africa’ by Martin Meredith is a sweeping 700 pages excellent tome covering the 50-60 years of post WWII history of Africa till early 2000s and commentary on the landscape and issues that nations in this continent are grappling with.

Thus it capturing last leg of the colonial phase, struggles of independence, problems with low administrative capacity or infrastructure and democracy experiments, endemic corruption and its impact, national resources dividend/curse dilemma, issues of co
Antonio Nunez
Sep 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Meredith's Fate of Africa is a superb book that successfully delivers on the great expectations it builds up. It tells the story of all or most African countries since the struggle to end colonialism started in the 1950s. Most colonial nations had not intended to leave Africa and therefore did not prepare Africans to take over. Although some leaders were intelligent and well prepared (like Côte D'Ivoire's Houphouet-Boigny or Nyasaland's Hastings Banda) most where low level military personnel (li ...more
Tim Martin
Aug 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
_The Fate of Africa_ by Martin Meredith is a impressively through (688 pages) and yet highly readable account of the history of Africa - all of Africa, including North Africa - since independence, beginning (after a good introductory chapter on general African history) with the independence of the Gold Coast (becoming Ghana) in 1957 all the way up until events in the mid 2000s, including such issues as the genocide in Rwanda and Burundi, the civil wars in Liberia and Angola, the collapse of Jose ...more
Oct 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent crash course on African history. I was sceptical at first - even considering the considerable length of the book - 700 pages - it seemed impossible to cover the whole continent in one book. Nevertheless, instead of trotting through each country one by one, the author managed to logically link the events in different countries, draw parallels and point out differences. This made it much easier to see the bigger picture.

What I did miss though was the story of Botswana - despite brief re
May 13, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
A truly depressing read, very hard to get through. It presents an unreletingly miserable and bleak account of how poorly Africa has fared since independence. Positive examples, if there are any, are not covered in this book. Neither does it give much hope for improvement.
The author sums it up as follows: "Indeed, far from being able to provide aid and protection to their citizens, African governments and the vampire-like politicians who run them are regarded by the populations they rule as yet a
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This book is frustratingly short-sighted on analysis. Meredith goes all in on proximate cause, focusing almost exclusively on dictatorship and corruption within the first generations of African leaders following 20th century independence. The majority of the book describes what happened and lovingly details atrocities committed by despotic African regimes and paramilitaries. Only in the last, very short chapter do we get to the why, with major amnesia around the oppression, disenfranchisement, a ...more
May 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
Very superficial book. For the countries I know well, it has no more than some anecdotal value. I imagine that for the other countries it is not much better. Abandoned mid-way.
Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
What do you get when a journalist writes an historical overview about a complex and diverse continent? You get sensationalism, still Martin Meredith leaves me with a mixed feeling. On the one hand I was irritated the way he deliberately and skillfully subtle left out parts of modern African history to suit his story (to bad for him I got on quite quickly) while at the same time he managed to have detailed and nuanced reports on other aspects of African history to an extent I had not thought poss ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Africa: A Biography of the Continent
  • Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles
  • Africa's World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe
  • The Scramble for Africa: The White Man's Conquest of the Dark Continent from 1876 to 1912
  • A Continent for the Taking: The Tragedy and Hope of Africa
  • In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz: Living on the Brink of Disaster in Mobutu's Congo
  • Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa
  • Tropical Gangsters: One Man's Experience with Development and Decadence in Deepest Africa
  • The Challenge for Africa
  • The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe
  • Histories of the Hanged: The Dirty War in Kenya and the End of Empire
  • Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya
  • The Zanzibar Chest
  • Untapped: The Scramble for Africa's Oil
  • Dinner With Mugabe: The Untold Story Of A Freedom Fighter Who Became A Tyrant
  • The Wonga Coup: Guns, Thugs and a Ruthless Determination to Create Mayhem in an Oil-Rich Corner of Africa
  • This House Has Fallen: Nigeria In Crisis
  • The Africans
See similar books…
Martin Meredith is a historian, journalist and biographer, and author of many acclaimed books on Africa.

Meredith first worked as a foreign correspondent in Africa for the Observer and Sunday Times, then as a research fellow at St Antony’s College, Oxford. Residing near Oxford, he is now an independent commentator and author.

Meredith’s writing has been described as authoritative and well-documented
“Belgian officials concluded that 'the Hutu-Tutsi question posed an undeniable problem' and proposed that official usage of the terms 'Hutu' and 'Tutsi' - on identity cards, for example - should be abolished. The Hutu, however, rejected the proposal, wanting to retain their identifiable majority; abolition of the identity cards would prevent 'the statistical law from establishing the reality of facts'. The idea gained ground that majority rule meant Hutu rule.” 2 likes
“Moi, moreover, made full use of his control of government machinery to obtain funds, harass the opposition and manipulate the results. The delimitation of constituencies was skewed heavily to favour Kanu strongholds in the North Eastern, Rift Valley and Coast provinces. The number of voters needed to return a single seat in opposition strongholds in some cases was four times higher than in Kanu strongholds. Whereas the North Eastern province, with 1.79 per cent of the electorate, had ten seats, Nairobi province with 8.53 per cent had only eight seats; whereas Coast province with 8.37 per cent of the electorate had twenty seats, Central province with 15.51 per cent had only twenty-five seats. The average size of a secure Kanu constituency was only 28,350 voters, while seats in opposition areas were on average 84 per cent larger with 52,169 voters. The registration process was also manipulated. The government cut short the period allowed for voter registration and delayed the issuing of identity cards needed by young potential voters, effectively disenfranchising at least 1 million people. Opposition areas were under-registered. The highest figures for registration were in the Rift Valley. The independence of the Electoral Commission was also suspect. The man Moi appointed to head it was a former judge who had been declared bankrupt two years previously and removed from the bench for improper conduct.” 1 likes
More quotes…