- Africa Yearbook: politics, economy and society south of the Sahara in 2011 ed. by Andreas Mehler, Henning Melber and Klaas van Walraven
The Africa Yearbook series was launched in 2005 and has since offered a consistently excellent annual overview of the political, economic and social challenges affecting each of almost 50 sub-Saharan African countries. National summary reports on elections, human rights, political (in)security, domestic and foreign affairs, environmental issues, as well as factors affecting economic growth and development provide readers with detailed updates on key indicators, significant events and overall trends.
Editors of this resource have now published Volume Eight for 2011, a year that was notable both for the inauguration of South Sudan as a new independent state and for the political revolutions in the north of the continent, comprising the ‘Arab Spring’. Although northern nations remain outside the focus of the Yearbook series, political change in Egypt, Tunisia and especially Libya frame much of the discussion concerning regional and global relations. The collapse of Khadafi’s power, along with violence in Côte d’Ivoire stemming from contestation of presidential elections, created political and economic insecurity in West Africa, particularly for Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso. Nigerian oil, while benefiting from the higher prices resulting from disruptions to Libyan production in this year, saw the growing influence of the Boko Haram complex. Continued regional strife around a split Sudan and Somalia, as well as military intervention by NATO powers, highlighted the weaknesses of the African Union, a body seemingly trapped in shows of pan-African unity, in budget challenges and with little capacity to win a stronger and more credible relationship with the United [End Page 136] Nations and the International Criminal Courts.
Reflection on these events and others appear in the introductory essays and regional overviews for Africa Yearbook 8, providing a larger context in which to read individual country reports. These reports range between four and ten pages each, and are grouped into four regions, offering readers both factual detail and analysis at a glance. As usual, content is based on academic and critical scholarship, written by regional specialists for professionals working in the fields of development, journalism, politics and business, as well as for students and teachers. Key words and phrases have been highlighted to provide readers a means of sharpening their search for specific information. For what this series sets out to achieve —to record the critical challenges affecting African nations which consistently place them at the bottom of the HDI rankings— there is no better handbook available. Yet it is a depressing and pessimistic picture that is found here, and one hopes that users of this text will also recognise its limitations and avail themselves of the excellent social history and cultural literature that can both contextualise and problematise this perspective. The social worlds in and around sub-Saharan Africa are multiple and complex. [End Page 137]
Thembisa Waetjen is a Senior Lecturer in History, School of Social Sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.