I have just finished reading an exceptional book, by the legend that is Craig Murray, that deserves a wider readership than I fear it is getting (you can buy it right here, direct from Craig).
The Catholic Orangemen of Togo, is a wonderful insight into the workings of the Blair British government in West Africa but more importantly, it offers some level of explanation for the raft of failed attempts (or false attempts) at (anti) democracy and (pseudo) self-governance in Africa and just how the entire continent is deteriorating at an alarming pace.
Africa is actually poorer now than it was some 25 years ago and this, shockingly, is in absolute and not comparative terms. The reasons are, of course, complicated and this is not some call for a return to the Empire and colonialism but neither is it as simple as to suggest that it is all the fault of the old occupying European forces.
The issue seems to stem from the hand over of power to totally unsuitable anti-democratic leaders, leaders that suited the West's agenda but leaders not at all suited to the agenda of the people. Most of these had idealistic, Marxist economic schemes that utterly ignored the existing economic frameworks in place and instead indulged in the fantasy of Utopian prosperity via central planning and grandiose industrial projects.
These leaders then repressed their own people, far harsher than the colonial occupiers ever had, banning trade unions, independent news sources and dissenting voices were imprisoned or killed.
This format can be seen all over Africa but it is Ghana's and Africa's first post-colonial leader Kwame Nkrumah, that set the template for others, such as Robert Mugabe, to follow.
One of his worst ideas, that was and still is being copied in other African nations, is the concept of import licences, ie: the government controls who can bring what into the country, tied to over-valued exchange rates. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that this breeds corruption, government cronyism and economic collapse.
It also means that for African nations, to trade amongst themselves is virtually impossible, it is easier for them to trade with Europe than each other, in other words, they have destroyed their own regional trade in order to protect private, corrupt interests.
In terms of the West's culpability; subsidised Western farmers who are paid to make more food than we can eat, dumping their excess, cheap food on Africa (under the auspices of feeding the world) has meant that the indigenous farming community has collapsed, whether that be in rice, maize or sugar cane production. And let us not forget the West's obsession with irresponsible lending to African dictators to finance grandiose capital projects, so that via corruption and skimming off of funds, the nation is saddled with even greater debt that the West can use as leverage.
There is clearly hope in Africa but the litany of errors and mismanagement have pushed the continent to breaking point and it will take a change of attitude both within and outside the home of humanity to enable change.