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Book Review: Making Africa Work through the Power of Innovative Volunteerism

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Book Review: Making Africa Work through the Power of Innovative Volunteerism

Pavithra Rao
From Africa Renewal: 
9 April 2019

Book by Richard Munang

In this book, author Richard Munang offers practical solutions to Africa’s chronic dilemmas. His goal is to make the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development achievable.

But what is “innovative volunteerism”?

Mr. Munang explains: “Innovative volunteerism is pinned on the spirit of selfless commitment towards Africa’s socio-economic development.”

It should not be confused with volunteerism. “With volunteerism,” he writes, “you are offering your skills and labour free of charge,” while with innovative volunteerism you do something with your skills that connects the dots or fills the gaps in agro-productivity and you realize economic benefits eventually.

Mr. Munang lists insufficient electricity, hunger, climate change, rapid urbanization and inequality as Africa’s top challenges.

Despite over $15 billion invested in agriculture in the last two decades, he notes, food insufficiency is rampant on the continent; despite $30 billion invested in the energy sector, 60% of Africans remain without access to electricity.

“[Climate change] threatens to shrink the economies of developing countries by a whopping 75%,” he predicts, “and the continent needs at least $50 billion annually to counter climate change effects.”

But Mr. Munang tempers his dystopian picture of Africa with practical solutions that have been successfully applied across the continent, such as in Rwanda’s Geshwati area, where vulnerable communities were relocated away from high-risk areas.

“Considering that agriculture is the backbone of these communities, this plan also takes advantage of ecosystem-based adaptation agriculture techniques that the communities can safely engage in for their livelihoods.”

Ecosystem-based adaptation, which is sustainable management of ecosystems, provides the right opportunities for innovative volunteerism, he writes. In other words, individual citizens must deploy their skills to increase ecosystems’ resilience, reducing vulnerabilities of people and the environment to climate change.

Mr. Munang reflects on his experience as an environmental scientist throughout the 96-page book.

At times the book reads like an autobiography; the author details his upbringing in his native Cameroon and the sacrifices he made to acquire a PhD in the UK. He weaves childhood stories into the text to illustrate some of the more complex aspects of climate change.

The book contains a wealth of data on different aspects of Africa’s socioeconomic development—agriculture, energy and youth employment, to name a few.

Organized in nine chapters, the book is a quick read. It will assist Africa’s policy makers in determining development priorities.

— Pavithra Rao