The Ringtone and the Drum: Travels in the World's Poorest Countries
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Tucked away in a remote, volatile part of West Africa, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau and Burkina Faso, three of the world's poorest countries, are in the throes of great upheaval. Globalization has shown their people that a more comfortable life is possible, but as they strive to attain it, climate change, the population boom, the tyrants of the old guard and the firm grip of tradition block their way.
The clash between old and new is explosive: civil wars erupt without warning, with drugged up rebels fighting over blood diamonds, gold or a humble bowl of rice; Al Qaeda has infiltrated Burkina Faso and threatens to extend its jihad across the region; Colombian drug gangs have overrun Guinea-Bissau; and Christian and Muslim fanatics battle for African souls, preparing their converts for Armageddon.
In The Ringtone and the Drum, Mark Weston dives into this maelstrom. In an often-unsettling adventure, he travels around the three countries and immerses himself in local life. Combining the remarkable stories of those he meets with his deep knowledge of Africa's development, the book sheds new light on a neglected but increasingly important corner of the globe.
cultivators of crops can make use of it. The changing weather is likely to bring more droughts, more floods and more pests. It threatens to make food, water and pasture scarcer. Already the Sahara desert is advancing several miles into the Sahel each year, smothering valuable grazing land. As it continues its relentless march and the rains retreat before it, those trying to eke out an existence on the drying plains will have to travel ever farther to find sustenance. As they forage, they will
close-cropped grey hair. Her skin is smooth and clear, a few lines around her squinting, tired-looking eyes the only signs of aging and of the difficult life she must have led. The house was built for her by Lalas. Half of it, where she and her three daughters live, is made of mud; the other half, in which Lalas resides with his young family, is whitewashed brick. A corrugated-iron roof covers the whole, propped up on wooden poles. Around the small, bare garden, where two goats munch at weeds in
in exchange for men, women and children. The chiefs could have refused these gifts - their counterparts further south in Gabon never allowed the Portuguese to establish a foothold in their country - but instead they chose cooperation; the lure of the white man’s wares proved irresistible. The chiefs’ choice, like the spark that starts a bush fire, would give rise to a vast international industry. Over the next four hundred years millions of Africans would be harvested, checked for defects,
many other outsiders assumed. For years I thought I had been working to better the lot of people in poor countries, but I realised I lacked a strong enough sense of how life there was really lived. It occurred to me that a journey around Africa’s western fringes could have a more constructive purpose than satisfying my self-indulgent craving for adventure. What did West Africans talk about? What do they do every day? How are they adjusting to the onrush of modernity that is transforming the rest
sweet juice into our mouths, spitting the surfacing pips onto the ground. The girl has the spindly, undeveloped limbs of a child; she appears no older than eight or nine. She wears a blue and white school dress, her hair tied in short plaits pushed back from her brow. Delighted to be selling to “brancos”, she tells us she comes here after school every day to sell oranges. Each orange costs twenty-five francs (about six cents). She has about twenty in her bucket. If she has a field day and, having