Student Review: African Development: Making Sense of the Issues and Actors

February 23, 2012

Author: Todd J. Moss

Edition: Second

Publisher: Lynne Rienner

Pages: 285

Price: £21.50

ISBN: 9781588267696

For those approaching the subject for the first time, the vast scope of elements involved in global development can be intimidating. This feeling can be exacerbated by the fact that development practitioners often appear to have their own language, and it is a trend frequently and unhelpfully echoed in textbooks. This book is a refreshing exception, as it not only outlines the main themes, trends and actors in the world of development but also offers an accessible introduction to the language of development. Its three sections cover the basics of African development politics, economics and the huge web of the aid system.

Beginning its discussion before the age of colonialism and the slave trade, the book then focuses on political changes and the effects of war and slavery. It moves through economic changes, humanitarian aid and the big players in the aid system, and ends with the more recent effects of globalisation. Although the analysis is not deep, having the core of all these elements in one book is extremely beneficial for anyone who is just beginning their studies in this field. Useful boxes delve slightly deeper into various elements, from definitions and debates to specific countries’ backgrounds.

Although the development field is fraught with arguments and contested points about what works (if anything), Todd Moss succeeds in giving an unbiased review without getting too bogged down by presenting a plethora of different interpretations.

The book seeks to give a broad background as well as provide students with the tools to investigate particular areas in greater detail. A particularly useful feature is the further reading section at the end of each chapter; instead of merely supplying a dauntingly long list of books, the author gives a short overview of each of his recommendations that serves to outline their focus. This is an informative and invaluable resource for those just becoming acquainted with the subject and a really useful reference list throughout a university course. However, students focused on studying subjects such as gender, the environment or education may be disappointed, as these areas are not addressed.

Overall this book is a worthwhile investment for anyone about to start a degree that incorporates a study of African development. It is clear and informative on a wide range of topics and provides a helpful introduction to many of the more complicated issues and arguments surrounding the subject. Explanations of the “development language” that is now so widespread are also essential for getting the most out of other readings.

Who is it for? Anyone just beginning development or international studies.

Presentation: Clear, short, titled paragraphs, along with useful boxes, graphs and tables.

Would you recommend it? It is vital reading for anyone wishing to understand the main themes, surrounding aid and development.

Highly recommended

International Development and Global Politics: History, Theory and Practice

Author: David Williams

Edition: First

Publisher: Routledge/Taylor & Francis

Pages: 210

Price: £100.00 and £.99

ISBN: 9780415489362 and 9379

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