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February 27 , 2011

The Rift

A New Africa Breaks Free


Alex Perry's lyrical exploration of the new Africa reveals the continent at a time of extraordinary change.

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“The only reason I can write about any of this - how cocaine smuggling is ruining an area of Africa the size of Western Europe – is because I have agreed to identify almost no one who spoke to me.” In Cocaine Highway, Alex Perry lifts the lid on a problem few are willing to talk about: direct connections between the recreational drug habits of the…

Taking the Great Rift Valley - the geological fault that will eventually tear Africa in two - as his central metaphor, Perry explores the split between a resurgent Africa and a world at odds with its rise. Africa has long been misunderstood - and abused - by outsiders. Perry travelled the continent for most of a decade, meeting with entrepreneurs and warlords, professors and cocaine smugglers, presidents and jihadis, among many others.

Opening with a devastating investigation into a largely unreported war crime in Somalia in 2011, he finds Africa at a moment of furious self-assertion. This is a remade continent, defiantly rising from centuries of oppression to become an economic and political titan: where cash is becoming a thing of the past, where astronomers are unlocking the origin of life and where, twenty-five years after Live Aid, Ethiopia's first yuppies are traders on an electronic food exchange. Yet, as Africa finally wins the substance of its freedom, it must confront the three last false prophets of Islamists, dictators and aid workers, who would keep it in its bonds.

Beautifully written, intimately reported and passionately argued, THE RIFT is a vivid and provocative look at how the world gets Africa wrong, and how a resurgent Africa is forcing us to think again.

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