Richard Dowden is perhaps our leading journalist of African affairs. Since first arriving in Idi Amin's Uganda in 1971 he has never stopped learning about and reporting on real Africans and the realities of life in Africa's many and varied lands. Like many young Westerners, he first went to Africa to 'save' it, but he stayed to learn from it. Africans taught him how to laugh and dance, how to tease but not command, how not to expect the truth and never to blurt it out, how to avoid danger, and how to be patient. Very, very patient. Such patience has served Dowden well, for he returns now from his decades-long journey among Africans with a report on their various ways and dreams, their priorities and pressures, that is far more revealing about the past, present and future of this fascinating and bewildering continent than any number of war stories or economic reports. Dowden combines a novelist's gift for atmosphere with the unblinking scholar's grasp of historical change to produce one of the most compelling and revealing accounts of modern sub-Saharan Africa yet.
His experiences there required him to re-evaluate all he had been taught to believe, his landmark book enables its readers to see and understand this miraculous continent in a new light too.
RICHARD DOWDEN is director of the Royal African Society. Dowden spent a decade as Africa Editor of the Independent, and then another decade as Africa Editor of The Economist. Few writing in English now have had more experience of life as it is lived in a wider variety of African communities. He has made three television documentaries on Africa, for the BBC and Channel 4.