By Todd I. Moss.

Reviewed by Peter Lewis.

Africa presents some of the greatest challenges of economic development in the contemporary world. Slow growth, poverty, corruption, debt, and recurring crises have marred the region’s economies for decades. Attempts at reform have often had discouraging results, and the sources of the continent’s malaise — and its prospects for revitalization — are widely contested. Moss elucidates the region’s travails and unpacks the often muddled debates over policy and change.

Treating both political and economic themes with admirable clarity, he walks the reader briskly through Africa’s colonial legacy, the syndrome of personal rule, the economic liabilities of conflict, and the challenges of democratic reform. He examines the puzzle of Africa’s chronically weak economic performance and the controversies over such popular remedies as debt relief, foreign aid, trade, and private-sector growth. The book also discusses regional approaches to development, which seem perennially appealing despite their repeated failures.

Moss provides a thorough and critical but fair-minded treatment in a style that is plainspoken and often witty. He is skeptical but not cynical, and his analysis is driven by a sense of possibility for the continent that will be illuminating for many readers. This is not the last word on Africa’s political and economic dilemmas, but it is an excellent resource for anyone interested in understanding these critical problems.