My African DiaryMarietta Slomka
München: Bertelsmann, 2011
Marietta Slomka’s “African Diary” came into being during her travels for the filming of the ZDF documentary “Africa’s Treasures”, that reflected the temporary interest in Africa in the wake of the 2010 Soccer World Cup in South Africa. Now one can read both sequels of the documentary (“Safari and Savanna” and “Black Gold and Red Earth”). The book is partly very close to the film text whereas other passages are far removed or contain new research. The basic idea is that Africa is not poor but possesses great treasures. Investors from the whole world, for instance from China or India, are involved – but what good does this do the local populations? How do the African countries themselves deal with their natural and mineral treasures?
The ZDF presenter reports from Rwanda where the president wants to make the country a high tech centre and where the last mountain gorillas contribute millions to the tourist sector; from Zanzibar where fishermen can hardly profit from the beauty of the tropical coast and the old cultural monuments; from Kenya where mass tourism is threatening to destroy the national parks but where they are experimenting with eco-tourism; from Luanda, the capital of Angola, which has become the most expensive city in the world because of the country’s rich oil reserves; from Ethiopia where investors acquire vast stretches of fertile land to cultivate cereal and flowers for the export market as well as bio diesel. Slomka was in Mozambique where the heavenly beaches have, paradoxically, been preserved by civil war but whose postsocialist structures and high levels of corruption prevent the country from truly becoming an industrial country in spite of considerable growth rates.
What Slomka discovers is always ambivalent, double edged; everywhere one can find positive as well as negative elements. There are no simple answers – such is the message of this highly recommended book. “Perhaps I can contribute to cover some typical Africa pictures with other images” writes Slomka. “In the same way that my own conception changed through my experiences, impressions and dealings with the various economic and ecological situations that underpin the question of why Africa is at the same time so rich and yet so poor.”