Africa Doesn't Matter: How the West Has Failed the Poorest Continent and What We Can Do About It

In This Review

Africa Doesn't Matter: How the West Has Failed the Poorest Continent and What We Can Do About It

By Giles Bolton
Arcade Pulishing, 2008
360 pp. $26.99
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This highly readable critique of current Western policies toward Africa is authored by a British former aid official, and one of the book's strengths is the number of vivid anecdotes and vignettes with which he illustrates his larger argument. It begins with an overview of African poverty issues before discussing the West's aid and trade policies and how they affect Africa. Bolton's central argument is that the typical African government faces overwhelming challenges given the region's crushing poverty and other liabilities, such as ethnic divisions and civil wars in neighboring countries. As a result, African governments need the help of the West to develop, but Western aid is often ill conceived and ineffectual, and the global trade order is biased against the interests of poor countries. Better policies that would help Africa are not forthcoming because Western citizens are either ignorant of the region or fixated on misguided ideas, such as those of the "anti-globalization left." Bolton's prescriptions? Curiously, despite his fairly devastating criticism of aid, Bolton agrees with current aid-industry recommendations for substantial increases in its flow. He also calls for readers to play a more proactive role as consumers in order to help open up Western markets to African products. The book is designed for a nonspecialist readership, and it takes a pedagogic approach that includes sidebars and jargon-free language.