Africa Yearbook Volume 5: Politics, Economy and Society South of the Sahara in 2008

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Africa yearbook volume 5: politics, economy and society South of the Sahara in 2008; edited by Andreas Mehler, Henning Melber, Klaas van Walraven and sub-editor Rolf Hofmeier. Leiden: Brill, 2009. xvi, 520pp. ISBN 978 -90-0417811-3 (pbk), ISSN 1871-2525. Price: EUR 89. US$ 139

"South Africa does not speak for Africa": so said African Union Commission chairperson, Jean Ping, at the G20 summit in Washington (November 2008) of heads of state and government where South Africa was the only African country. He advocated continental representation of Africa in global governance forums such as the G20 (p.33). Another gem statement sought after by journalists is that of Botswana's minister of trade and industry stating his country will not tolerate South Africa's 'Big Brother' behaviour when it differed with its regional partners in SADC and SACU over the signing of an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) (p. 484). And French President Nicolas Sarkozy addressing the South African parliament and in an apparent broadside against past French Africa policy, spoke of the possibility of his country and South Africa having "relations which are exemplary, balanced, transparent and. ..rid of all hang-ups". This was regarded as an attempt to become proactive in Africa policy again, after its 2007 mission to Chad and the Central African Republic, which was often interpreted as a reversion to traditional French policy (p.34).

These telling statements illustrate the usefulness of this yearbook as a quick reference source. Adding to this is the bold highlighting of key terms throughout the book capturing key themes as the reader casts a cursory glance over each page: a sort of quick index for each page.

Africa yearbook is an annual, country-specific study capturing the domestic politics, foreign affairs and socio-economic developments of all the states of sub-Saharan Africa under the year of review. It covers four sub-regions: West Africa (16 countries); Central Africa (8 countries); Eastern Africa (12 countries) and Southern Africa (12 countries).

Each sub-region is introduced by an overview essay and a short article for each country. The length of the country articles is influenced by the relative importance of each state as in the case of South Africa. The focus is on key facts (though not necessarily neutral according to the editors) and a completely fresh annual overview of events. Each has a list of abbreviations, and a 'factual' overview, as at 31 December 2008, of these four regions and its countries. Each country overview is categorised according to Area, Population, Currency, HDI, Head of State and Prime Minister.

An added advantage of this 2008 Africa yearbook as a reference source and positioning Africa in the world is the inclusion of three separate essays. These are Sub-Saharan Africa (Andreas Mehler, Henning Melber and Klaas van Walraven); United Nations and Sub-Saharan Africa (Linnea Bergholm); and African-European Relations (Sven Grimm). Perhaps a future edition will include new major actors on the African scene - China and India.

The Sub-Saharan essay provides an overview of Africa in the global economy, e.g. Sino-Indian competition and Sino-African trade, major cross-border developments and sub-regional organisations and continental developments. It is interesting to note that India faced competition from China in South Africa trade relations, and also from Singapore (p. …