Last week while returning a few books to my public library I decided to take a look around the various shelves. Nestled among the books in the Africa section was yet another book from Greenhaven Press’s Opposing Viewpoints Series. Since I’ve had pretty good luck with their books, I thought I’d give Africa: Opposing Viewpoints a try. Since I’m planning on reading a few Africa-related books in the near future, such as Africa’s World War, Dead Aid and No Place to Bury the Dead, (all thanks to Eva at A Striped Armchair) I added Africa: Opposing Viewpoints to my small stack of books and headed to the automated check-out machine. Well, after finishing it last night I concluded that Africa: Opposing Viewpoints does a pretty good job identifying several key issues central to Africa, but overall I thought this particular collection of opinion pieces was merely OK and not stellar.
For those of you who might not know, Greenhaven Press publishes the Opposing Viewpoints Series which include a number of international relations-related editions covering counties like Iran, Pakistan and China. Each book in the series is divided into four chapters, with each chapter addressing a specific question related to an overall subject or area of focus. In turn, each chapter is a collection of pro and con opinion pieces addressing each question. Africa: Opposing Viewpoints contains four chapters which ask the following questions:
- What Are the Most Serious Problems Facing Africa ?
- What Economic Policies Will Benefit Africa ?
- What Is the State of Democracy and Human Rights in Africa ?
- How Can the West Help Bring Peace to Africa ?
Answering those questions are close to 20 opinion pieces drawn from a variety of sources, including publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and The New York Review of Books. There are a number of pieces from various think tanks like the Cato Institute, the Hoover Institute and the Center for Defense Information as well as one piece from the NGO Amnesty International. Lastly, perhaps as a sign of the times, a significant number of pieces come from online sources, (if we continue to move away from print media and towards different electronic forms, we may see more of this in upcoming editions of this series).
Compared to other books in the Opposing Viewpoints series such as China and Iran, Africa: Opposing Viewpoints was, well just OK. While all the featured opinion pieces address important issues, for the most part none of the selected essays stand out as being particularly well-written. Fortunately, William E. Kumuyi essay on the lack of quality African leadership is lively and fresh, and therefore one of the more memorable pieces in this collection.
But this collection of opinion pieces, is what it is: an introductory text for students or other individuals who would like to learn about the many problems facing the countries of Africa. Sometime in 2011 I’d really like to read Dead Aid, Africa’s World War, No Place to Bury the Dead in addition to Blood River. But until I can, perhaps this introductory book will tide me over.