This highly readable if not always convincing polemic has gained much notoriety in Francophone African circles since its publication. Written in breezy, journalistic style by a long-time Africa hand and the current Africa correspondent for Le Monde, it is an avowedly pessimistic assessment of Africa's economic and political prospects. Although his specific examples come mostly from Francophone West Africa, Smith ranges widely, from Africa's demographic explosion and aids crisis to its ethnic divisions, the rapacity of its leaders, the decay of its states, and the failures of foreign aid. The basic message, repeated every couple of paragraphs, is that Africa has proved incapable of rising to the challenges of modernization and is thus slowly but surely "dying," as Smith's title suggests. Smith is vague about the reasons for this failure, although he alludes to socio-cultural factors.
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