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

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  5,315 ratings  ·  418 reviews
"The fortunes of Africa have changed dramatically in the fifty years since the independence era began. As Europe's colonial powers withdrew, dozens of new states were launched amid much jubilation and to the world's applause. African leaders stepped forward with energy and enthusiasm to tackle the problems of development and nation-building, boldly proclaiming their hopes ...more
Paperback, 752 pages
Published June 27th 2006 by PublicAffairs (first published January 1st 2005)
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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.

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Paul Bryant
Sep 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, war-works
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Mar 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
Nelly Thoithi
Jun 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 25, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Dec 18, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Dylan Groves
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
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
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
Frank Stein
Aug 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 03, 2014 rated it did not like it
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
Antonio Nunez
Sep 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
_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
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
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
Oct 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book could be retitled "The Big Book of A-holes and Those Who Help Keep Them in Power." A well-researched but not technical overview of the state of Africa since independence, the book recites a litany of leaders drunk with personal power and obsessed with satisfying their endless greed while eliminating those who would oppose them and leaving their people in perpetual misery. But it's also a story of western countries, including the US, who insist on overlooking these atrocities as they ru ...more
Nov 29, 2015 rated it liked it
This is a difficult work to review. Meredith sets out to review the history of the entire continent since independence, which is not a simple task. However, the way he chooses to eat this elephant is by resorting to a great leader narrative lens.

I think this achieves the objective of the book (hence the three star review), which I think is just to explain how things got the way they are politically and macroeconomically. But a consequence is that I, the reader, am left with the sense that Afric
Jun 23, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This book is first and foremost about the (male) leaders in several African states. Personally I would have hoped this to be more about the general history of those states. And I don't think you should ignore women, when you write about African history. Or any history for that matter. Even if those women were in many states forced far from power and political decisions, it is still rather boring to read yet again a history book where 50% of the population is mostly ignored.

Still, even 700 pages
Apr 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"Oh God! Please just leave me alone, with my toaster and my TV! Please!!!"

Those lines from Sydney Lumet's film Network began wringing in my ears half way through this incredible book.

It's all so terribly unrelenting, all the suffering and calamity and plundering. It never ever stops and with the exception of poor little Leopold Sengor and kindly but confused old Julius Nyerere, the leaders themselves are all so mercilessly insane, so thuggish. To mention nothing of the shameful shysters represe
Marte Patel
Dec 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An important, well-written and well-edited overview of fifty years of African history, starting with the independence processes in the 1960s. The last paragraph of the book sums it up better than I can:

"The same lament applies throughout Africa. Time and again, its potential for economic development has been disrupted by the predatory politics of ruling elites seeking personal gain, often precipitating violence for their own ends. 'The problem is not so much that development has failed,' observe
Broad and sweeping in scope, this is an excellent general history of Africa from 1950-about 2004, but it suffers from two problems, one of which that can't really be helped:

1) Now that it's the end of 2014, the book is a bit dated.

2) In order for the book to be a somewhat-reasonable size, Martin focused on some of the most important and crucial events. This means that places like the DRC, South Africa, Algeria, and Nigeria get significant coverage, but others - like Benin, Togo, Swaziland, and t
Les Dangerfield
Jan 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent survey of African history from independence from the 1950s onwards to 2011. Unfortunately the dominant and common theme across almost the entire continent has been the greed and corruption of megalomaniac dictators who have stopped at nothing to retain power, who have bled their countries dry for their own ends and who have commonly taken actions leading directly to the deaths of tens if not hundreds of thousands of their fellow citizens in reigns of terror aimed wholly at their per ...more
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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
“In reality, Kabila was no more than a petty tyrant propelled to prominence by accident. Secretive and paranoid, he had no political programme, no strategic vision and no experience of running a government. He refused to engage with established opposition groups or with civic organisations and banned political parties. Lacking a political organisation of his own, he surrounded himself with friends and family members and relied heavily for support and protection on Rwanda and Banyamulenge. Two key ministries were awarded to cousins; the new chief of staff of the army, James Kabarebe, was a Rwandan Tutsi who had grown up in Uganda; the deputy chief of staff and commander of land forces was his 26-year-old son, Joseph; the national police chief was a brother-in-law. Whereas Mobutu had packed his administration with supporters from his home province of Équateur, Kabila handed out key positions in government, the armed forces, security services and public companies to fellow Swahili-speaking Katangese, notably members of the Lubakat group of northern Katanga, his father’s tribe.” 0 likes
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