Home / Articles / African Visionaries: A Book That Gives Honor to Africa’s Great Minds
First published in German in 2014 by Peter Hammer Verlag of Wuppertal, Germany, Visionare Afrikas was an effort by one of Germany’s preeminent independent publishers to showcase the diversity and complexity of the African continent by giving voice to some of its greatest minds. An English translation was published in 2019 under the title African Visionaries by Sub-Saharan Publishers of Accra, Ghana.
A well-crafted collection of the thoughts of some of the greatest thinkers from the continent, this book seeks to replace the myths about Africa with a true picture, showing the rarely talked about positive aspects of a continent that is seldom appreciated by outsiders.
Written by Africans—both those living on the continent and those in the Diaspora and edited by Moustapha Diallo, a Senegalese literary scholar based in Germany—African Visionaries shows the “other” face of Africa, the one that most in the West seldom see. The authors of these biographical sketches wrote mainly about personalities from their own countries; the chapters were written in the authors’ respective languages, then translated first into German and then from German into English.
This four-year project resulted in a landmark book that will open new avenues of thought for anyone interested in an accurate understanding of the fastest-growing continent in the world. It includes pieces on such luminaries as Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana and one of the advocates of Pan-Africanism; Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan social activist who became the first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize; Oliver Tambo, who was president of the South African black-nationalist African National Congress (ANC); and Ken Saro-Wiwa, a Nigerian writer, TV producer, and environmental activist who went head-to-head with Shell Oil and Nigeria’s military dictatorship over the oil company’s destruction of the environment. Other African thinkers and opinion leaders include musicians, feminists, historians, and members of royalty, each with a unique history and perspective.
One would wish that such a landmark work would have originated on the continent, but it is not at all surprising that the book came from Germany, a country that has been at the forefront among European nations in attempting to show the truth about the countries of Africa and South America. Perhaps, this volume will inspire think tanks and publishers in Africa to step up to the plate. There is certainly no shortage of talent for such an undertaking as this volume clearly demonstrates.
There are two shortcomings of note in this book. First, the Anglophone countries of Africa dominate. Hopefully, in future works, the voices of Francophone and Lusophone Africa will be heard. Second, Peter Hammer Verlag has a preference for leftist political writings, so the politicians showcased in this book all fall into that category, thus depriving the reader of a balance in the politics. While the African independence movements were mainly supported by the Soviet Union and People’s Republic of China during their fights for freedom, not all of Africa’s more than 50 countries are leftist politically.
These minor shortcomings notwithstanding, this is a book that is a must-read for anyone who wants a better understanding of Africa.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a non-partisan organization that seeks to publish well-argued, policy-oriented articles on American foreign policy and national security priorities.