My thoughts on this angry battle cry of a Nigerian novella. (I love a battle cry that takes place in the halls of academia… once in a while.)
searing critique of aid to Africa tied to services from the donor country, wrapped up in university faculty intrigue
However, when he arrives he finds the university faculty largely populated by poorly qualified Americans and other ex-pats, hired only because of strings attached to American aid to Kato. Dr. Jungu is unjustly deprived of the promised chairmanship in favor of an American and is made a mere professor. The rest of the book details the intense battle between – on the one side – Jungu and his African colleagues, who seek to improve the education environment and perform research that will help the country, and – on the other side – the American “experts” (and a few African cronies) battling to protect their special interests.
The book is heavy handed, the right and wrong are too stark, and the prose is clumsy.
BUT the story engaged me throughout (except the long account of the dog dying), and many of the critiques ring true. An absurd amount of American foreign aid (much more than most other countries**) is still “tied,” meaning that we “give” to poor countries but only in the form of American goods and services. Lekan Are paints a picture of just how inefficient and counterproductive that can be.
* It’s always a bad idea to move to a fictional country, unless it’s Brigadoon and your true love lives there.