The Bright Continent: Breaking Rules and Making Change in Modern Africa

In This Review

The Bright Continent: Breaking Rules and Making Change in Modern Africa
By Dayo Olopade
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014
288 pp. $26.00

In her sunny tour of contemporary sub-Saharan Africa, Olopade does not deny the existence of the region’s ills so much as selectively focus on the positive contributions of individuals and grass-roots civic organizations. In her telling, kanju, a Yoruba term that broadly suggests resilience and ingenuity, will help Africans overcome poor governance and material scarcity. The book profiles creative entrepreneurs who have improved people’s lives or who have forced governments to act more positively; these stories include fascinating details and make the book an excellent introduction to contemporary sub-Saharan African society and the region’s economy. Olopade’s optimism is refreshing, especially because she does not oversell her arguments and never peddles fashionable magic bullets to solve the region’s problems. The more policy-oriented reader will nonetheless be disappointed that few prescriptions emerge from her analysis and will wonder whether kanju is more a palliative for the region’s shortcomings than a solution to them.

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