Eddy Maloka and Elizabeth le Roux
Reviewed by: By Senzo Ngubane
In Conflict Trends Issue 1 of 2002
African development has become the subject of much debate and discourse since the dawn of the new millennium. Much of the discourse has focused on establishing what the critical issues are that face Africa in this new era - what needs to be done to rid Africa of most (if not all) her problems in order to change the status that this continent acquired during the previous century. These seem to be appropriate questions, particularly since the new epoch has been declared an African century! The new millennium is viewed as an opportunity for Africa to enjoy a new lease of life; to advance like all the other continents. This, how- ever, will only be possible once appropriate programmes are put in place. In addition, such programmes could not be conceived without an accurate diagnosis of Africa’s challenges, and its prospects to overcome such challenges.
The book, entitled Africa in the New Millennium: Challenges and Prospects, edited by Eddy Maloka and Elizabeth le Roux, has set itself the task of contributing to this ongoing discourse about Africa. It identifies the socio-economic and political ills in Africa and also proposes possible ways of dealing with such challenges. It is divided into two separate sections; the first one focuses exclusively on Africa’s economic challenges in the face of globalisation and the ever-changing world order; the second section delves into the information and education challenges that face the continent. Part one consists of four chapters, all of which cover a broad spectrum of issues within the sphere of Africa’s economic challenges. For instance, the first chapter (by Hassan O kaya) focuses on the political economy of Africa and what needs to be done in order to unleash Africa’s economic potential. The one exception to this section is the chapter by John Akokpari, which deals with the broad challenges that Africa must deal with in order to reclaim her rightful place in the world. Akokpari mentions issues such as conflict and war; faltering democratisation and instability; and economic crisis and poverty; as part of an exhaustive list of challenges that face the continent.
The second section contains five chapters, which reflect on the complex nature of Africa’s information and educational challenges. The first chapter is written by Kibet A Ng’etich, who exposes the gap between what he calls the ‘information rich West’ and the ‘information poor Africa’ (78). According to Ng’etich, one of the key challenges that faces Africa is how to bridge the gap created by the technological advancements witnessed in the ‘information rich West’. Sulaiman Adebowale’s contribution focuses on civil society and education in Africa. Essentially, the chapter looks at the role that civil society should play in the dissemination of information. It also focuses on how civil society could partake in civic education on the continent. The author perceives the role of civil society as central to transferring knowledge on important issues of governance, such as human rights at various societal levels. The last chapter (by Nkonko Kamwangamalu) focuses on the issue of Africa’s indigenous languages, as well as the African renaissance movement. The author argues from the onset that no other country in the world has ever undertaken its development based on a foreign language (131-132). Consequently, the author boldly asserts that because of the aforementioned statement, there is a need to revive African languages and use them as the medium for learning and teaching. This, according to the author, would ensure that the people are involved in the processes of change in Africa - in essence, the author argues that an African renaissance could take on many different forms. Consequently, language (and the use thereof) has a huge role to play.
The book suffers from some weaknesses, including the fact that the title creates the impression that it covers a broad spectrum of issues. On the contrary, it only focuses on two aspects: Africa’s economic and educational challenges. However, it covers these two aspects well, as such it shows that the road to Africa’s renaissance is not yet cast in stone. Rather, it is going to be a grueling process that requires Africans to uncover and investigate all the issues that could affect the continent’s renaissance movement.