The final "chapter" of African Chronicles is an Epilogue that tries to respond to the compelling question that runs through the whole narrative: What happened to the bright prospects, the great expectations, of Africa in the 1960s?
Virtually all those who have looked into this question have discovered a strange and unexpected congruence: the heart-rending demise of Africa’s bright prospects and the extra-ordinary growth of the global aid business. You would think that these would be incompatible phenomena. Yet the coming together – the development – across the entire continent of Africa of increased poverty, on one hand, and a multi-billion dollar aid industry, on the other hand, can hardly be a coincidence.The question is more than compelling. For the research is brutal. It is like the forensic probing of a wounded powerful body too resilient and too beautiful to die.
For that reason, I put the question this way: Who murdered Africa’s bright prospects? Where, when, why and how was it done? That question drives and animates the entire memoir, making it – to the best of my ability to thing, to write and to love – a narrative of understanding.
In every country Louanne and I witnessed kindness up close, at a personal level, and cruelty from a distance – often delivered from above – delivered by those in power. Cruelty was a tool of the most powerful and, because of that, every society was conflicted, complicated and far from innocent.
Yet – as you will see in what I have written – in our experience, kindness and courtesy far outweighed cruelty in almost every personal transaction we had with Africans. Thus whatever your previous experience of Africa, I believe you will enjoy the book and find it a positive – and, I believe, an uplifting – experience.
I am interested in initiating a conversation around the question posed by the memoir: What happened to Africa’s bright prospects? It's a question that I wish to pursue more deeply and more thoroughly in my next book, a sequel to African Chronicles. Many of you who read this blog will have your own experience of Africa or of international development, either at first hand, up close and personal, or vicariously, from a distance, from books, from various media or from the experience of others – or both. Whatever the case, I invite you to respond to this question, drawing upon your own experience and insights.
Burris Devanney is a Canadian educator, development worker